Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Album Review: Borealis - Purgatory

Outside of the traditionalists who refuse to change anything, ever, the nature of power metal has been one that has been increasingly moving in a heavier direction. Metal fans are, by and large, overly concerned with the relative heaviness of the music they listen to, which has slowly pulled every type of metal further and further into what was one extreme territory. Even power metal bands now have to have deeply tunes guitars, drums that approach blast beats, and sand off the poppier overtones of their melodies.

Borealis is one of these modern power metal bands, playing a style that tries to mix melody and darkness. Whether those two things can coexist is something that I'm not sure of, at least not for the entirety of a record, let alone a career.

"Past The Veil" opens things off by throwing everything into the mix. The song has a piano figure, some orchestral backing, deep chugging riffs, and some baritone vocals that make the entire thing highly reminiscent of Evergrey. They do all of this in five minutes, which is an indication of where the rest of the record is going. It is a good song, but it almost comes across like it's trying a bit too hard to be metal, when it should smooth things out and highlight the melody a bit more.

"From The Ashes" is highly dramatic, with crying strings, and rapid-fire drums pounding away all the time. The chorus speeds things up, but that's not a good decision, because the melody gets compressed too much, and the hook gets lost amid the raging music. That lack of melody is a big problem for an album that is supposed to be melodic metal. They band surely tries hard to be melodic, but they aren't writing vocal lines that are hooky enough. The vocals tend to think that singing clean and with drawn out notes is the same thing as being melodic. It isn't, but it's a common misconception in a lot of the metal world.

One of the problems I have with the record is that the production puts too much focus on the drumming, to the point where the constant double-kick action is distracting. There are moments when I'm trying to hear the melody, but am overwhelmed by the needless pounding. This seems to me to be a classic example of an instrumentalist trying to do too much. There are so many drum hits that it all becomes a blur, and none of the patterns can really stand out.

I don't want to sound too negative here, because Borealis is a band that has plenty of talent. Their delivery of the music is practically flawless, and they know how to use their keyboard and string accents to heighten the drama. From an instrumental perspective, they've done a fine job of building a modern power metal record, as much as it can be done. I don't particularly find this style to be all that engaging, with its focus on mechanized rhythms, but Borealis does it well. My issue is that, aside from the beautiful "My Peace", I don't get nearly enough melody and hooks from the vocals to make the album worth my time.

There's plenty of hope for the future here, and people who love drumming far more than I do will enjoy "Purgatory" quite a bit. It just doesn't offer me the kind of power metal I'm looking for, so I can only say that it's good for what it is.

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