Review: Battle Hag ‘Celestial Tyrant’

Celestial Tyrant is California-based Battle Hag’s second full length album. I should be clear straight away that Battle Hag are highly unlikely to be asked to provide the soundtrack to any of the Come To California adverts we see on UK television…because if they were, I’m not sure so many people would be quite so keen to go. This is sludge. This is doom. This is not Disneyland.

Battle Hag ‘Celestial Tyrant’

Celestial Tyrant is available now on Bandcamp and also through the increasingly wonderful Transylvanian Tapes – a label which is constantly demanding my attention. Who amongst us doesn’t love a transparent red tape?! I must admit to having a certain fondness for cassettes, primarily because the format demands that you become as familiar with the final minutes of an album as you are with the first song. That ‘play from where you left off’ limitation of the format is one of the reasons I love it.

I do recall that I listened to Battle Hag’s 2017s Tongue Of The Earth album shortly after it was released, but other than that vague awareness it made no lasting impact on me. I’m happy to report that Celestial Tyrant hasn’t been so transient – this has been on heavy rotation for some time now, and I see no reason why it won’t remain that way.

Opening track, Eleusinian Sacrament immediately brought to mind the more epic moments of Pallbearer’s Sorrow And Extinction. At just under thirteen-minutes, this is a somewhat gentle introduction into the world of Battle Hag – which isn’t to say there isn’t a lot to admire here – it’s just that this is an album that gets more complex, and more challenging, as each track goes by. There are touches of psychedelia and echoes of 11 Paranoias, giving the track real texture. It’s a great start, and by now you will have turned your amplifier up to neighbour-bothering levels as the production allows this album to sound better the louder you play it.

Second track, Talus, actually breaks out into a trad-metal gallop at the halfway point. The riffs move from slow and threatening to actually opening up and shedding some light on proceedings. It’s perhaps dangerous territory to introduce this up-tempo element, but it works as part of the whole and gives the track a real feel of narrative. On the riffs side of things we’re talking Witchfinder General or Angel Witch levels of guitar melody, so if you’re someone who loves that first wave of doom as much as you like Ramesses levels of heaviness, then this might just be your new sweet-spot.

the crystal clear mix allows the quality of these three prog-sludge epics to really shine through…

Whilst I mention narrative, I should also touch upon the lyrical content of Celestial Tyrant. Each of the three tracks focuses on some aspect of Greek mythology, and in each case this clearly allows the band to deliver an emotional story arc with each track. I have to say that whilst I’ve eaten the music whole, I haven’t taken the time to explore the stories or the lyrics, but for those that do, it may be that this opens up even greater appreciation of the riffs within.

Final track, Red Giant, sets off on its nineteen-minute odyssey to the end of the album, and it’s quite a ride. The track features some stand out bass playing; the sort of lyrical lines that Geezer Butler set down in the ten metal commandments. We also have brilliantly simple but effective guitar lines that any fan of Icon-era Paradise Lost will immediately love. And throughout the track there is subtle use of phasing effects which give the whole thing a real ethereal underbelly.

For the last couple of minutes the track descends into a black metal fury which quite literally burns itself out as the track drifts away as a fade out. It’s a fitting end to what is a great track, and in my case it’s left me sitting in silence for a couple of minutes afterwards on a couple of occasions, such is the investment I’d made in what I was listening to.

There may not be anything revolutionary here, but what Battle Hag have delivered with Celestial Tyrant are performances that are full of emotional commitment, so it sounds wholly fresh and invigorated, and the crystal clear mix allows the quality of these three prog-sludge epics to really shine through. Battle Hag’s second album is one to take very seriously indeed!

Label: Transylvanian Tapes
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: David J McLaren