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Great potential but flawed songwriting - 70%

kluseba, August 11th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2013, CD, Steamhammer

Edenbridge has been one of the world's greatest symphonic metal bands in its early career. The band had the talent to mix ambitious symphonic soundscapes, intellectual progressive elements and memorable choruses in songs like "Sunrise in Eden", "Shine" and "The Grand Design" to only name a few potent examples. However, the band has lost steam since the beginning of the decade. The band started to repeat itself and was rarely able to mix the three components mentioned above as efficiently as in its early years. The Bonding presents a band that is still better than the gros of symphonic metal groups but it also can't compete with any of its own first six albums.

Things start promisingly with "Mystic River". It opens with a gripping riff before it gets more ambitious, bombastic and elegant with a great mixture of smooth and vivid passages and Sabine Edelsbacher proves that she is one of this genre's most underrated singers as her enchanting vocals are absolutely unique. Everything seems to lead to an epic finale when the band suddenly starts to fade out the track thirty seconds before it ends. That is possibly the worst ending for such a song. Fade-outs have never been good, are still not good and won't ever be good. It's a lazy and unoriginal way to end a song. If this were the very last song on the album, I could maybe tolerate this but in that case, it becomes the auditive equivalent to a coitus interruptus.

After spoiling the song that would have potentially been the best on this album, Edenbridge delivers a good genre record but fails to add anything new to the formula. "Alight a New Tomorrow" is the potential single focused on a strong chorus, garnished with exotic folk soundscapes and dramatic symphonic elements but the guitar riffs are bland and exchangeable. "Star-Crossed Dreamer" has a very appropriate title because it's a smooth ballad with classical soundtrack elements but it misses an emotional climax. "Death Is Not the End" is another ballad that comes around with wonderfully played acoustic guitars and piano parts and soothing vocals but it once again misses a climax, overstays its welcome and ends with another vapid fade-out. Every song on this record has many positive elements which is mostly due to creative multi-Instrumentalist Lanvall and Edelsbacher's fascinating vocals. However, each song has some songwriting issues and fails to get to the point. The title track "The Bonding" once again exemplifies my thesis. It features haunting atmospheric parts and strong melodies but clearly overstays its welcome with a length beyond fifteen minutes.

If Edenbridge wants to reclaim the genre throne, three things need to be done. First of all, less can be so much more. The songwriting needs to be more concise, the songs should be shorter and get faster to the point. Secondly, the band needs to find the perfect balance between symphonic, progressive and catchy elements again and this can only work by trying out new things and challenging itself instead of sticking to the formula of past glory. The idea to invite some skilled guest singers is already a good one, the guitar riffs could be heavier and the rhythm section should also be more involved to make for a more organic sound. Thirdly, the band has to find more original ways to finish its songs. fade-outs or abrupt endings aren't acceptable for experienced songwriters. A bombastic climax on one side or a smooth coda are options that should be explored more often.

In the end, The Bonding is a good album but it's also a little bit frustrating because the band has the potential to be so much better. Genre fans and faithful followers of the band should grab this release but anyone else should discover the band's early records such as Sunrise in Eden, Aphelion and Shine first.

Coming to a theater near you - 75%

Liquid_Braino, August 11th, 2013

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.

Far Out Of Reach - 62%

GuntherTheUndying, June 24th, 2013

It sort of surprises me that I'd never heard of Edenbridge up until "The Bonding," album number eight for these Austrian symphonic soldiers. They're not only compared to Nightwish and other female-fronted cohorts, but their following is considerably large, and seeing that I enjoy (some) Nightwish and bands like Whyzdom, I figured this would tickle my fancy. "The Bonding" feels like a group at half-capacity. Mired, anticlimactic symphonic power metal lasting for nearly an hour is the name of the game throughout "The Bonding," despite a handful of hit songs and memorable occasions. While their antics are appropriate, Edenbridge is often too safe and stagnant, making most of their elongated anthems tiring and desired golden moments far out of reach.

Sabine Edelsbacher and guitarist Lanvall have long been the core of Edenbridge since the band's forlorn beginnings to its rise to success as the years fell behind them. They're both world-class performers: Sabine a powerhouse vocalist whose voice is elegant and mythical, and Lanvall an incredibly virtuosic and charming guitar player. Throughout "The Bonding," it seems like Edenbridge is tiptoeing and very afraid of cutting its feet: Lanvall's riffs are seldom bold or adventurous, the symphonic elements are merely backdrops to the faction's material, and there's an insanely heavy focus on sappy, easy ballads, and the like. Not to throw tomatoes at the whole album, because it definitely has its moments, but yeah, most of this should've come with a snooze button.

While anyone could spend copious amounts of time praising Edelsbacher’s glorious voice and the guitar wizardry, what remains is the remarkably dull songwriting. Edenbridge sleepwalks through a number of cheesy, uneventful duds like "Far Out of Reach" and "The Invisible Force," which manage to pack in and serve nothing of interest. Other tunes like "Star-Crossed Dreamer" and "Death is Not the End" should receive awards for how boring they are; they're merely typical symphonic-based ballads cut out and milked by millions of clones. Most of the remaining tunes are actually quite eventful, though. "Mystic River" is a powerful opener with Sabine leading the charge in prime form, and "Shadows of my Memory" ignites the record back into the land of the conscious with harsh vocals and decent riffing. "Alight a New Tomorrow" has a well-cooked chorus, thankfully an honest Edenbridge anthem that isn't mucked up by the usual inconsistencies within "The Bonding."

The fifteen-minute title track? Well, it's the fifteen-minute title track—that's really all there is to be said. The song features guest vocals from Erik Mårtensson, who's appeared on a cornucopia of CDs as a session member, but he sounds completely powerless next to Sabine's voice; the dude isn't even in the same ballpark. Then again, the story of the title track is an eerie reflection of the whole experience, with bits and pieces of acceptable material emerging from the sea of sameness while a huge chunk of the album drowns. Edenbridge, no stranger to their brand of symphonic power metal, acts like a deer in the headlights here, almost clueless and certainly not living up to the experience of a group with seven opuses behind it. They could've done better.

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