A few days ago I found myself, as I so often do, scouring the landscape of Bandcamp in search of quality music that had not yet graced my ears. On the METALHEADS Podcast, we frequently make reference to Bandcamp as a wonderful resource for heavy metal music discovery; but the other side of that coin is that you end up listening to A LOT of not-so-great music in your quest for one Holy Grail band. Such is the price of our particular musical obsession, and we pay it gladly. Because when you finally make that discovery, the feeling of elation that follows wipes away the fruitless hours of mediocrity and replaces them with this one moment of personal glory.
On this particular day, I had heard many average-at-best black metal bands (because I tend to click on the albums with the cool or interesting artwork, and for some reason those tend toward black metal) and despaired of ever coming across something worthy of my Paypal account. Then I stumbled upon the curiously named Roundtable from Melbourne, Australia. The artwork, while not exactly award-winning in nature, when combined with the band logo and the album title, Dread Marches Under Bloodied Regalia, was enough to inspire the slight hand movement required to hear the music.
As a great number of heavy metal albums begin with an introduction or instrumental track, when sampling a band for the first time I tend toward clicking on the second track, which, in this case, was the peculiarly named "Corpulent Warlord." For the next ten minutes and thirteen seconds I listened. Then I clicked around on a few other tracks, listened some more, and decided to purchase the album.
What sounds did caress and bludgeon my hearing? How shall I describe the experience to you, dear reader? I shall not begin by placing a label upon Roundtable. If you have listened to episode 37 of the METALHEADS Podcast (which for those reading this over the next few days, it will not actually post until next week) you will know that I took myself and other reviewers to task for taking the easy way out of describing music by slapping two-to-four genre tags on a band and calling it a day. Not only is this rather lazy, but it is also becoming increasingly difficult to perform accurately as metal music continues to evolve.
So whatever shall I do? Well, I am going to start by describing the band in their words. I read the band's description of themselves on their Bandcamp page and decided this was too interesting not to share:
"A tripartite union of true riff believers; fellow travellers wending their path through the cosmic ether. Transcending mere Iommic ritual, they wield might and beauty alike in pursuit of the mastery of lysergic liturgy. From the raw material of riff, rhythm and bellow, the lore of alternate realms is realized in extended compositions that explore the possibilities and limitations of their craft."
Is that all clear now then? No? Well, what can we take away from this last paragraph? They are a tripartite union, so they are a trio. They transcend Iommic ritual (I love that part) so seem to be influenced by Black Sabbath but with a desire to further the sound rather than just ape it. They use "might and beauty" as well as "riff, rhythm and bellow" to create their "extended compositions", so it is safe to say they play a lot of instrumental riffage, both clean and with crushing low end as part of their longer than average songs. Oh, and they write about fantasy, or "alternate realms."
Want something a little simpler and a wee bit more specific? Ok, how about this section of a review I saw on Bandcamp. This simple description sold me on the album, so maybe it will do the same for you:
"For another reference point, this is exactly what High On Fire would sound like if Matt Pike was as interested in medieval fantasy as he is UFOs and government conspiracies."
After reading this I did a little side-by-side with some early High On Fire, and had to agree, there is a definite similarity there; only with songs about warlords, sieges and demons. Though, while there are similarities, do not write Roundtable off as a mere High On Fire clone. The vocals are bellowed in a similar fashion, but the music has a more romantic medieval feel.
Dread Marches Under Bloodied Regalia contains six tracks clocking in at one second shy of 49 minutes. Three of these tracks are instrumental and of varying length, while the other three tracks feature vocals and carry on for at least ten minutes each. So basically you get vocals on every other song. I might normally be let down by the fact that only three songs bear vocals, but those three songs make up 32 of the 49 minutes, and the instrumental passages are just so darn good, I will abstain from discontent.
Only you can truly judge whether music is right for your tastes, so without further ado, may I present for your listening pleasure, the track, “The Siege of Uthur's Keep.”