Anticipation is not a static thing; it changes forms, adapting to cultural and historical conditions. Contemporary anticipation largely consists of digital traces and mechanisms: checking inboxes, blogs, and download sites, participating in social media conversations and hypotheses, occasionally with the artists themselves. Back in the ‘90s and early ‘00s the quest for information and conjecture was more isolated and passive, and also had a more physical mien: visitations of record shops and press outlets, the careful distillation of magazine pages and silent contemplation. That doesn’t mean that anticipation has lost any of its enchantment, only that it has been transmuted to a different beast altogether. It is rather difficult to fully experience the anticipation of yore nowadays (which those of us that lived it sometimes tend to idealize), unless someone is willing to go completely ascetic, eschewing the internet. Still, there are occasions where the shade of past anticipation can be somewhat evoked.
The previous paragraph is an effort to put some order in my thought about Black Sword Thunder Attack’s first non-demo release, this year’s March of the Damned EP. The Greek group from Kalabaka, Thessaly is drenched in the quality of obscurity that underground epic metal tends to idolize; since their 2002 creation they have only released three demos which are not particularly easy to find, even in digital form, while rumours of a proper release have been circulating since 2015, along with speculations on their activity status. Their hype in underground circles is a well-deserved one, owning mainly to their spontaneous and heartfelt take on a very specific and deeply-worshiped sound: that of Lordian Guard and Warlord.
The group’s name, four words in a row without much rational coherence, would seem comical and superfluous in more bands. Yet in the group’s case the choice of these particular words leads to a seamless blend as the borders between verb, noun and adjective crumble to form a radiant lance. Black Sword Thunder Attack carry effortlessly with them the extravaganza of myth.
March of the Damned is a short release: just sixteen-and-a-half minutes divided in four songs, two of which (Don’t Hear the Sirens, Evil Sorcery) are re-recordings of previous ones. In comparison to their past releases the production has been cleaned up (though thankfully not modernized in any way) giving a much less grainy experience. The vocals remain female, echo-y and sombre throughout, yet in place of deep hazy recitals we have a much more clean and dynamic hue, with more earthen, youthful, and adventurous tones; on their most epic (the chorus of Evil Sorcery for instance) they bring in mind the best of last year’s amazing female-fronted epic metal harvest: Iron Griffin and Grendel’s Sÿster. The guitars are ever-moving and galloping, lyrically weaving imposing themes and flourishes of an almost religious medieval atmosphere, akin to the teachings of Bill Tsamis.
Black Sword Thunder Attack are obviously not carriers of any kind of modern innovation. What they are is harbingers of a romantic, scarcely-populated tradition that flows from Warlord and Lordian Guard, passing through Longings Past and partaking of Wishbone Ash at their solemnest. The penetralia of March of the Damned, its holy of holies, holds a fire that burns with the spirit of myth and the epic. An amazing release whose short duration creates a ravenous anticipation for a full-length successor.
Aesthetical and spiritual relatives: Warlord – Deliver Us, Lordian Guard – Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Iron Griffin – Curse of the Sky, Powers Court – Nine Kinds of Hell