BAL-SAGOTH: The Annotated Discography
Byron guides you through the creation of all the chapters in the epic saga of BAL-SAGOTH.
Recorded December 1993 (Unreleased)
- Dreaming of Atlantean Spires (Alpha)
- By the Blaze of the Fire Jewels (Zero)
- A Shadow on the Mist
BYRON: We recorded the demo during a single afternoon in a small recording studio under a curry house. We could only afford to book in for a few hours, and we recorded three songs during that time. We never officially released it because it was never officially finished. We always intended to go back and add a few more vocal parts and a few more keyboard parts (making them sound less like a stylophone), and to remix the whole affair. However, we never got round to it and ultimately I started releasing the tracks into the underground tape trading community (this was in the days before MP3s and file sharing). The tracks on the demo included a very early version of "Dreaming Of Atlantean Spires", a song called "By The Blaze Of The Fire Jewels" (which later underwent a lyrical and musical overhaul and became "Shadows 'Neath The Black Pyramid"), and a song called "A Shadow On The Mist", which we broke up for spares, using some of its riffs in other songs. The "true" version of the demo includes an intro which I took from the movie "Masters Of The Universe" and also some BBC radiophonic workshop sound effects from the classic "Death & Horror" tape. These tracks were raw, brutal, rough, and totally incomplete, and they only hinted at the greatness that was to come. Nevertheless, they got us a three album deal with Cacophonous, so they ultimately served their purpose. I authorized two of the tracks to be included as bonus tracks on the Japanese sub-licensed version of our fifth album "Atlantis Ascendant". We might get round to completing and remastering these tracks some day... or maybe not.
A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria
Recorded: June 1994 Released: May 1995 Label: Cacophonous Running Time: 55:02
- Dreaming Of Atlantean Spires
- Spellcraft & Moonfire (Beyond The Citadel Of Frosts)
- A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria
- Enthroned In The Temple Of The Serpent Kings
- Shadows ‘Neath The Black Pyramid
- The Ravening
- Into The Silent Chambers Of The Sapphirean Throne (Sagas From The Antediluvian Scrolls)
- Valley Of Silent Paths
BYRON: Our first full length album! We had about two weeks in Academy Music Studio to record this, during the midsummer of 1994. The archaic glory of analogue recording equipment! Needless to say, things were very hectic, and time was short. We of course ended up running out of recording tracks, and lots of stuff was therefore recorded on the same tracks, which resulted in a lot of fun, and slider carnage, during the final mix. I don't think Cacophonous knew what to expect from us with this album. They initially wanted us to wait a while before recording a full opus, but I was adamant that we were ready to go ahead and record a full LP, and I was ultimately proved right. A good studio and a fair budget duly enabled us to show the world exactly what our take on extreme metal was all about, and what the Bal-Sagoth mandate truly was. The Bal-Sagoth lyrical mythos officially began with this album, and the genesis of many of the hexalogy's epic tales was here. Angsaar! Khthon! The Shadow-Sword! Legendary sound engineer Mags helmed this one, so beginning his long and glorious association with the band. A few interesting snippets of first album trivia: We heard that COF were quite pissed off that we were recording at Academy because they were allegedly worried we would steal their keyboard sound. Ha! Well, needless to say we proved with this album that we were pretty serious about our keyboards. Also, the guitar solo on "The Ravening" was played by John Piras, who at that time was in Solstice, and who later went on to be in COF. Mags also played a bit of guitar here and there on this album, and also on the next one, as it happened. And finally, the album intro was composed and played by Keith Appleton, the owner of Academy Music Studio. I'd been telling Jonny for ages that we needed a keyboard intro for this album, but of course when the time arrived, nothing had been composed. So, Keith came to the rescue by giving us a piece he'd created some years earlier, which was in reality part of a musical suite for a stage production of Alice In Wonderland, but which had been rejected because it was too scary and would have freaked out the kids. Also, this album was the first and only Bal-Sagoth opus to also be released on vinyl! This album hit the metal scene like a set of adamantium claws through the chest. Only when this ferociously dark and brutally baroque work landed on the doorstep of Cacophonous did they realize the true power of the mighty Bal-Sagoth. (Still didn't stop them taking almost a whole year to release the album, though.) Bal-Sagoth had arrived.
Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule
Recorded August 1996 Released November 1996 Label: Cacophonous Running time: 57:42
- Black Dragons Soar Above The Mountain Of Shadows (Prologue)
- To Dethrone The Witch-Queen Of Mytos K’unn (The Legend Of The Battle Of Blackhelm Vale)
- As The Vortex Illumines The Crystalline Walls Of Kor-Avul-Thaa
- Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule
- Journey To The Isle Of Mists (Over The Moonless Depths Of Night-Dark Seas)
- The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyperborean Empire
- And Lo, When The Imperium Marches Against Gul-Kothoth, Then Dark Sorceries Shall Enshroud The Citadel Of The Obsidian Crown (Episode: VIII)
- Summoning The Guardians Of The Astral Gate
- In The Raven-Haunted Forests Of Darkenhold, Where Shadows Reign And The Hues Of Sunlight Never Dance
- At The Altar Of The Dreaming Gods (Epilogue)
BYRON: Back to Academy during another sweltering summer for the second album. Everything about this album was bigger and more epic, from the music to the song titles! Forget pan & scan, this was the anamorphic version of Bal-Sagoth. Just over two weeks in Academy, which was nowhere near long enough, but that was all the label would spring for. Also, they wouldn't even foot the bill for new 2 inch reels, so we actually had to use the same reels as before and record over the first album! Unforgivable. Anyway, the temperature in the studio reached such crazy levels that the recording equipment actually broke down on several occasions. But we battled on, secure in the knowledge that we were creating something special. Elaborate orchestrations, intricate vocals, symphonic keyboards... this one really pushed the envelope and proved once again that the power and the glory of Bal-Sagoth was truly unparalleled. The cover art was painted by the famous Petagno. The lyric booklet was huge for its time, and contained the most elaborate lyrics yet seen. The saga of Bal-Sagoth truly continued with this album, and fan favourite stories like the Hyperborean Empire saga, the Obsidian Crown saga, and the Darkenhold mythos began here. We spent a long time writing this album, and it was sublimely epic in scope. Up against the clock, we pulled out all the stops and used every trick in the book to get this one completed on time, including playing a lot of the double bass drums on the keyboards (yes, you read that right). This album also featured a CDROM track, which in truth was little more than an ad for the Cacophonous roster of the time. (For some reason, it was also placed at the beginning of the album, which meant that when played in a normal CD player, the first track on the album was a fascinating journey into silence.) Dark, epic, icy, gloriously sinister and bombastic. Many consider this album something of a metal milestone. Which is fine by us.
Recorded during weeks in October, November & December 1997 Released April 1998 Label: Cacophonous Running time: 49:58
- Battle Magic
- Naked Steel (The Warrior’s Saga)
- A Tale From The Deep Woods
- Return To The Praesidium Of Ys
- Crystal Shards
- The Dark Liege Of Chaos Is Unleashed At The Ensorcelled Shrine Of A’zura-Kai (The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyperborean Empire Part: II)
- When Rides The Scion Of The Storms
- Blood Slakes The Sand At The Circus Maximus
- Thwarted By The Dark (Blade Of The Vampyre Hunter)
- And Atlantis Falls...
BYRON: Winter at Academy, and time for the creation of episode III. Just back from a European tour with Emperor, we were ready to continue the Bal-Sagoth legend. This album was so intricate and compositionally elaborate that it pushed the facilities at Academy to their absolute limit, and almost gave engineer Mags a nervous breakdown (but he loved every minute of it and it remains one of his favourite albums)! Crazed and experimental songs pushed the boundaries still further, like the madly indulgent "Blood Slakes The Sand At The Circus Maximus" (no, the copyright holders of the "Spartacus" film score didn't sue us, nor did we sue Ridley Scott for him nicking my concept for his "Gladiator". Those two observations were meant in jest, by the way). If nothing else, this album proved that we were a band not afraid to take risks... a band who prized art and originality above all else. A different approach to the keyboards sacrificed much of the dark ambience of previous releases in favour of a more symphonic brass oriented sound, which although not to everyone's liking nevertheless gave the third album its own unmistakable audial identity. Some said that the guitars, more refined than before, were also arguably less heavy. Whatever the case, if "Starfire Burning..." was our "The Empire Strikes Back", then "Battle Magic" was definitely our "Return of the Jedi". Lyrically, the grand Bal-Sagoth mythos continued apace, and still more secrets of the vast lyrical multiverse were revealed to the readers & listeners, such as the genesis of the conflict between the Hyperborean King and Lord Angsaar. Colourful sound, colourful production, colourful concepts, colourful artwork. The full spectrum of genuis shone brightly here. Now secure as a firm fan favourite in the Bal-Sagoth canon, "Battle Magic" is an album which the erudite and the imaginative can savour eternally. "Ride them down!"
The Power Cosmic
Recorded April 30 to May 31 1999. Released October 1999. Label: Nuclear Blast. Running time: 40:29
- The Awakening Of The Stars
- The Voyagers Beneath The Mare Imbrium
- The Empyreal Lexicon
- Of Carnage And A Gathering Of The Wolves
- Callisto Rising
- The Scourge Of The Fourth Celestial Host
- Behold, The Armies Of War Descend Screaming From The Heavens!
