Bellfast is a quite old band from Japan, but with very “poor” discography. They were formed back in 1993 by Shuji Matsumoto (bass), playing progressive hard rock with elements from Celtic music. In 1999 all members, except Shuji left the band, but he didn’t give up and with the help of many guest musicians recorded and released the mini album “Faraway Prayers” in 2001. After that, Bellfast was put on ice until 2006, when they were resurrected in order to participate in a compilation album. This release helped the band to get more fans and gradually a full line-up of seven members was formed! The band started to compose songs for its debut full-length album and they finally released “Insula Sacra” in 2010.
With various influences ranging from Iron Maiden, Kansas, Thin Lizzy and the folk / Viking power metal scene, Bellfast struggle to find their own sound. The band has an excellent production and top-notch sound quality, something expected since it was mixed and mastered by Andy La Rocque at his own Sonic Train Studios in Sweden! They choose not to add synthesizers in this album and all folk instruments (violins, flutes, tin-whistles) are natural. All band members are skilled musicians with a very good “chemistry” between them. Their singer Koh Nishino can sing in many different styles, from typical heavy metal vocals to extreme grunts, or emotional ballads. He is a very good singer, but his similarity with Bruce Dickinson in several songs is at the same time remarkable and annoying! They don’t hesitate to add operatic soprano vocals in a couple of songs and the result is very good. There are 11 songs in “Insula Sacra“, both new and old ones, with a total duration of almost an hour. Their compositions cover all range of heavy folk metal; some of them are typical classic heavy metal songs with fewer folk elements, others are full of Celtic tunes and rhythms, some have a faster more extreme approach and others are softer acoustic songs or metal ballads. Their thematology is about Norse / Viking mythology and Celtic legends and all their lyrics are in English.
Bellfast is a band that I couldn’t rate easily. They are very good musicians with a really professional sound, interesting and diverse compositions, but their obvious references to other bands prevents them from making something more personal and recognizable. Of course only few bands can do this, but I think this is the next challenge for them. Anyway, this is actually their debut album, so it’s somehow expected. “Insula Sacra” is released by King Records in jewel case edition, including a 16-page booklet with the wonderful cover artwork by Thomas Ewerhard. If you are into folk heavy power metal, you better check their music following the links to their official pages below.