It has been seven years since Kalle Wallner, guitar player for German RPWL, pleased us with a solo album. After Mirror (2007) and its successor Numb (2009, see review) Wallner finally found the time for a third solo album. Just for the record, Wallner's solo albums all go by the moniker Blind Ego and have, although some musicians return, a nice variation of musicians and vocalists on board. Where Blind Ego guested ex-Arena vocalist Paul Wrightson on both previous records, the current release Liquid holds three replacements.
For those who are not familiar with Blind Ego's work, it is good to mention that the musical direction varies a lot with RPWL's music, so where Mirror saw a focus on the more melodic, melancholic side of Wallner, the following release Numb, emphasized on the heavy rock side of music. Liquid has the best of both worlds and sees the growth of Wallner in composing, resulting in their best work up till now. The album opens with a dark, melodramatic track; A Place In The Sun, a song carried by the powerful, raw, sinister voice of Swedish Erik Blomkvist (Plattitude). His Russell Allen referring vocals mark this “close to progressive metal” track to a stunning opening of the album, including a cool Vai-ish solo from Wallner himself. The following Blackened almost takes you in the opposite direction of progressive rock music, Subsignal's Arno Menses covers this one and it immediately gets under your skin. Yes, I do think Arno is one of the most impressive vocalists around; it must be the serenity of his voice that appeals to me. Blackened sort of mixes Subsignal's signature with Kalle Wallner's ability to write interesting compositions that are perfectly built and very pleasant to listen to. What If sees the return of Erik as vocalist, here the musical pattern shows a nice alternative guitar part as a base. Over this nice riff the composition gets multiple layers that gently shift the music towards a nice heavy progressive rock song. What stands out on the album is the strong mix by RPWL fellow Yogi Lang, who did a great job perfectly capturing the rhythm section; Michael Schwager on drums and either Sylvan's Sebastian Harnack, Panzerballett's Heiko Jung and Subsignal's Ralf Schwager on bass. Minor RPWL references occur when Menses takes over during the first section of Not Going Away. As soon as the power is cranked up we are treated with one of the best melodies on the album; a mesmerizing guitar/bass riff that could fast forever without getting boring. A razor sharp solo ices this track. What starts as a smooth acoustic track; Never Escape The Storm, gently grows into a power ballad with epical aspirations. Blomkvist's really nails this one, his vocals cover the smooth melodic parts as well as the raw angry bits. This well-orchestrated track is an absolute highlight and holds sublime guitar solos. Tears And Laughter starts with a riff reminding of RPWL, but swiftly increases in power, due to a furious riff, one of those that would add something powerful to the mentioned band. I think due to the vocal lines and Menses way of reflecting the lyrics at certain parts, this composition still remains the closest to Wallner's main band. More aggression, distinguished vocals of Erik and a hard rock vein, mark Hear My Voice Out There. The whole feel of this track is an eighties hard rock song, but drawn into the modern time with amazing riffs and fine vocals. I guess we all know Wallner is a great composter and guitarist, although he always plays in service of the band, Quiet Anger is his outing, where he can show things he can't do in a vocal track. For me as a guitar aficionado, this is a heavenly track, where all musical aspects come together to really show what Kalle can do. Heiko Jung adds his fusion style, high technical playing to my personal highlight of the album. When I wrote there are three vocalists on the album, you might have wondered, “where and who is the third person?”. Aaron Brooks, courtesy of another GAOF band; Simeon Soul Charger is the final vocalist and covers only the final track of the album; Speak The Truth. A track that is nice and mellow, drenched in a bluesy sauce and filled with more of the amazing guitar parts; long notes scream of desperation as Wallner tortures his guitar, what a way to end the album. Repeat, repeat and again.
Coming to the conclusion: it really doesn't matter who covers the vocals on a Blind Ego album. In a way Wallner always succeeds to get the best out of his vocalists and I guess the songs are all written with a certain voice already set in his mind to accomplish that goal. For Liquid, he wrote his best work to date and the diversity of vocalists makes this a very interesting, enjoyable album. I am looking forward to watch them play live when Blind Ego is on tour with Subsignal, early next year.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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