Thursday, February 23, 2017

Album Review: Arduini/Balich - Dawn Of Ages

The world of doom is one that I can't speak to with much authority. There are few doom bands that I follow to any degree, and the ones that I have been mildly a fan of over the years have seemingly all fallen into disrepair. In fact, I can't actually recall the last doom metal album I heard that I actually enjoyed. Am I in too good a mood for doom? Not likely, but I won't completely discount the idea. So when this album came around, presented as a progressive doom-laden musical journey, I wasn't getting my hopes up. Featuring a former Fates Warning guitarist from the era when they weren't yet Fates Warning, and the voice of the increasingly dull Argus, Arduini/Balich is a project with its work cut out for it, if it wants to impress me.

Our journey begins with four minutes of guitar buildup, as Arduini winds through a few melodies before the first riffs finally appear. When that happens, we get a very Sabbath-ian chugging, complete with dirty distortion and bent notes pulling the end of each riff just far enough off key to sound unsettling. Balich comes in, and while I've never denied that the guy has a good voice for this kind of music, he is one in the long line of singers who isn't nearly as good a writer as he is a vocalist. "The Fallen" is a ten minute opus where very little actually happens. After all the time spent building to the meat of the track, the riff is underwhelming, and Balich doesn't offer anything close to a memorable melody.

"Forever Fade" is better, in that the guitar build is more effective, and the atmosphere is easier to swallow. But again, the main riff of the song is a bit of chugging followed by a bent note, and Balich is in full-on anti-melody mode. It almost sounds as though he was trying to be as bland as humanly possible as a vocalist. It's not a good sound. Not at all.

And then there's the biggest issue with the album. At six tracks and an hour long, it is a chore to get through. Tracks ranging from ten to seventeen minutes are fine as occasional forays into something more experimental, but when four of the six tracks on the record are that long, without the requisite amount of musical ideas to fill the time, it's self-indulgent, and hurts the product.

I know exactly what "Dawn Of Ages" is. This is a record that a guitarist made because he was tired of not being the central focus of his old band. This is a guitarist's album made for guitarists, with a vocalist in place just to appease the people who don't like instrumental music. The guitar playing on here would be fine for an old-school Sabbath worshiping band, assuming they wanted to play half an hour of gritty music. There is not an hour's worth of good ideas here, and Balich adds absolutely nothing with his vocals. He has no melodies, and doesn't even have a riff to follow the way Ozzy used to.

These people can talk about the album as being a 'musical journey', but that's a fancy way of saying they were indulging themselves without caring if the end result was listenable. "Dawn Of Ages" is a mediocre EP stretched out to a lengthy album. My patience doesn't stretch that far, so consider this a miserable flop.

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