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TRACK LIST: 1. Cold Embrace 7:04 2. Dance of the Witches 4:49 3. A New Dawn 6:11 4. Ocean of Tears 5:02 5. Remember Your Time 6:12 6. I Can Hear Your Heart 7:59 7. Floating Pictures 4:24 8. Love Will Never Die 5:15 9. Take 6:57 10. Memories 4:59 11. Power Play 15:48 12. The Meaning 3:52 LINEUP: Michael Stockschlager – guitars, bass; vocals Manfred Reinecke – keyboards Thomas Kelleners – drums Moja Nardelli – vocals With: Terry Gorle – guitars Lennie Rizzo – vocals Giles Lavery – vocals Julia Kelleners – b/v
Prolusion. The German band BLACKLANDS was formed in 2006 by Thomas Kelleners, and with the addition of Manfred Reinecke and Moja Nardelli the core base of the band was settled. Following a number of different musicians coming and going the band stabilized in 2010, and in 2013 they self-released their debut album "A New Dawn".
Analysis. Blacklands is a band that is destined to have quite a number of different styles of music attached to them by fans and reviewers alike. Progressive rock, progressive metal, Gothic metal and symphonic metal are the most common ones I guess, although there's a case for describing their style as melodic hard rock as well. The progressive part of their repertoire comes due to a number of songs structurally more advanced than what is in common mainstream oriented compositions. Multiple themes, thematic developments and recurring themes or lead motifs. Not to the extent to merit a description as something truly challenging, but there's enough finesse and sophistication at hand to separate this band from units that sticks solely to the verse and chorus based approach. Not to the extent of becoming too daring for those with an interest in simpler and more accessible material however, one might say that Blacklands hover on the borderline somewhere in that respect. A band that should appeal wide to regular fans of hard rock and metal as well as those who tend to prefer music of that character to have the progressive description attached to it. Otherwise the central premise is a female lead vocalist, with a companion male vocalist joining in on select occasions for dual lead vocals, the latter at times given some standalone passages too. The vocalists are supported by compositions that alternate between gentler piano and guitar driven themes and harder edged, darker toned guitar riff and piano based ones of a more majestic nature, with symphonic backdrops either replacing or supplementing the piano on set occasions. These elements are explored in compositions ranging from typical ballads and power ballads to traditional Gothic and symphonic metal oriented excursions, but with additional thematic and structural details as described. One might also note that the guitar parts, rather than referencing a typical progressive or power metal orientation, appear to be based more on a late 70's to mid 80's sound and expression. Most often a smooth variety of that tradition, but still closer to the likes of bands from that era than any progressive metal band you'd care to mention. The toned down edges of the guitar are also a feature that places this band in the borderline territory between hard rock and metal as far as I'm concerned. Personally I get an on and off feeling with this band. Good vocalists and good instrumentalists, not of the quality that manages to elevate any of the songs with individual skills but that works fine as a collective unit. The songs themselves are a bit of a hit and miss affair as such. Some of the more traditional and generic songs of the ballad oriented variety left me cold, while those based on a more harder edged sound came across as far more compelling to me, most of all the epic length construction Power Play with nods towards the likes of both Deep Purple and Pink Floyd incorporated into this fine creation. On a detail level, I'll also give the band credit for many fine, melodic guitar solos throughout the album, many with delicate, atmospheric expressions that wouldn't have been out of place in a neo progressive band.
Conclusion. Blackland's debut album "A New Dawn" is a production that resides in the borderlands between rock and metal and between progressive and mainstream. Melodic, accessible material, but with some sophisticated details that expand their reach also into the progressive oriented landscapes. Even so, I'd guess that their key audience will be those who fancy Gothic and Symphonic metal first and foremost, and in particular those amongst them who enjoy some progressive metal from time to time too.
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