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Come to the edge of reason - 70%

naverhtrad, August 4th, 2011

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…

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