|Musical Style: Melodic/Power Metal||Produced By: Kostas Athanasoglou|
|Record Label: Arkeyn Steel||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1994/2012||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 18||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 76:00|
Don’t be alarmed if you’re not too familiar with Lacrosse, Wisconsin based Battalion. After all, the group independently released its little known and hard to find full length debut Runaway in 1994, an era not exactly known for its friendliness towards the metal and hard rock genres. Battalion actually got its start four years prior, a more musically tolerant period which found original members vocalist Brad Lundstrom, guitarist Les Rouse, bassist Kjell Hatlevig and drummer Rob Kay produce a demo from 1992. Work did not start on Runaway until 1993 after Jay Curatolo (bass) and Joe Siegel (drums) replaced Hatlevig and Kay, respectively.
Runaway, as one might imagine, quickly went out of print and not unlike the group drifted into obscurity. That all changed, however, in 2012 when the Greek label Arkeyn Steel Records re-issued Runaway along with one song from the groups 1992 demo, four more off a second unreleased demo from 1995 and two bootleg live tracks. The project also was re-mastered in addition to featuring new album artwork, lyrics, unpublished band photos and a detailed biography.
Musically, the groups press material lists Sacred Warrior and Queensryche as comparison. This is not surprising when factoring that vocalist Brad Lundstrom brings a high end and soaring vocal style reminiscent to that of Rey Parra and Geoff Tate. My initial inclination, as a result, was to label Battalion “melodic power metal” - and also included The Sacrificed, Faith Factor, Recon and early Jacobs Dream as points of reference - but that would be only telling part of the story in that there is much more going on here from a musical standpoint.
The first two Runaway tracks, “Don’t Wait” and “Runaway”, for instance, bring huge commercial hooks that have more in common with eighties melodic metal and hard rock than power metal. Likewise, “He Is Lord” reflects a worshipful melodic rock feel, while “The Lord Sees” and “I Give You My Life” are radio friendly ballads, with the former delivering the lighter touch and latter the more guitar driven edge.
It is on the albums heavier material that those power metal aspects come into play. “Judgment Day” and “Gates Of Heaven” highlight muscle and technical fortitude in equal doses, while “Only Human” is a relentless slugger with a commanding bass line. “Eyes Of Love” touches upon some accessible elements but in the much more guitar focuses package. Where Battalion puts it all together is on “Vices”, six minutes of the best intricate power/progressive metal that you will hear.
Production might reflect some slight thinness but is still quite solid for an independent project recorded using mid-nineties technology. I never had the opportunity to hear the original version, but I am certain the re-mastering brightens and polishes things significantly.
The strength to Runaway lies in its diversity and versatility. Battalion, in other words, refuses to be pigeonholed in proving to be much more than just power metal. Yes, I can see fans of the previously referenced Sacred Warrior and Queensryche embracing what the band is doing, keeping in mind those whose tastes trends towards the melodic metal and hard rock scenes will find a lot to like here as well.
In terms of the bonus material, “Test Of Time” from the 1992 demo is an up-tempo hard rocker with an uplifting feel. This one is good but not the group’s best. It is the 1995 demo tracks, despite some rough production edges, in which Battalion comes into its own. The first two are the strongest, with “Day Of The Coming” showcasing a catchy melodic power metal sound and “Here And Now” the heavier and more aggressive stance. You will also find a fantastic untitled instrumental featuring some lively riff action and scintillating soloing (I cannot say enough good things about the lead guitar work of Les Rouse, who reminds somewhat of Sacred Warrior’s Bruce Swift). The only sub standard track is “On And On Again” as a result of the repetitious feel to its chorus and awkwardly placed backing vocals. The live tracks include another version of “Don’t Wait” and a groove based metal pieces entitled “Let God Shine”.
Lyrics capture the spirit of the eighties white metal scene with their bold and upfront direction and leave little doubt as to where Battalion is coming from.
It is too bad that Runaway came out in the mid-nineties and subsequently got lost in the shuffle of the burgeoning grunge and modern scenes of the time. The quality being such that if Battalion had instead formed in the late eighties then I can see them being mentioned in the same sentence with Whitecross, Guardian, Bride, Bloodgood and others. The re-issue, as a result, comes strongly recommended to those into both the melodic metal and power metal genres (and all things in between).
Track By Track
Please note that due to time and space limitations I decided to limit the track by track to just the Runaway material.
The album opens to the commercial hooks to “Don’t Wait”. The songs strength resides in its chorus, of the type to pull you in at once, but also showcases abundant vocal melodies and type of up-tempo impetus that has prime Stryper written all over it. A shred guitar solo rounds things out.
“Runaway” gives rise to the same type of commercial appeal. Eighties metal all the way, the albums title track backs away somewhat from the upbeat proclivity while placing guitars in the more forward position in the mix. Chorus hook, again, is profound while we are treated to more compelling lead guitar. Lyric snippet:
Runaway, oh, you’re heading for a fall
Listen to your heart
Is this really what you want?
