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It sure in hell helps to have Sabine in your band. Tremendous, angelic, technically impressive and all kinds of positive adjectives, even the blandest, most plodding tune you could devise transmogrifies into something special when a voice such as hers resounds over all of your injudicious efforts to induce ennui upon listeners. I could probably name some better female vocalists regarding capabilities in range and diversity, but I have to traverse to the highest echelons of dream-pop to find a voice that's actually 'prettier' and more enticing with regards to sheer emotion. I'm a Sabine flag-waving nutjob and feel no shame in stating that. Unfortunately, not all of the music her magnificent presence graces is worthy of her talents.
Aided by a full-blown orchestra, The Bonding strives to be ambitious while retaining an astute degree of catchiness, and the results turn out to be a mixed bag, with the 'good' outweighing the 'bad', but only by a certain margin that could have been lengthier with some editing. The glimmering production serves the music and especially the vocals well, but it hampers those moments when the band feel the need to rock-the-fuck-out, specifically during something like that brief spurt of speed in "The Invisible Force", which, despite the fast tempo, sounds rather 'cute'. In fact, there's a sweetness to this whole shebang that really conjures up the term "Disney metal" into a physical manifestation. Sabine's pipes, and again, I friggin' love them, could easily be utilized for some Cinderella / Mulan hybrid as she prances about with her faithful ubiquitous sidekicks such as a wisecracking guitar and a quiet though endearing drumstick that eventually saves the day by ramming itself up the ass of the evil witch. With the somewhat bloated but relatively simple orchestral score coinciding with the metal riffs, the soundtrack for "Bonding With Princess Sabine" is complete. All that's needed is a full plot, a one-dimensional prince and hidden subliminal sexual messages.
To be honest, I can watch the classic Disney flicks (these days I don't have much of a choice), and I can also enjoy much of what The Bonding offers, even if some of it sounds like jacked-up renditions of "When You Wish Upon A Star". The first couple of tracks are actually on par with some of the best stuff in their catalog. "Mystic River" has a nice little segue into this beautiful dreamy soundscape before lurching back with some snazzy guitar playing and "Alight A New Tomorrow" boasts a fantastic memorable chorus that does the song title justice with its life affirmation message. I was pretty impressed with the album during my initial listen by the end of the second cut, but the momentum starts losing steam afterwards. The ballads are reasonably warm and sugary, but by the time I get to the ham-fisted "Death Is Not The End" (which is not a cover of the equally corny Bob Dylan song), the sugar high is replaced by an inevitable draining sensation to the point where lying on the kitchen floor suddenly seems like a good idea.
There's some upbeat puppies too, none more apparent than "Shadows Of My Memory", which even includes a rare bit of growling by bassist Wolfgang, not a usual staple of the Edenbridge sound whatsoever. Yet even that number possesses a Disney-fied film score undercurrent, like a theme for the monster Sabine must slay to save the kingdom. There's also the epic length title track, which normally would imply as being the most complex and dynamic of the songs, yet in this case it tends to meander about with stretched out themes and no spark of interest until the final couple of minutes, being quite a chore to reach.
As a longtime fan of the band, I bought this on vinyl without any prior knowledge of the contents, and though I don't necessarily regret it, I wouldn't consider The Bonding one of their stronger works. The vinyl itself is emblazoned with a peculiar Exorcist vomit-green tone that doesn't match up with the cover sleeve at all. I guess Steamhammer must have run out of orange colored vinyl. But the real issue concerning this edition is the inclusion of an instrumental version of "Alight A New Tomorrow" directly after the proper rendition. Who the hell came up with that idea? It's like listening to a Jimi Hendrix song without the guitars. I can't fathom any purpose for it except as a karaoke track for girls to warble over into their hairdryers.
There's some good tunes and a couple of outstanding ones to give this a partial recommendation, but they've done better in the past, and hopefully Lanvall will offer more complexity to his music and fuel up the tempos a bit, or at least lower the ballad ratio in the future. As for me, I'm sure I'll soon have to sit through The Little Mermaid yet again, wondering how those two shells remain attached to her figure.