Worship bands are somewhat of a touchy subject in metal. The basic theory behind it makes sense to me: if a band makes one good album, logically you would want to hear something similar. And why limit that to one band? If another band can make equally good, but stylistically similar music, then that should work too. This is where Blazon Stone comes in, as they are the definitive Running Wild worship band. I will take things a step further and say that they’re actually better than Running Wild ever was. They might not have an anthem as good as “Riding The Storm”, but on the whole, Blazon Stone’s albums tend to hit the mark better for me.
“Down In The Dark” is the band’s third album in as many years, and fourth overall. It picks up exactly where “War of the Roses” left off, though this album is slightly more straight forward and less experimental. It continues to overflow with tremolo-picked riffs that are perfect for sailing the seven seas, particularly on higher speed tracks like “Into Victory” and “Eagle Warriors”. Other songs like the title track feature some more intricate riffing in classic Running Wild fashion. There is nonetheless good variety in the songwriting, with slower more anthemic efforts like “Hanged Drawn and Quartered”, as well as the mid-paced “Watery Graves”. Regardless of how fast Blazon Stone is playing, they always have a huge chorus with many subtle layers of vocals. Picking a favourite is tough, but tracks like “Down In The Dark” and “Merciless Pirate King” are contenders for the most infectious choruses. The latter also has a nice whoa-oh section, which is something Blazon Stone should definitely consider using more often.
For the first time in the band’s career, “Down In The Dark” is the first album to feature a returning vocalist. Erik Forsberg is back for his second record, and while he’s probably the best Blazon Stone vocalist, they’re all pretty effective at emulating Rock ‘n Rolf. He gives another solid performance on this record. Though not the most operatic or versatile, his voice is perfect for this style of music. Surprisingly, he also rules on the non-pirate themed “Rock Out!”, which is quite possibly the best track on the album. Ultimately its success comes down to the great riffing, which is a little more basic heavy metal than elsewhere on the record. The verses have a nice bounce to them that really get the neck moving. This song would be an immediate live hit (if the band ever played live).
Given that all 4 full-lengths are so similar, it is difficult to compare “Down In The Dark” to some of Blazon Stone’s prior records. The band abandoned the epic approach they took with the title track to “War of the Roses”, but it would have been nice to see them cut a couple of deeper songs on this record and explore something lengthier again. Relative to “War of the Roses”, “Down In The Dark” doesn’t necessarily reach the same highs, but is far more consistent, as there really isn’t anything short of fantastic on this record. It doesn’t really matter if it’s better or worse than the first three Blazon Stone albums though, because it’s still better than 90% of Running Wild’s discography, and certainly better than anything they’ve done in decades!
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"Down In The Dark"
"Hanged Drawn and Quartered"
"Merciless Pirate King"
4.25/5 or 95%.