Monday, August 06, 2012

Realmbuilder: Fortifications of the Pale Architect (2011)

Judge a Book By Its Cover

They say you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But on occasion, that could save you a lot of time.

Take Fortifications of the Pale Architect, for instance, the sophomore album of New York epic doomsters Realmbuilder. The cover looks like it was very earnestly created (in MSPaint) by someone with a rudimentary grasp of perspective, but without any real knack for composition, no comprehension of proportions of the human body, a lack of appreciation for the distinction between good and bad fantasy, a lazy streak--and most importantly, a complete inability to look at his own finished product and say, "Well, that sucks." Translate that critique of visual art into a critique of music, and you can see where this is headed.

These guys have a rudimentary grasp of what makes good metal. After innocuous horse sounds, the record begins on a nice NWOBHM-style riff. A handful of other riffs here are actually pretty good. A handful of the solos are very good as well. The vocal style is a non-horrible clean vocal in the vein of many of the lesser epic doom and NWOBHM vocalists--you know, the guys who aren't Marcolin or Dickinson. I don't think I can say anything else good about Fortifications.

Most of the riffs are awkwardly put-together, like the place where the title architect's hand meets his arm. (Is his forearm three inches long?) The title track is a perfect example, sounding little better than something my untalented high school band would have jammed on for seven minutes without any idea of where we were going. The solo is pretty cool, I admit, but then it comes to the worst aspect of this whole album.

Worse even than the numerous ungainly riffs is the ungraceful vocal phrasing. It's as if all the lyrics were written separately from the songs, and they were jammed together on the fly. "Iron Wheels of the Siege Machines" is the worst example, because while it starts out OK, it has one of the worst choruses I've ever heard.

Finally, I have to mention the fantasy aspect. From what lyrics I picked up, not all of it is particularly bad. No worse than your average power metal, anyway. But they named the album and gave it art based on the worst story of the bunch. Why is building a fortress all that cool?

Fix the ladders
Stack the stones
We build the wall that shields the empire

This kind of mom's basement level D&D is what gives fantasy, and metal, a bad name.

The Verdict: 1 out of 5 stars

This review originally appeared on

I Hate


  1. My god, that cover art... reminds me of either a bad D&D rip-off (most of the real D&D/AD&D manuals and such had great art), or maybe box art for a shitty '80s computer game, perhaps something for the first Atari console? Either way, it's so atrocious I actually want to sample at least a track or two.

  2. If anything, you've unfairly maligned MSPaint by associating it with this.

  3. If I take my glasses off and stand back a little ways, the artwork isn't too terrible.

    Seriously, though, I think what really surprises me about this is that it isn't their first album. It sounds enough like a group that still hasn't figured itself out yet that I actually had to double check to make sure you really did say they had an earlier release.

  4. No kidding.

    It's weird how positive the response to this review has been, here and when it was originally posted over at I guess maybe that means I do my best work when I really hate something. I suppose that's because I try to be positive (yet honest!) even when I'm not impressed, but when something really sucks then I drop all pretense.

  5. Maybe we're all secretly just mean-spirited people who enjoy an opportunity to pick on a band?

  6. I really like this band and the songs I've heard of this new one so far. That said, your review is spot on.

  7. You agree with my review, but you like it anyway? I don't know whether that's awesome or crazy. Probably both. Thanks!