Blacklands is a German female fronted band that was founded in 2006 by drummer Thomas Kellerners. A year later keyboard player Manfred Reinecke and vocalist Moja Nardelli joined, but it would take until 2010 to find the complete wished line-up, when guitarist Michael Stockschläger and bass player Rüdiger Sartingen were added. Blackland's debut album; A New Dawn (2013, see review) did get positive response, but this could not prevent bass player Rüdiger to leave the band. A replacement was found in Thomas' former Heavenward band mate Oliver Müller. The next eighteen months were spent to write and record a successor for A New Dawn, but close to finishing vocalist Moja called it quits and Blacklands could start looking for a replacement. In Tanja Magolei-Schüpper this replacement was found and in three months the album was finished with her re-recording all the vocals. Now Peaceful Shores has been released through their own Blacklands Music label.
Peaceful Shores promises their listener a journey though melodic progressive rock. This is something I can only appreciate, but can they keep their promise? Let's find out.
Still Bleeding is a very solid start of the album. The intro of keyboards and guitar riffs are surely influenced by Dream Theater, Tanja's vocals are a bit wobbly, but the rap/brutal vocals of guest vocalist Marcel Römer (Aeverium) and the great guitar solo towards the end ensure this is a powerful start of the album. Things start to change when we get to the following composition; Alone Again. Tanja has to rely on her own vocals now, which sound at least a bit questionable. Alone Again is a quite simple poppy rock song, that stacks up a lot of musical cliché's. The gospel choir at the end of the song really doesn't do it for me and sounds outplaced. It seems to me the refreshing start of the album was a one of a kind. During the progressive rock ballad, The River, it starts to hurt. To my ears Tanja's vocals are really hard to listen to at this point, the song itself is still quite OK, but the off vocals totally ruin it. So, let's give Drown In Darkness a chance. Here the overall sound in the beginning of the song is weird. Halfway through the song the sound does get better, but can't save this average song anymore. The piano ballad, Ballad Of A Burning Witch is a nice bright moment, emotional and perfectly fitting to Tanja's voice. The couple of songs that follow are nice, but no highlights. On the other hand, the title track Peaceful Shores is a cool instrumental that indicates you being at one of those nicely hidden shores, where nobody else has been. This smooth soundscape of keyboards has a wonderful guitar part. A nice gesture comes when you listen to T.I.M.E., a college jazz band takes this song to the end. Pop meets melodic rock, describes Like Tears In Your Eyes. Here Manos Fatsis takes over the vocal duties and immediately creates a highlight during this of Journey reminding composition. Winter Skies is the final track of the album, a sixteen minutes lasting epic, where Tanja is accompanied by Markus Brand, a vocalist that also doesn't do the trick for me and makes it hard to sit to the end of the song.
Sometimes one of those albums lands on my desk, perhaps highly regarded in their own country, but a very hard to digest piece of music for me. Although the intentions of the musicians are good and some of the solo parts are quite interesting, the average compositions and the questionable vocals make this album one of those that will be stored away and barely gets to be played again. Too bad, because the opening track was quite amazing!
**+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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