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By Blood Alone - "Seas of Blood" (CD)

By Blood Alone - "Seas of Blood" CD cover image

"Seas of Blood" track listing:

1. Serpentarius
2. Wants Me Dead
3. Undead Friend
4. Nidhogg
5. Lovely Lies
6. Seas of Blood
7. Deny Yourself
8. Little Lady Lillit

Reviewed by on March 3, 2009

"The band has good ideas musically, but they get caught up in their own proggy desires."

Gothic prog-metal band By Blood Alone has lots of promise. Unfortunately it is difficult to hear on “Seas of Blood.” The first spin of their debut full length record “Seas of Blood” is grimace inducing. Poor production, amateurish vocals and prog-metal clichés abound. However something gnaws after the record has played through - It should be better than it seems on first gut. So it is played again, and some quality begins to show.

The clear standout is the title track. Interplay between guitar, bass and keyboards give the feeling being on the high seas, and the themes develop and change throughout the intro. The first verse is just a piano melody accompanied by vocalist Cruella’s best work on the album – strongly musical and understated, full of condensed power. The band skillfully builds behind the vocals, easily shifting in and out of time signatures and melodic themes. The subtle changes through the song make it accessible but not boring, and the guitar solo break adds more variation. It also shows guitarist John Graveside getting away from his favorite trick: diminished chord progressions. The ebb and flow to the song is skillful and wonderfully done.

No other track is as complete as “Seas of Blood,” but many do have bits and pieces that are inspired. The instrumental interplay during the intro to “Wants Me Dead” is energetic and complex. The main riff to “Lovely Lies” is one of the few places where the band puts on their fangs and rips off some sweet metal. And the interplay between these riffs and the mellow keyboards is striking and effective.

However, the record as a whole is dragged down by amateurish and inconsistent work. On the first song, “Serpentarius,” an aggressive riff gives way to Cruella’s vocals, which sound like a high school kid singing in her first musical. This is followed by whiny guitars and tink tink drums. The fiddle is inspired but misplaced. The whole song is a throwaway.

This continues throughout the record. Cruella’s singing is mostly poor and rarely good; she has limited range and is usually not strong enough to carry the lower register and not talented enough to get up high. Her style is admittedly not trying to follow the Nightwish mold exactly, but it doesn’t work here.

John Graveside’s guitar production is awful. It sounds like it is played through a clock radio in a big mausoleum - tinny and quiet. The drums and bass follow the guitar production style – they are muted and the production makes it seem as if they aren’t tuned properly.

The band has good ideas musically, but they get caught up in their own proggy desires. Most songs are much too long, and mix repetitive sections with nonsensical breaks and theme shifts. Keyboards, violins, fiddles and organs all mix the fuss even more. Just when a song is hitting its stride, it switches into something uncomfortable that has nothing to do with anything.

All in all, By Blood Alone has lots of potential, but they need to practice and refine. Check back in a couple albums, and they may have come up with something really good.

Highs: The title track is an excellent piece of prog metal, front to back.

Lows: Poor singing, production and a lack of musical consistency.

Bottom line: The band has potential, but don’t bother with this album.

Rated 1.5 out of 5 skulls
1.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)