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British Christian prog-power metal band ahead, ahoy! Looks like just my cup of tea, so to speak. As it goes, Balance of Power’s Ten More Tales… may not be nearly as flowery as Sonata Arctica or Wildpath; or as happy-go-lucky as Edenbridge or Keeper-era Helloween; or anywhere close to being as soulless, commercial and offensive as Dragonforce; but for all that it’s certainly on the lighter, catchier, happier, keyboards-saturated side of power metal, with a definite neoclassical twist (particularly on the arpeggio-ridden ‘Under Innocence Wing / Sins of the World’). Not really a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, but not groundbreaking at all, either.
Ten More Tales… actually does start out with a memorable opening track, ‘Daybreaker’ – there’s a lot to like just in that rising opening power-metal guitar riff and machine-gun drum line. Sure, the vocals are laden with saccharine sunshine and happiness, and end up reaching the twisted-balls tenor range, but for all that it is mercifully short, punchy and powerful on an album. They manage to keep up the interest and the pacing with ‘Prisoner of Pride’, but not too far beyond that… somewhere in between ‘Savage Tears’ and ‘Blind Man’ is when the mid-tempo progressive drag syndrome takes a turn for the terminal and I start to zone out. Once again, it isn’t that it’s bad music; on the contrary, it’s all still very much there. The problem is, it’s just easily subsumed into the background. Something about those vocals kind of bugs me, though, in a familiar sort of way. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll think of it later…
I did actually enjoy ‘Sins of the World’; along with ‘Daybreaker’ and ‘About to Burn’ it’s actually one of the stronger tracks on the album. In spite of the prominence that is lent to the keyboards, it actually brings back some of the energy and the power that the album started with. You have some more than halfway-decent bass-and-drums work leading up to the lengthy and awesomely neoclassical guitar solo; finishes off well with the speed and energy it started with crashing to a halt. Certainly one of the album’s high points. ‘The Darker Side’: la-la-la la la-la la oooooh + piano. An all-keyboards-and-vocals ballad to break all the momentum before the album closes out with ‘Ten More Tales of Grand Illusion’ – one of the longer tracks on the album about whose length I actually don’t care, as it manages to be quite solid and truly progressive throughout, though once again, those vocals…
… Wait. I just remembered what the tight high-tenor vocal harmonies on ‘Savage Tears’, ‘Under the Spell’ and ‘About to Burn’ remind me of. It’s CSN(Y); it’s the fucking Byrds! Seriously, Balance of Power is trying to pull off the same kind of lengthy three-chord harmonic supports and carry-overs that are the bread-and-butter (or the tie-dye-and-weed?) of the folk-rock musicians of the kind my parents listen to. Flower metal, shit – these guys just added a whole new layer of meaning to the phrase. Not that I’m saying a metal cover of ‘Ohio’ or ‘Woodstock’ couldn’t conceivably be awesome, and with these kinds of vocals it could potentially be pulled off well, but seriously, dudes. Show some self-awareness, damn it. This was the same sort of shit that Spın̈al Tap was taking the piss out of with ‘Listen to the Flower People’.
In general, I get the feeling that on a number of these tracks, Balance of Power are willing to allow the keyboards do most of the heavy lifting on songs that would otherwise be fairly ‘thin’ – though, in that, they’re no different from about 80% of all the other European power metal acts out there. Can’t fault the production at all, and the mixing actually gives the drums some well-deserved prominence; the drum playing was one of those things I appreciated even on the draggy tracks.
Last word on this album – it’s by no means a bad album (which puts it head and shoulders above most of what I’ve heard from some noted commercially-successful power metal acts I could name *coughEpicacough*), but as far as power metal goes in general, it’s pretty run-of-the-mill.
Now pardon me while I go listen to some Falconer…
14 / 20
Ten More Tales of Grand Illusion is very nearly a complete album. The instrumentation is superb, the production is flawless, and the songs are so catchy and well written, its kind of hard not to enjoy at least one song on this album.
Daybreaker is the only song I've heard previously before buying the album. This song has a very power metal like chorus, but a rather dark and doomy bridge, makes for one of the best tracks on the album.
Prisioner of Pride isn't quite as good as some of the others, its not lyrically anything special really, but the chorus does test the singer's range. His high note is right up there with Geoff Tate.
Savage Tears is absolutely beautiful. Very soulful lyrics and nice, but not over complecated instrumentation. Along with Daybreaker, one of the best tracks on the album.
Under the Spell IMO is really nothing special. Once again very well sang and played, but lacks that something that makes it stick with you.
Blind Man is along the lines of Savage Tears, a bit more positive in the lyrics. Back vocals on this track are what makes it exceptional. Without them, it'd probably be just mediocre.
The next track About to Burn is by far my favorite track on the album. Mindblowing intro, followed by very catchy lyrics and a great riff throughout. Chorus and bridge part here are absolutely phenomenal. The guitar outro here displays some great technical guitar work and amazing sounds better than the intro!
Sins of the world is my least favorite track. Personally I think it sounds similar to some of Stryper's work. For further information refer to Under the Spell.
The Darker Side is a piano ballad with sounds of thunder in the background. Its a pretty melodic song, its very relaxing, perhaps the most relaxing on the album. It kind of falls in the vein of an 80s power ballad, so if you don't like that, then you'll probably skip this one.
Ten More Tales Of Grand Illusion is another one of the better tracks on the album. The majority of this song is sung rather high and has pretty nice guitar work as well. The bridge to this song should actually be the chorus. It seems its going to lead into an early-era Helloween type song, but it slightly disappoints, since the chorus is simply singing the name of the song.
I'm definately going to buy more from Balance of Power. They have a unique sound that doesn't come out sounding awkward. I'm very surprised that they haven't achieved higher status.