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(46:34, Musea Parallele Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Black Swan 4:24 2. Another Fate 4:49 3. Visions 4:22 4. Shadow Alone 5:10 5. Holy Answer 5:35 6. Rising Tide 4:23 7. Never Come Back 3:38 8. One Last Crime 5:23 9. Waiting for the End 4:39 10. Life-Line 4:11 LINEUP: Dan Keying – vocals; keyboards Mattew Barsacchi – guitars Lino Trentin – bass Pelo – drums
Prolusion. "Black Swan" is the first solo album by Italy-based vocalist Dan KEYING, to some probably familiar as a member of Italian acts Cydonia and Hollow Maze. This debut solo production was released in 2008, on Musea Parallele, a sub-label of Musea Records.
Analysis. The musical style explored on this production is a curious one and one that left me in at least two minds as to what I should think of it. Not that the music is extremely challenging, nor is it a matter of a weak production: in this case everything technical is mastered superbly and flawlessly as far as I can make out. Instead the problem with this release is how the various stylistic elements are put together, with a three-legged foundation consisting of power metal, progressive metal and slick AOR, with elements from all styles just as much, or not, dominating the proceedings. The guitar is the dominating and driving instrument on this album and is utilized in an inventive and creative manner, supplying a great variety of different sounds and styles to the individual compositions. Quirky riff passages and drawn out chords are the most common aspects used, and quite often these will be combined in longer passages with a generally quirky and at times complex sonic tapestry being explored. Furthermore, the guitar serves up slicker sounding riff patterns, echoing riffs, undistorted melodic guitar licks as well as the traditional guitar soloing, the latter often with a classical tinge to it. Fleshing out these songs are keyboards, most often placed back in the mix to provide finer details in the proceedings, but at times also pushed closer to the front to form majestic soundscapes along with the guitar. In the mellower sections the piano is brought forth too and makes the odd appearance to provide refined details in a few harder hitting segments as well. The compositions as such are set up in a rather unique manner. The instrumental sections, along with the verse parts, are the most complicated ones, switching between mellow, atmospheric, explorations and idiosyncratic creations, the latter often combining intricate riff patterns with drawn out chords, while the former will feature echoing riffs or riff bursts to add complexities to the mood-filled atmosphere. The chorus sections are partially hard-hitting segments with a typical and at times close to operatic power metal style and partially a slicker, melodic AOR-tinged affair with sing along lines and a generally broad, commercial appeal. And therein lies the challenge with this album, too. The mix of more or less simplistic power metal manners, the complex progressive metal approach partially explored, and parts with distinct AOR leanings and the general feel of the latter due to the highly slick mix and production throughout this release. It's somewhat taxing to follow the proceedings due to this, when at one moment you can soak in delightfully quirky segments with loads of finer details to pay attention to and then at the snap of a finger suddenly find yourself listening to a deliberately slick, catchy segment with sing-along lyrics and few or no nuances to immerse yourself in. The vocal performance of Keying is probably worth mentioning as well. He's got a powerful melodic voice, yet for some reason he has chosen to add in briefer details with classic, wailing, vocals in traditional metal style. For me this became distracting; then again I know I'm picky when it comes to vocal performances and this last detail may not be important for everyone. Worth mentioning though, as there are people out there who find this style of vocals, even when only briefly visited as on this creation, to be detrimental.
Conclusion. Dan Keying's first solo effort "Black Swan" is an album standing firmly on three legs, positioned in power metal, progressive metal and AOR respectively. Those who enjoy the more commercially-tinged progressive metal acts should find this one an interesting release to get more familiar with, and fans of power metal in general and the slicker varieties of it in particular might also see this one as worthwhile checking out.
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