- The Thirteen Cryptical Prophecies Of Mu
BYRON: And lo, the fourth album! The first one for Nuclear Blast! A new record label! A new cover artist! A new drummer! A new bassist! Lots of changes here (not all of which were for the better)! A grand return to the hallowed halls of Academy Music Studio for the fourth chapter in the Bal-Sagoth saga. This album was the first one on which Jonny did not play drums and Chris did not play bass. A searingly clear production (some would rightly argue too clear) and a decidedly less barbaric approach to the musical compositions meant that the fourth album was perhaps quite markedly different in sound from previous chapters, substituting much of the trademark Bal-Sagoth chaos and extremity for a more refined and crystalized soundscape. Nevertheless, this was still undeniably Bal-Sagoth. This album was the first during which the more science-fiction oriented aspects of the lyrics (heavily hinted at during the previous releases) finally came more to the fore. The millennia-spanning saga of the evil arch-fiend Zurra and the fabled Empyreal Lexicon was unleashed upon the legions of Bal-Sagoth fandom. Controversially, this album, for the first time, did not include a full lyric booklet, something which incensed many long term fans of the band's stories. The lyrics, as intended, were ultimately released as a downloadable exclusive at the Official Bal-Sagoth Website, and later included with the Russian sub-licensed edition of the album, with a revised and expanded version of the lyrics scheduled for appearance at the official site in 2006. Boasting a glorious cover by artist Martin Hanford, "The Power Cosmic" went on to become the biggest selling installment in the entire saga, double-bladed lightsabers and all. Fourth album trivia: During the recording of "The Power Cosmic", the band's iconic sword Excalibur was stolen from the studio by local street urchins who proceeded to sell it, presumably in order to buy rocks of crack. Fearing the righteous wrath of the mighty Bal-Sagoth, various lowlife scum swiftly gave up the sacred blade, and it was ultimately returned to us, after having passed through at least one pawn shop and several worried owners.
Recorded during November & December 2000. Released April 2001. Label: Nuclear Blast Running time: 48:57
- The Epsilon Exordium
- Atlantis Ascendant
- Draconis Albionensis
- Star-Maps Of The Ancient Cosmographers
- The Ghosts Of Angkor Wat
- The Splendour Of A Thousand Swords Gleaming Beneath The Blazon Of The Hyperborean Empire (Part: III)
- The Dreamer In The Catacombs Of Ur
- In Search Of The Lost Cities Of Antarctica
- The Chronicle Of Shadows
- Six Keys To The Onyx Pyramid
BYRON: The fifth album! Once more into the fray! Once more into the haunted labyrinthine chambers of the Academy! This album marked the first tentative steps on the path of digital recording, as Academy had begun to upgrade and replace its analogue equipment with some new digital apparatus. New vistas opened up before the band's collective creative eye, and the digital age dawned in the kingdom of Bal-Sagoth. Continuing the long established tradition of elaborate and intricate orchestration, the fifth album was a multilayered, multi-textured excercise in dark and epic art. Mixing elements of all the previous chapters, "Atlantis Ascendant" struck a fine balance between extremity, clarity, agression and refinement. Lyrically, the baroque saga of Bal-Sagoth continued, with the Hyperborean Empire trilogy reaching its climactic finale, and the exploits of archaeologist and adventurer Professor Caleb Blackthorne III making their debut, setting the scene for many of the events on the sixth album. Overall one of the most consistent, complete and most successfully realized of the Bal-Sagoth albums, "Atlantis Ascendant", resplendent with its glorious artwork, further fortified the band's undeniable legend. The fifth album provided the supporters of Bal-Sagoth with plenty to reflect upon, which was particularly important when you realize it would be a full five years until the appearance of chapter six! Fifth album trivia: "Atlantis Ascendant" was the last album to be recorded at the old premises of Academy Music Studio. As we were putting the finishing touches to the album, the studio was being disassembled around us. We even took some of Academy home with us, for old times' sake.