Runaway, if you only knew
Love is waiting for you
It’s just a prayer away
Late one night you made your move
Without saying goodbye
You’re going to make it on your own
It’s do or die
“Only Human” brings the heavier sound more akin to Sacred Warrior. Characterized by powering bass lines and weighty guitars, the song storms its distance with reckless abandon. Momentum only lightens for a surprisingly polished refrain in which the groups backing vocals make another appearance.
A worship rock stance is taken on “He Is Lord”. An uplifting proclivity prevails here, with spirited chorus and plenty of youthful exuberance adding to what amounts a melodically driven environs. Angelica is the first word that comes to mind but with a touch of Bloodgood thrown in. Lyric snippet:
Two thousand years ago a man came to earth
They all knew He was one of a kind born of Virgin birth
Little did the people know the reason He had to come
They didn’t recognize He was God’s only Son
He healed the sick and made the blind man see
He led a sinless life to become a perfect sacrifice
He is Lord, the King of Kings
Come before the Lord and sing
He is Lord the Great I Am
Shout it out across the land
Ballad territory is explored on “The Lord Sees”. The song drifts ahead slowly to quietly played guitars, approaching its verses from a tranquilly done standpoint only to gain momentum for the more guitar aspect that is its chorus. A bluesy guitar solo played with a great deal of feeling rounds things out. Lyric snippet:
The Lord hears the cries and sees your tear stained eyes
The Lord feels the pain in your heart
He wants to take it away
But He wants to hear you say “Lord, I give my life to You”
Every night he cries himself to sleep
The pain inside, it burns so deep
Oh Lord, please hold me tight and give me ne life
“Eyes Of Love” represents a return to a heavier direction. Brazen guitars and a happening low end play defining roles here, contrasting with what amounts an almost accessible feel to the chorus. Heavy but melodic is the first thought that comes to mind as a result.
The metal based direction continues with “Judgment Day”. This one lends the more forthright focus, as overriding bass lines and technical underpinnings play up some welcomed power metal lacings. Nice guitar harmonies brighten the instrumental moments as well. Fans of Recon and The Sacrificed will rejoice. Lyric snippet:
You ran your own life every day
Never wanting to hear what God had to say
You had the good things money could buy
How could you know there was so little time?
Are you ready to meet the King?
On that day there’ll be nowhere to hide
That’s the day when the King of Kings will preside
How will you plead?
What will you say
When you stand before Him on Judgment Day?
“Gates Of Heaven” traverses mid-paced territory and brings some trenchant attitude in the process. This one really grits and snarls, as the group sets quite the unremitting groove with fitting stalwart chorus and bulldozing drums to match. This wouldn’t sound of place on Sacred Warrior’s Wicked Generation.
“I Give You My Life” takes a ballad driven approach, albeit on the heavier side of things than “The Lord Sees”. In other words what we have is a metal ballad, as edgy guitars seamlessly interweave with quieter passages to touch upon some blues based moments. One more, an impressively done stretch of lead guitar is delivered. Lyric snippet:
I’ve been running away most of my life
From the One who set me free
Always searching, never finding the love that was waiting for me
Then I cried out Your name
Since then I’ve never been the same
I give You my life, oh Lord as a living sacrifice
I give You my life, oh Lord so take away the wrong and make it right
“Take A Stand” ranks a notch below the better Runaway material. What we have here is a reserved piece, with guitars toned down and pop based feel to the chorus holding things back. Some of the more marginal Stryper material - “Holding On” and “(Waiting For) A Love That’s Real” - comes to mind in the process.
“Vices”, in contrast, finds Battalion at its best. Scintillating power/progressive metal, this one reflects an intricate milieu with its technical underpinnings, understated melody and time changes from a more staunch direction to one on the slower side of things. Plenty of instrumental moments help take things past the six minute mark. If the group had recorded an entire album like this I would be first in line to buy it. Lyric snippet:
Take a look inside
Just what do you see?
God’s light is waiting for you
See the tears of the Lord
He’s crying out for you
God’s love took control
He set you free
No more cries from inside
My sins forgiven by His grace
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing (Runaway): “Don’t Wait” (3:48), “Runaway” (4:35), “Only Human” (3:46), “He Is Lord” (4:25), “The Lord Sees” (4:11), “Eyes Of Love” (3:24), “Judgment Day” (3:25), “Gates Of Heaven” (4:02), “I Give You My Life” (4:02), “Take A Stand” (4:26), “Vices” (6:17),
Track Listing (bonus material): “Test Of Time” (4:33), “Day Of The Coming” (4:08), “Here And Now” (3:37), “On And On Again” (4:29), “Don’t Wait” (3:54), “Let God Shine” (3:56)
Brad Lundstrom - Vocals (1-18)
Les Rouse - Guitars (1-18)
Matt Lombard - Guitars (13-18)
Jay Curatolo - Bass (1-11)
Kjell Hatlevig - Bass (12)
Jamie Yonk - Bass (13-18)
Joe Siegel - Drums (1-11, 13-18)
Rob Kay - Drums (12)