After Kalle Walner's third Blind Ego album, Liquid (2016, see review), the RPWL's guitarists side project went on tour with vocalist Scott Balaban. The result was overwhelming and one of the shows became Blind Ego's first live release; Liquid Live (2017, see review). Due to the fine common feelings, early 2020 Blind Ego released their forth effort Preaching To The Choir in the same line-up as we could witness live on stage during the previous tour. Just for the record, the aforementioned Scott Balaban and Kalle Walner are joined again by Dante's guitarist Julian Kellner, Sylvan and RPWL's live bass player Sebastian Harnack and Dreamscape's drummer Michael Christoph.
Preaching To The Choir can be seen as a kind of natural progression from their previous release, the progressiveness remains, but the rock part, especially the more alternative kind has come much more forward in the compositions. Take the opener, Massive, initially the smooth keyboards at the start will give you a hint of progressive rock, but when the guitar riffs take over, the band really starts rocking. The guitars have become rougher, but the wonderful voice of Scott, including his catchy vocal melody makes this a fine accessible track to start the album with. On with the album's title track, Preaching To The Choir, a track that is filled with nice dark guitar riffs, very unalike anything Kalle plays in RPWL. But, again it's the combination of these fine riffs and melodies and Scott's, this time slightly distorted vocals that results in a very pleasant compositions to listen to. Radio friendly, or at least a song that could get some airplay on regular radio is the brilliant track Burning Alive. Due to the delicate background vocals and a catchy combination of guitar and bass, this song might (should) become a frequent played song on melodic rock radio stations. Line In The Sand has a different kind of vibe for me, musically Blind Ego combines subtle hints of electronics with dark guitars, the vocals however, especially in the chorus parts heavily remind me of a Ghost song. Melodic and alternative rock elements are combined with minor progressive parts in Dark Paradise. Great vocal melody and delicate string picking go hand in hand with some tough riffs on this solid semi-rocker. Listening to In Exile I am taken back to the eighties, a band such as Survivor comes to mind when I hear these solid drum beats in combination with the effective bass and short guitar soloing. Perhaps the most progressive rock track of the album is Heading For The Stars. Not progressive rock in the neo progressive rock way, but more in the line of a band called Soen, in my opinion. The result is one of my favourite songs on the album, featuring some fine guitar solo's. Broken Land could be seen as a semi-ballad, a modest composition with dedicated vocals and interesting guitar parts. Reaching the end of the album, it suddenly happens. The Pulse is one of those tracks that will become one of the finest tracks of the year. Melodic vocal parts are alternated with Tool referring guitar and bass parts and majestic guitar outbursts. I really love this Pink Floyd kind of soundscape style with a Tool referring bass. Scott adds the emotional icing on this one.
Although very early in the year, I guess I already have one of the top ten albums for 2020. Preaching To The Choir is a wonderful album, different from Blind Ego's previous releases, I guess Scott Balaban is more a rock than a progressive rock vocalist. Which makes the difference. Preaching To The Choir is darker and in the same time more melodic. A fantastic combination. I can't wait to see them play live on tour in Europe in a combined headline tour with Kingcrow.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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