The Chthonic ChroniclesRecorded January 2003 to December 2005 Released March 2006 Label: Nuclear Blast Running time: 60:38
- The Sixth Adulation Of His Chthonic Majesty
- Invocations Beyond The Outer-World Night
- Six Score And Ten Oblations To A Malefic Avatar
- The Obsidian Crown Unbound (Episode: IX)
- The Fallen Kingdoms Of The Abyssal Plain
- Shackled To The Trilithon Of Kutulu
- The Hammer Of The Emperor
- Unfettering The Hoary Sentinels Of Karnak
- To Storm The Cyclopean Gates Of Byzantium
- Arcana Antediluvia
- Beneath The Crimson Vaults Of Cydonia
- Return To Hatheg-Kla
BYRON: Patience is a virtue. All good things come to he who waits. Better late than never. The sixth album took so long because someone decided it would be a great idea if we recorded it on the band's own digital equipment, in the band's own digital studio. That was in 2002. Over the years, the slow and onerous process of amassing all the required equipment dragged on, and on. And on. Deadlines were set. And ignored. The clock kept ticking. Several years, numerous fights, and a few catastrophic hardware failures later, we were ready to begin to consider the possibility of starting to think about recording the sixth album. Gradually, the music took shape. The lyrics had of course been written years before, and it was vital that the music for this, the climax of the hexalogy, reflect the thematic nature of the stories to the letter, stories such as the siege of Gul-Kothoth, the Catacombs of Ur prequel, the great sub-aquatic voyage to the Abyssal Plain, and the all important reprise of Hatheg-Kla. The music was adhering to the detailed story outlines and the synopsis I had presented to maestro Jonny, and the compositions were progressing gloriously, if very laboriously. More deadlines were set, and more deadlines slipped. Tensions were running high. More songs were slowly nearing completion. The mysterious new studio, "Wayland's Forge", reached its ultimate evolutionary form. Everything was digital. We had fully embraced the future, for good or ill. Equipment was upgraded, parts were re-recorded. And yet true progress was still painfully slow. Keyboardist Jonny had boldly undertaken to handle sound engineering duties for this most ambitious of projects, and as it was his first truly major foray into such territories, it was very much a voyage of discovery. The amount of time this album took to record strained band relations to the limit, and they remain strained to this day. But finally, in November of 2005 it was time to put the finishing touches to the album with a vocal session at the new Academy Music Studio. Partly due to tradition, and partly due to the fact that only Mags understands my idiosyncratic and highly specialized vocal approach, I decided to return to Academy for the vocals. Then, in December 2005 we started on the final mix. I'd commissioned the cover artwork from Martin Hanford three years previously, and it had been locked away in my vault for all that time, waiting in the dark for the day of its unveiling. Finally, that day was drawing near. This one went right to the wire, with us mixing all the way up until the day the courier was scheduled to arrive. The album had to be completed. It had to be despatched. I had to take it and package it for the UPS courier, otherwise Nuclear Blast were threatening a release date delayed by up to a year. The Death Star had cleared the planet.
"The Chthonic Chronicles", as I promised the world several years ago, is an album darker and heavier than much of our previous work, encompassing elements from all the preceding five chapters as well as containing a plethora of new and exciting touches to thrill the listener. Truly organic sounding choirs, utterly genuine symphonic effects and unparalleled orchestral grandeur, thunderously heavy guitars and venomous vocals. Lyrically, the climactic and most malefic chapter in the entire saga, featuring both long awaited continuations of old stories and some all new tales, all set within the conceptual framework of a shunned, blasphemous and apocryphal occult grimoire. This wasn't just the climax of five years of work, in a way it was the climax of thirteen years of work. Luckily, the world embraced "The Chthonic Chronicles" fully. Upon release, the sixth album received some of the very best and most glowing reviews of any of our works, and we finally, at long last, allowed ourselves to believe that the job was done. (Post script: For keyboardist Jonny's recollections of recording the six Bal-Sagoth albums including the equipment used, see the Wayland's Forge site.) ALL HAIL BAL-SAGOTH! BLODU OK JARNA! Byron (Spring 2006, C.E.)
Sixth album trivia: The following is a transcript of an actual band meeting from autumn 2003, concerning the delays in recording the album:
Exterior: Lord Byron's shuttle docks at the partially completed Wayland's Forge.
JONNY: Lord Byron, this is an unexpected pleasure. We're honored by your presence.
BYRON: You may dispense with the pleasantries Jonathan. I'm here to put you back on schedule.
JONNY: I assure you Lord Byron, I'm working as fast as I can.
BYRON: Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate you.
JONNY: I tell you this studio will be operational as planned.
BYRON: Nuclear Blast does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation.
JONNY: But they ask the impossible. I need more time.
BYRON: Then perhaps you can tell them when they call.
JONNY: Nuclear Blast are phoning here?
BYRON: That is correct, Jonathan. And they are most displeased with your apparent lack of progress.
JONNY: I shall double my efforts.
BYRON: I hope so Jonathan, for your sake. Nuclear Blast are not as forgiving as I am.
(In the unlikely event that the above pop culture reference went over anyone's head, go watch "Return of the Jedi".)