Balflare – Sleeping Hollow – 3/5
Amidst the neo-classical wizards, this provides a somewhat refreshing change in pace, for whilst guitars are still heard for the most part they are drenched in thick and lavish keyboard, lending a ‘icy’ and ‘wintery’ feel to the proceedings. With a variety of tones to attack with, the keyboards steal the show, yielding to the guitars for the solos yet are not afraid to perform their part. If you’re after a highly symphonic band that works on atmosphere without sounding like you need to lose your manhood to enjoy, then this may well be up your alley.
The bass cannot be heard at all, and for the best part of this album the guitars are either barely heard, or spend their time behind the keyboards playing simplistic chord based riffs. But despite being far in the back, when they keyboards break they are suddenly given their chance to shine, and they quickly seize on this opportunity with a variety of fills, melodic solos and Malmsteem style shredding, often playing from the keyboards. They may not as prominent as in most bands, but they are certainly capable, and when combined with the simplistic drum work, can allow for an aggressive tone.
As previously mentioned, the real prize of this band is the keyboard work, providing a number of epic backgrounds for the vocalist to work around, he feels like he is trying to provide an entire orchestra’s worth of music, from harpsichord and violin tones, piano and organs, he at times feels overwhelmed, attempting to do too much and the result is that many of the songs begin to feel similar. The vocalist completing the line-up is certainly capable, with a decent range and power (and strong accent), but what’s lacking is a certain emotion, a passion. He feels capable but ultimately somewhat unenthused.
Those who like their power metal drenched in thick keyboard harmonies will find plenty here to keep them enthused. The lack of memorable sections and emotional vocals prevents this from reaching greater heights. This is an album of two parts, keyboards and vocals, and whilst feeling full, it feels overtly simplistic, as though it’s lacking a multi-layered complexity that would allow for a longer playability. There is promise here, but the keyboards need to take more of a backseat and allow for more diversity to appear.
Highlights: The Dunes, Waking in Silence, The Eye of the Pharoah