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I love Edenbridge. I really do. It breaks my heart to have to listen to their newest album and admit that half of it gets old pretty fast. I was really looking forward to this, perhaps my most anticipated album for the summer, and I'm left feeling pretty underwhelmed. Oh sure, there's still some really good stuff here, but the stuff that isn't great...isn't great.
First up, the stuff that is great. The "Entree Unique" and "Exit Unique" tracks serve as some pretty darn good instrumental interludes; definitely a treat. Next is the title track, which starts off with an exchange between a string ensemble and The Metal, then both become intertwined and give birth to something ambitious yet accessible, with a fantastic chorus to boot. "Higher" begins similarly, with a light piano melody leading us into another heaping helping of that delicious symphonic metal we've come to expect from Edenbridge.
"Skyline's End" is a bit slower moving, but that ain't nothing that will hold it back, by any means. Some great riffs to be found, and not a single moment can be described as dull. "Bon Voyage Vagabond" takes its time and builds slowly (and by slowly, I mean almost a minute), but once it gets started, it really gets started. Finally, we have "Brothers Diamir," which is a fantastic ballad with some great solos and instrumental passages; clearly, this was intended to be the big epic of the album, and boy does it sound great.
Before continuing, let us discuss the finer elements of this album. In terms of the overall sound, Sabine's vocal work is as great as ever, the guitars have a big, rich sound, and the orchestral parts, while prominent, don't feel like they're smothering the group. The bass and drums are nice and audible, and both performers give competent rhythm to the album. Really, in short, it feels like a mix between "The Grand Design" and "MyEarthDream". This isn't a bad thing by any means, but some people have expressed that those albums seemed a little same-y. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to see what they mean, especially with "Solitaire."
Problem child number one is "Come Undone," which just failed to attract my interest, even from the start. There's nothing inherently -bad- about it, but it just doesn't distinguish itself at all. Sure, the verses are dark, low-key, and interesting, but that just ain't gonna cut it. "Out of This World" starts with a more synth-y sound, which is very nice and seems like it's going to lead into a great song, but what follows is a song that feels forced and is a tad too slow.
"Further Afield" gets my nomination for Worst Song on the Album, not only because the intro feels weird and out of place, but like its predecessor, it feels forced and a little off-beat. As for "A Virtual Dream," it just feels like filler. It starts with a riff that doesn't quite interest me, and continues into a vocal melody that doesn't quite interest me, right into a pre-chorus with strange guitar work that doesn't quite interest me, running smack into a chorus that doesn't quite interest me.
And there you have it. Edenbridge's newest begins on a very strong foot, stumbles and scrambles for a while, and finally gets back up to kick some ass right at the end. If some of the middle tracks were removed or reworked, I'd be ecstatic about "Solitaire." However, since you don't usually release full studio albums with the intent of fixing its problems later, I'll just have to live with what they gave us. Could've been worse, though. I'm gonna recommend this, but don't be expecting every song to be a masterpiece.