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Blacklands - "A New Dawn" (CD)

Blacklands - "A New Dawn" CD cover image

"A New Dawn" track listing:

1. Cold Embrace
2. Dance Of The Witches
3. A New Dawn (Feat. Giles Lavery)
4. Ocean Of Tears
5. Remember Your Time
6. I Can Hear Your Heart
7. Floating Pictures
8. Love Will Never Die
9. Take
10. Memories
11. Power Play (Feat. Lennie Rizzo/Terry Gorle)
12. The Meaning

Reviewed by on March 4, 2013

"Though steeped in progressive rock, the band does have universal appeal that bridges prog snobs to power slobs and female fronted lusters to Pink Floyd angel dusters."

In all of my searching for a band that could successfully incorporate the magic of early Marillion into a modern sound, it took until 2013 to hear it done to this extent. Vision Divine ventured a bit into this territory on its latest and greatest, but “Destination Set to Nowhere” is metallic at the core of its long established sound. Germany’s Blacklands has emerged on the scene with the debut release “A New Dawn.” Though long steeped in progressive rock, the band does have universal appeal that bridges prog snobs to power slobs and female fronted lusters to Pink Floyd angel dusters. Sorry extreme fans...you are out of luck.

The band was founded by Ex-Heavenward/Ex-Lucifer’s Heritage (Pre-Blind Guardian) drummer Thomas Kelleners. Joining him in tandem is keyboardist Manfred Reinecke, vocalist Moja Nardelli, bassist Rudiger Startingen, and guitarist Michael Stockschlager. Blacklands is the 2013 version of Beyond the Bridge and “A New Dawn” is a “highly successful bridge” for fans of progressive rock and metal.

The musicianship on this debut is at its highest level, with gorgeous song writing swaddled in captivating guitar solos emboldened by Mark Kelly like claviature. Nowhere is this represented more than on the album’s title track where waves of sonic impetus cascade around the guest vocals of Dragonsclaw’s Giles Lavery (one of the album’s top moments), stippling a portrait of a progressive masterpiece. Highlights are the driving riffs in “Dance of the Witches” and the nice interlude between key and guitar in “Remember Your Time” (the song with the heaviest guitar crunch on the album). Another is the fantastic Savatage-esque melody in the ballad “I Can Hear Your Heart” (a song reminiscent of Marillion’s “Heart of Lothian” between the over style and the repeating “I can hear your heart…I can hear your heart”).

However, the album’s most impressive feat is “Powerplay,” the fifteen minute epic that which takes on the topic of 9/11 and the accompanying wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The song has thrilling guitar work and more substantial guest contributions from vocalist Lenny Rizzo (Exxplorer) and guitarist Terry Gorle (Heir Apparent). The track represents one of the finest progressive rock songs I have heard in a long time, sans Dream Theater, despite its mileage – with a smattering of influences of Deep Purple, Yes, The Who, Genesis, and Savatage. Even better, it holds the interest of the listener from beginning to end.

Overall, the production of “A New Dawn” is good, slightly muffled and at times Nardelli’s vocals are a little too up front in the mix. Other than that, the album is impressive for a debut release with stellar play and a high rate of return for your investment (well over an hour of music). Blacklands should appeal highly to fans of progressive rock, but also has enough to fetch those metal fans that dip their interests in that territory. Above all, “A New Dawn” is highly recommended for any fan of music.

Highs: Fantastic progressive rock in the vein of Marillion and Pink Floyd.

Lows: Slightly muffled production and the vocals are a bit up front in the mix.

Bottom line: Blacklands invokes a modern take on old Marillion, Genesis, and Pink Floyd in the debut "A New Dawn."

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)