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Baliset - Exordium EP

Baliset  - CD Review
Exordium EP


CD Info
United States
3 tracks
English lyrics

Some bands defy expectations. Others defy categorization or comparison. Baliset falls into the latter category. For their 2009 debut album A Time For Rust, the progressive rock project from Boston, Massachusetts introduced a gritty, experimental sound bordering on metal. Guitarist / mastermind Greg Massi also sang most of the lead vocals, with Lauren Flaherty contributing on some tracks. Things have changed in the past four years, as you might expect. The first installment of this change comes in Exordium, Baliset’s long-awaited new EP.

Exordium sees Baliset adopting a more melodic vein as they welcome a new lead vocalist. Massi recruited Shannon Kelly to join Baliset after her original band Avariel split in 2012. While Kelly sang in a semi-operatic style for Avariel, she opts for more emotion with Baliset and gives an equally compelling performance. Massi still chimes in as well, usually with backing vocals. This fits Baliset’s switch to a decidedly strong rock vibe, with more rousing melodies and atmospheric hints. Exordium also retains the band’s focus on instrumentation, nuance, and variety. You won’t hear many tempo or time signature changes or marathon time-sprints from Baliset. Instead, their progressiveness peeks through the massive range of influences revealed in each track and the slightly wandering structures.

With only three tracks, Exordium shows how diverse Baliset’s music can be. “Moon And River” kicks off the EP with a rootsy Southern rock vibe complete with hand claps and a balance of acoustic and electric guitars. It then switches to throbbing grooves, then to lighter arrangements led by birdsong keys before an ambient outro. Kelly paints a picture of a gypsy-like gathering at midnight that fits the song’s whimsicality. She does this with gliding melodies and an engaging energy that invites the listener to the party.

Next comes “Ever A Relentless Tide,” which I’d call a “cowboy ballad.” It’s folk-inspired, acoustic nostalgia quivering with melancholy. Most of that emotion comes from Massi’s lyrics, which describe a young man’s yearning for the past (“I watched the fire consume the memories / Superheroes and broken toys / Pictures drawn and stories written / Shadows of a long lost boy”). Massi takes the lead on this track, with Kelly harmonizing on the chorus. This role-reversal and the layered vocal arrangements don’t just enhance the music’s wistfulness; they draw you in deep enough to feel it.

Baliset grabs our attention one last time as “Colour” closes out Exordium. Searing guitars and a commanding stomp-rhythm shake things up after a quiet first verse. Kelly’s voice soars above the organic bombast, especially during the chorus (“Lay aside your sorrow / The burden you despise / Speak to me in colours / And from your crawling rise”). Subtle percussion throughout and a “campfire” sing-along at the end add an intimate warmth one rarely hears in such a bombastic track.

I enjoy all three tracks from Exordium. Each one is strong, vibrant, and unique; and I like listening to them over and over again. However, with the exception of “Ever A Relentless Tide,” I haven’t reached the point of loving the songs yet. They’re missing that emotion-tugging or jaw-dropping spark that would launch them to the next level for me personally. Normally I’d offer suggestions, but nothing comes to mind. Maybe it’s my “dual personality” – the critic and the fan – choosing to wait and see what Baliset does on their next release.

And thanks to Exordium, I’m already looking forward to the next Baliset album. The band accomplished what they set out to do with this EP: present a strong trio of vibrant prog rock numbers that tease and convince the listener to stay tuned to Baliset’s future, just as it did for me. The band has also benefitted tremendously from bringing Kelly to the fold. Not only has she added a new level of emotional depth to Baliset’s music, but she also helps ease the band’s transition from eccentric male-fronted prog metal to slightly less eccentric female-fronted prog rock. This shift in style would have been a canyon-leap for most acts. Baliset, however, have jumped it with guts, grace, and little hesitation – and that speaks volumes about their post-Exordium potential.

8 / 10

For fans of Anathema, Within Temptation, Anneke van Giersbergen / Agua de Annique, 3, and Arjen Lucassen’s Lost In The New Real

Visit Baliset’s BandCamp site to stream and purchase Exordium. A portion of the proceeds from the first 500 copies will go to Manes & Motions, a non-profit therapeutic riding center in Middletown, Connecticut started by Greg Massi’s mother.