Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Album Review: Borealis - The Offering

There are some bands who have a sound that makes them stand out among the crowd, who are nearly impossible to copy. Those are the lucky ones, since they don't have to worry about people getting tired of hearing a hundred other bands that sound just like them. The downside to that is when a band comes along that does happen to sound like them, it leads to questions about how deliberate that happenstance is. Borealis is perhaps the only band who sounds like Evergrey, which is why I'm thinking of this. When I listened to their last album, the only thought I had all the way through was that it could have easily carried that moniker, and it also happened to be better than most of the Evergrey albums I've listened to (I'm the weird guy who likes "Torn").

This time around, Borealis returns with a concept album, which doesn't mean much anymore. Does anyone really know the stories to these things? I have a few in my collection, and I couldn't give you a recap of any of the narratives. Anyway...

Look, there's no getting around comparing this album to the recent Evergrey releases. I wish there was, but I don't know how else to give you the right idea of what is in store for you when listening to this record. Aside from the vocal similarities, the construction of the music itself has taken the same path, with melodies that can be interchanged between the bands. That means if you're a fan of Evergrey, you can stop reading here and start listening right away. If you're not a fan, stick around for a bit.

Perhaps the story needed a prelude, but the opening "The Fire Between Us" gets the album off to a slow start. The sound is grand and epic, but the promise of sweeping melody isn't there, and the vocal parts never captivate the way the instrumentals promise. "Sign Of No Return" quickly turns that around, and delivers what I was expecting of Borealis; heavy and beautiful modern prog metal with a sense of drama and melody that sounds rich and deep. It proves when they hit the mark, they are truly impressive.

The feeling the rest of the album gives me is one of difficulty, as though I'm straddling the line between satisfaction and disappointment. "The Offering" is certainly an enjoyable album, and is without doubt better than any of Evergrey's recent outputs. However, there are times where Borealis is content to use Matt Marinelli's vocal power to carry the songs with huge belted notes. When you break them down, some of the melodies aren't particularly memorable without the volume he imparts. That's one of the complaints I have about Evergrey as well.

The other thing to note is that "The Offering", in being a modern prog metal album, is LOUD. Like loud to the point where it gets tiring by the time the hour has passed. They go full steam ahead with a dense mix for nearly the entire running time, which is a bit of sensory overload for me. I certainly would have appreciated a mix that breathes a bit more.

Overall, I'm stuck in the middle with "The Offering". I like it, and there is plenty to applaud about this effort, but there are also things holding it back from being the kind of album I will return to again and again. In that respect, it's much like their previous album, which I praised at the time, and haven't listened to since. It's nice to know Borealis is out there and making music, but I'm still waiting for everything to click.

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