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(64:37, Quergh Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Abrasion of the Mind 1:22 2. The Sleepless Man's Conscious Dream 7:20 3. Neverwhere 8:02 4. Betrayed by Blood 6:06 5. Fracture 2:48 6. Fallen Apart 7:04 7. Too Close to You 4:17 8. Lost 9:54 9. Perception of the I 10:58 10. Worst of Mankind 6:48 LINEUP: Olivier Hadder – vocals Giueseppe Schiavone – guitars Tony Hodge – drums; keyboards Leen – bass With: Juan Pablo Dussan – keyboards
Prolusion. The UK band ABANDONED STARS was formed back in 2010, and is based in Edinburgh. They released the "Opening Act" EP in 2011, which was followed by their first full-length album "Fragments", which was officially released in the late winter of 2015 through the fledgling UK label Quergh Records.
Analysis. Abandoned Stars joins the ranks of all the artists and bands that have a strong desire to explore the more metal oriented parts of the progressive rock realm. Progressive metal has been one of the more dominant aspects of progressive rock for the last couple of decades, hence competition is sharp and you need something a bit special to stand out in the crowd there. As such, I regard Abandoned Stars as pretty much a work in progress rather than the final end product as far as this album is concerned, albeit for reasons that do not have all that much to do with the music, their approach to this style or even the compositions themselves. This foursome, given aid by a keyboard player not an actual member of the band on this occasion, does a fine job in creating their own little place within the progressive metal universe as a matter of fact. They are relatively eclectic in their take on the genre as well, spreading their wings out a bit further than many others. The key foundations appear to revolve around the combination of guitar riffs and keyboards that combined forms majestic, powerful arrangements, and they do use a nice, dark and rather beefy guitar sound too, playful, bouncy yet also gnarly and twisted. They alternate quite nicely between gentler escapades with more dampened and plucked guitars forming a more ethereal arrangement and the more majestic antics of classic progressive metal as well, and they leave a bit of room for some technical oriented guitar details to come to the fore as well. Sequences with more of a neoclassical touch to them appear on a fairly regular basis too, of a kind and nature that makes me think about a certain Yngwie Malmsteen and his first few Rising Force albums from the ‘80s. There's also room for some traditional, galloping power metal escapades on this CD, possibly expanding its scope of interest from a progressive metal interested audience to incorporate a more traditional metal audience. I generally find the compositions to have a lot going for them, I like the band's approach here and I'm intrigued by what I suspect they are trying to achieve. But they are let down in one minor and one major area in my opinion. The minor flaw, to my mind, is the vocals. Partially connected to the major issue I suspect, but the vocals live a rather erratic life in the songs, sometimes up front and sometimes drowning beneath massive instrumentation. Vocalist Hadder also has a voice that will be somewhat divisive, first and foremost when he adds a lot of power and energy to his vocals. His tone control doesn't come across as pitch perfect at all times, but what comes across as detrimental for me is the manner in which he uses vibrato in the vocals on those occasions. This is a minor issue though, one of those details that are slightly detrimental but not any cause for concern. A matter of individual taste if you like. What I experienced as a major flaw was the mix and production however. The guitars have a strong tendency to be too loud, overpowering and sharp, the keyboards come across as too distant to the additional instruments a bit too often, and as mentioned ,the vocals live an erratic life going from almost overpowering to partially drowning beneath an instrument onslaught. The calmer sections of the songs tend to function fairly well, but as the arrangements intensity the song appears to become increasingly more unbalanced. Which makes it challenging and difficult to listen to this album, as well as to truly hear how compelling or not the material is in itself. My main impression about this album is a positive one, but my impression is that something has gone a bit wrong here in the recording, production or mixing phase.
Conclusion. Intense, loud and fairly expansive progressive metal is what Abandoned Stars provides us with on their debut album "Fragments", with technical interludes, neoclassical sequences and power metal sections added to their core classic progressive metal sound. The lead vocals as well as the mix and production may not be to everybody's taste, but for those that tend to enjoy progressive metal bands of this general nature and are fond of albums mixed with an almost overpowering loud sound, this CD should be worth an inspection.
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