When the German band Blacklands got in touch with me and asked if we would review their debut album A New Dawn, I was pretty sure about the kind of music I could expect on this record. According to their line-up they were likely to perform music that should be a mixture of gothic and metal. However, when I had listened to the entire album I was quite surprised of the music this outfit delivered on their first effort. It was neither gothic nor metal but came closer to a style of music I like to listen to on a daily basis! This proved once more that you can never judge a book by its cover. I was just fooled by their visual presentation...
Blacklands was founded in 2006 by drummer Thomas Kelleners (ex-Heavenward, ex-Lucifer's Heritage). Besides Kelleners, the current line-up of the band consists of keyboardist Manfred Reinecke, vocalist Moja Nardelli, bassist Rudiger Startingen and guitarist Michael Stockschlager. Their musicianship and the excellent compositions make A New Dawn a very entertaining album. The musicians know how to play their instruments the right way. Stockschlager doesn't show off with playing a hundred notes in a second, but he knows when to play a melodic solo or a strong riff. That also applies to Reinecke. Sometimes he sounds like a classically trained pianist; at other times he performs a pleasant and tasteful synthesizer solo. The rhythm section consisting of Kelleners and Startingen plays very functional and supporting without using double bass drum parts. Singer Moja Nadelli deserves a special mention. She hardly sings with a German accent; her voice has a wide range and doesn't sound like a gothic singer at all. She slightly resembles Olivia Sparnenn, who does the same kind of vocal parts in Mostly Autumn. Even Lana Lane crossed my mind.
A New Dawn contains a nice mixture of prog rock and prog metal and the up-tempo tunes and melodic ballads are well-balanced, a combination that works perfectly. The use of guest musicians on some tracks was a good choice as well since it guarantees enough variety in the compositions. For that reason I welcomed the vocal contributions of Giles Lavery (Dragonsclaw) and Lenny Rizzo (Exxplorer). The vocal duets with Nadelli are just a delight to listen to. That also applies to guitarist Terry Gorle (Heir Apparent) because his contributions lift the music to the next level. I think Powerplay is for prog heads the definite highlight on A New Dawn. It's a fifteen-minute long and breathtaking piece of music dealing with 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. You sometimes get the impression that David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) provided the superb guitar solo on this track.
A New Dawn is an album that will be welcomed by people who like the music of bands like Pink Floyd, early Marillion, Threshold, Savatage, Dream Theater, Magnum, Ayreon, Planet X, Nightwish, Deep Purple and Lana Lane! The band may be proud of what they have accomplished on this debut album. Although they recorded almost eighty minutes of music they didn't include any weak tracks! Bravo!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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