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Blacklands - A New Dawn

Blacklands – CD Review
A New Dawn




CD Info
12 Tracks
English Lyrics

One of the great pleasures of the holiday season is shopping for music, especially music you can share. It’s also a grand opportunity to pick up excellent music you might have missed last year.

A New Dawn, the 2013 debut by Blacklands, is eminently worth having and sharing. It is rich, warm and romantic, and quite probably a new type of music to many metal fans whose choices are mostly symphonic or Gothic metal.

You’ll find it listed as progressive rock or melodic rock, depending on whose catalog you use. It’s both. It also has layers of neoclassical rock and sweet traces of blues. Overall, it’s a fine example of crossover, multi-genre modern music. It’s the type of music I would play during an intimate candle-lit dinner or curled up in front of the fire (in the winter half of the world), cozy and comfortable in the glow of the one with whom I most enjoy sharing everything good. The album should be soothingly enjoyable for symphonic and other melodic metal folks.

Many qualities drew me into Blacklands. The drumming by Thomas Kelleners, who founded the band in 2006, is creative, varied and precisely measured without ever being insistent or too driving. He is especially good at moving the music through the slower, deeper ballads. Ruediger Sartingen’s bass resonates without dominating. Manfred Reinecke contributes enormously to the extra dimensions of prog on the album, particularly when the keys are ivory – piano and introspective music just go so damn well together. I’m awed by the huge versatility of guitarist Michael Stockschlaeger; he is equally at home with rock or prog-style solo passages, and just as much at ease when he kicks off with intros that would be perfect in any Gothic metal band.

Ah, and the vocals. Ah, yes, Moja Nardelli, you’re an angel. Moja’s voice is pure, smoky, silvery. Her diction would win praise from the best elocutionist. In her interpretations, her phrasing and modulation sound as trained as the voices of the top symphonic metal sopranos. There are many sections of songs in which she does duets with guest male singers including Lennie Rizzo (Exxplorer), Terry Gorle (Heir Apparent) and Giles Lavery (Dragonsclaw), all top-notch vocalists in their own right. Some of the harmonizing is so delicious that you can swirl it around on your tongue like full-cream chocolate.

I imagine you select music for its quality, not its quantity. Well, with A New Dawn you get both. The dozen tracks make up a total play time of 79 minutes. That’s easily enough to switch your brain to complete alpha rhythm mode.

One of the exceptional qualities of this album is that it’s so damn difficult to name a stand-out song. They’re all very, very good. If there is a common theme running through all of them, it is intense emotion. I won’t venture to say which is the best track. If I were to single out one that epitomizes all that’s good about Blacklands, it would be the multi-faceted “Ocean of Tears" (and there, the title tells you it’s not going to be dance club froth!).

The album is surprisingly complex. Not the first time you play it – it’s easily “accessible”, to use a grotty catchword. On multiple playings, however, every song reveals something extra you might have missed first time around. I’m on about my twelfth play-through.

Rating from this grumpy old closet romantic: 9/10.

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