Sunday, January 13, 2013

Blood Dancer - Blood Dancer

Blood Dancer's first full length is a honest and good faith release from a band that is still very young to the scene. Their first eponymous album contains a nice variety of material ranging from more traditional Heavy Metal songs like "Death To The Saints," to epic tracks like "Last Stand Of The Pagan Kings," and some tracks that hint at slightly progressive influences like one of the album's best track "Palace Of Bones." Though their one sheet says that they have been likened to Iron Maiden, Dio and Queensryche, I hear very little reason for this comparison. Their sound and style is far closer to more modern bands like the last two Wolf albums, Twisted Tower Dire and in some spots even shows a slightly more doomy sound similar to Sahg's, especially at moments when singer Christopher Barclay sounds very similar to Olav Iversen. See the aforementioned Palace of Bones for a comparison.

This release contains good production, but not incredible production in any sense. While the band hearkens back to the 80's for a lot of their influence, the album sounds decisively modern in tone. The bite that accompanied a lot of the 80's material is gone with more focus on the mid tones, possibly even using some sort of low pass filter on the rhythm guitars to achieve such an end. In this case, frequencies above 18khz have been dropped while on normal mixing and mastering projects, if a low pass filter has been used they set the threshold frequency at 20khz. The result is an album that sounds less aggressive and less urgent. Though everything is clear and audible and there is no muddiness, Blood Dancer sounds a bit more digital than would be warranted for a release such as this for me. The bass is mixed loud enough to be heard which is appreciated even if his bass lines follow the guitars without much divergence. Though the rhythm guitars sound quite modern in tone as do the leads, solos and melodies are mixed perfectly.

There weren't many total standout tracks that either totally wowed me or made me cringe. The release is rather consistent in that regard though "Skulls Crushed (And People Burned)" doesn't quite match the style initiated during the first six tracks of the album and may have been better to leave off this release. The rhythmic and vocal performance trajectory here does not fall within the kill zone. The chorus instead of being based on chord progressions and melody is instead a palm-muted chugging reminiscent of more modern metal such as post-gothenburg melodic death metal from America and the perpetuation of metalcore elements into the greater genre. The song is good! In fact I would probably say it's one of the more courageous tracks on the release because of how different it is and because Blood Dancer experiment with some harsher vocals it sets itself apart. The problem is that it doesn't fit within the framework that the band self describes themselves as working in. Also not as effective on this release is third track "Herald Of War," even if it's introduction is one of the highlights of the album with a melody and harmony that would be right at home para-sailing. Some harsh vocals appear also but are layers over a more traditionally oriented power metal motif.

Opening track "Realm Of The Blood Dancer," reminds me of how Iron Maiden have opened their recent albums. A safe song to start off the release which best represents where the band is pointing their noses and where they think the album is exemplified. Unlike the recent Maiden albums though, this opening track, along with the final track are most likely the two best tracks on this album within the goals of the band. "Death To The Saints," is a fast heavy metal cut comparable to stuffing your Honda Accord with a strong motor. "Palace of Bones" is also a favorite of mine. Like many of the tracks on the album, the melody is a bit atypical and uncommon and "Palace of Bones" squeezes all sorts of possibilities out of the dark movements and weaves a strong track together. This continues into "Last Stand of the Pagan Kings," the longest track.

Blood Dancer have some potential and I look forward to seeing what they come out with next. They should focus on the production side of things and perhaps minor adjustments in the phrasing of riffs to sound more like the bands they are influenced by. The excellent melodies and harmonies and musicianship here offers them the possibility of doing some really cool stuff with the style they're aiming at.

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