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Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule

My first encounter with Bal-Sagoth was in the form of an advert within the pages of Metal Hammer in the late 90s. After reading about Phil Anselmo's drug overdose and Bruce Dickinson's minor solo career, I saw a picture of a blue album with some kind of malevolent creature raising its arms, half in victory, half in rage. The text was unreadable. I wanted to know more, and yet their presence was fairly minimal in the shops. I didn't know where to start.

Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule was that album, and one of the tracks happened to be on a CD called Gods of Darkness, which I picked up in Rocky's. I remember reading the tracks and cover repeatedly on the bus all the way home up Eccy Road, where I then lived. I rushed home and learned it. The CD was in fact very good, mainly for a handful of gems. 'Summoning the Guardians of the Astral Gate' was one of these.

Why is it so good? It's battle metal, made with epic choral attacks and lyrics gleaned from Tolkien, Howard, Lovecraft and even Bronte, giving rise to majestic, poetic, rhythmic storytelling opuses which hammer on and on with glorious fanfare and power.

And as a Sheffield band, it's not uncommon to spot one of the members while you're out and about.