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TRACK LIST: 1. In the Desert 2:58 2. Mystic Shadow 2:17 3. There Was a Crimson Clash of War 2:49 4. Behold the Grave of a Wicked Man 2:39 5. I Stood Upon a High Place 2:27 6. Once I Saw Mountains Angry 2:02 7. Black Riders Came from the Sea 3:35 8. Behold from the Land of the Farther Suns 3:01 9. Once I Knew a Fine Song 2:53 10. A God in Wrath 4:56 11. A Man Saw a Ball of Gold in the Sky 1:52 12. In a Lonely Place 3:01 13. There was Before Me 2:21 14. I Met a Seer 2:18 15. Should the Wide World Roll Away 3:14 16. Gods 3:39 17. Places Among the Stars 2:48 18. God Fashioned the Ship of the World Carefully 2:46 19. Truth Said a Traveller 2:57 20. In Heaven 6:01 LINEUP: Dirk Radloff - all instruments Chris - vocals with: Gdaily Garmiza - saxophone
Prolusion. German venture HEARTSCORE is the creative vehicle of German composer and musician Dirk Radloff, and for almost 20 years he has released music under this moniker at regular intervals. Seven studio albums have been made available so far, and the self-released "The Black Riders Part 1" from 2018 is the most recent of these.
Analysis. Heartscore has always been something of an oddball venture as far as my taste in music is concerned, as Radloff do enjoy exploring some rather challenging territories at times. Certain aspects of the music itself, alongside some technical and performance issues, have also dampened the impression I got from the albums I have encountered. But, that being said, my impression is that Heartscore have managed to use the ingredients they have at disposal in a better way this time around than on any of their earlier productions. There will always be a special mood and atmosphere to the music of Heartscore, as this is a venture that works on creating music to words already written by others. The others being poets, and the selected poet for this album is modernist writer Stephen Crane. Which in itself will lead to associations towards material a bit challenging to digest I presume. The artists describes this album as one of dark, progressive metal, which kind of makes sense too. Of course, not progressive metal in any traditional definition of the expression, but the music is metal and the songs are, by and large, progressive in nature as well as spirit. A token instrumental aside, all the songs here revolve around contrasts of various kinds. Central to most of the songs are the theatrical, dramatic delivery of the words by vocalist Chris, complete with a certain flamboyant touch, strongly contrasted by the dark, gritty and at times primal guitar riffs delivered by Radloff. We do get the occasional conventional riff barrages and drawn out, textured riffs here, but just as common if not even more so are guitar details with a tendency towards the atonal or dis-harmonic - or sounds that otherwise explore unusual scales, patterns and textures. The word expressive comes to mind fairly often here, as a matter of fact. Steady drum patterns with occasional expressive details is an important foundation and a sometime provider of further expressive and challenging details, while electronics, keyboards, organ and violin makes up most of the additional support cast. While the dark and gnarly metal dominates this album throughout, a few exceptions are thrown into the loop as well. A token appearance by the saxophone adds a jazzy tinge to the song it is present in, the violin adds a few more folk-tinged details when applied, and a few songs takes on more of an industrial or perhaps even noise rock orientation at times. But as with this album as a whole, all of the exceptions shies away from most conventional manners in applying such flavoring, maintaining an expressive and challenging nature to just about everything that is going on.
Conclusion. A venture such as Heartscore will, to my mind at least, always be a balancing act between what you want to accomplish and what you can actually achieve, making sure to not explore territories you do not have the ability or the ingredients needed to master and conquer. And my impression is that "Black Riders Part 1" is a successful creation in such a context. Poetic, theatrical, expressive and challenging metal made and assembled with a progressive spirit, where all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle falls into place. A good album, in essence. The challenging overall nature of this production will result in a finite and somewhat limited reach I gather, but this is a good album that will be enjoyed by the proper audience.
Progmessor: March 24, 2019
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