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TRACK LIST: 1. Still Bleeding 7:38 2. Alone Again 5:41 3. The River 5:48 4. Drown in Darkness 7:46 5. Ballad of a Burning Witch 5:25 6. Distant Warning 6:36 7. Grand Circles 9:03 8. Peaceful Shores 3:40 9. T.I.M.E. 5:45 10. Like Tears in Your Eyes 4:10 11. Winter Skies 16:21 LINEUP: Tanja Magolei-Schupper - vocals Michael Stockschlager - guitars, vocals Manfred Reinecke - piano, keyboards Oliver Muller - bass, vocals Thomas Kelleners - drums With: Marcel Romer - vocals Manos Fatsis - vocals Christian Boche - guitars Gabriel Vealle - vocals Family of Hope gospel choir - vocals Markus Brand - vocals Jazz Swing College Band
Prolusion. German band BLACKLANDS was formed in 2006 by Thomas Kelleners, and after the initial line-up of the band solidified in 2010 they started working on their debut album "A New Dawn", which was self-released in 2013. Three years later, with a couple of line-up alterations taking place in that time, the band reappeared with their second album "Peaveful Shores". And as was the case with their first CD, they opted for a self-release also on this occasion.
Analysis. Blacklands is a band that had an interesting thing going with their debut album, a charming affair that alternated and moved in between multiple style elements. This charming dance isn't quite as much of a presence on their second studio production, that a few exceptions aside appears to hone in on more of a melodic progressive rock kind of sound, at times with a few dips into more mainstream melodic rock. Which in itself isn't a bad thing actually. The exceptions mainly revolve around incorporating elements from progressive metal into the compositions, a details on a small handful of the compositions here, and this works well as an invigorating detail when applied. In between more atmospheric laden arrangements it's always nice to encounter beefier, majestic arrangements where riffs and keyboards combine in classic era progressive metal style. Softer moods and melodies lies at the heart of this album though, where wandering plucked guitars and dampened guitar riffs accompany floating, elegant keyboard textures as well as more refined and sophisticated keyboard arrangements, with the piano used to add a gentler touch here and there and the organ to craft a richer, more majestic feel. A lot revolves around the lead vocals though, and it is in this department that this production becomes a divisive one. New lead vocalist Tanja Magolei-Schupper has a fine voice in itself, and she is able and capable of delivering a lot of emotion with her voice. Those who revel in emotionally laden vocals will get a lot out of this album in that context. But she does tend to waver a bit, flies in and out of pitch at times, especially in the more demanding sections, and at worst her vocals becomes a stark, detrimental feature if you are the kind of person that listen to the vocals as one more instrument rather than focusing on the sheer emotion of the vocals. In addition, at leasat in my view, she doesn't have the voice that will carry and lift a song when she hits it perfectly either. I do understand that her presence of a vocalist came rather late in the game of the creation of this album though, which might explain some of those issues. Still, it is a big detail for some listeners, and thus it needs to be addressed. In particular because I'm rather sensitive to lead vocals myself, being one of those people who do listen to them as an instrument to a much greater degree than as an emotional provider. The rest of the band comes across as a tight crew though, and the core compositions aren't half bad either, with quite a few numbers given a slight lift from the instrumental passages. The one single case of a pop/rock oriented creation closer to the likes of U2 than progressive rock can be overlooked though, and with a 77 minute playtime there's plenty of additional material here to become familiar with.
Conclusion. Blackland's second album "Peaceful Shores" comes across as a production that is a step down in overall quality for me personally. This is mainly due to the vocals though, and those who listen to those as an emotional provider rather than as an instrument may well find their view to be opposite of mine. A divisive production in that respect. But for those who know that the vocals aren't a big thing for them, and who tend to favor melodic progressive rock with at least half a foot inside a neo-progressive context, this is a CD that merits a check at some point.
Progmessor: June 26th 2018
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