Sunblaze - Illuminating Heights


Year of Release: 1997
Label: n/a
Catalog Number: 08397
Format: CD
Total Time: 24:19:00

Let me first start off this review by saying that I am indeed absolutely biased in my opinions here ... I have been waiting for this disc to come out for a long time, I have heard demo songs from previous incarnations of the band, and I have also had the privilege to have heard this particular disc in its tape form before some re-mixing had taken place ... and this isn't even the best part, because when I finally received this disc, I did not expect anything so powerful and emotional as this music is ... sure, I had an idea of what the music sounded like, and I knew that it was VERY special ... however, with a little re-mixing magic, and the power of a CD recording, this disc has totally blown me away and brings a new meaning to the word "beauty" in prog metal.....

Being a lover of keyboards in my prog metal, this disc goes way over the edge in bringing me the greatest pleasure in listening to prog metal ... it's bands like this, Vanden Plas, Superior, Shadow Gallery and on and on and on that bring to me the most of what I want out of prog metal, and the common denominator is a keyboarded / symphonic approach to the music, while maintaining some sense of power and urgency in the music ... it is great to see so many bands taking a beautiful style of music like Prog Metal, and injecting their own, fresh, stimulating ideas of what their impression of beauty is into the music ... the results can be amazing, and this disc certainly proves that ... The disc is timed at 25:15, making it a short? one ... but in that 25 minutes, its pure pleasure and beauty.... the disc is divided into 2 large songs, "Sunblaze" & "Distant Reaches".....

"Sunblaze" is divided into 5 chapters:

"Origin"
"Alive"
"Sea Of Silk"
"Scent Of A Blossom"
"Illumination"

"Distant Reaches" stands by itself ... Breaking down the disc piece by piece, here is what you are going to hear:

THE STYLE:

Quite simply ... beautiful, majestic, what I like to refer to as "regal-like" prog metal ... the generic term would be "symphonic prog metal" ... however, it is not easy to imagine exactly what that means until you hear what this band has injected into their music ... violins, flutes, choirs, and tons of massive keyboarded passages that make up this huge sound...... Try to imagine some great prog metal backed by half of a symphony orchestra and you have an idea of what to expect from this disc.... from the opening note of "Sunblaze," an eerie, haunting sound almost akin to a "heaven-like" sound, the listener is brought into a swirling, atmospheric haze of pleasure ..... then the orchestra kicks in, and you know right away that this disc is special...... The prog metal parts itself are very well done, and I would say that it is very difficult to follow note for note what these guys are doing, not in a technical sense, but in a progressive sense of constant change..... the orchestrations do not deter from the outstanding prog metal going on around it..... there are plenty of "technical" passages, double bass rolls, guitars, and great melodies all about..... I cannot compare this music to anyone else's because I really feel that this band has found something very unique and special here, and their fresh approach to the style really puts them in their own league...... For those of you trying to get a feel for all of this through words alone, imagine some Fates Warning-ish style music ala No Exit, only add a symphonic sound to it... this can be slightly heard on the song, "Distant Reaches," and again, this is only brief as the songs here stand on their own, and you will be hard-pressed to find bands that sound similar to this one.......

THE PRODUCTION:

Absolutely phenomenal ..... I could not believe the great sound that the tape had when I first got it, I would never have believed that the CD would sound so much better and fuller..... Jörg Enke, the keyboard player, and his brother Martin, who also plays guitar on this disc, produced it along with bassist Michèl Kalifa .... there is no doubt that these guys are well skilled in all areas of music including the production, as this sound is so clean and crisp it is astounding..... every instrument, and there are tons of them, can be heard with crystal clarity.... how they came up with a sound so "regal" and full as this is a mystery ... the music is so full and rich, you would swear that they were playing right in your living room... I used a subwoofer to measure the bass clarity on the disc, and I can assure you that my walls were pounding and the pictures were rattling.... I also played this in a "surround-sound" mode, as the music directs itself all around you, and the result was astounding..... I do not normally play my music in surround mode, but I couldn't help wanting to hear this type of music being blasted at me from every direction I could think of..... at times, at loud volumes, I could actually envision a conductor directing all of this great music, and a whole slew of musicians sitting around belting out these tunes...... This disc will definitely test the accuracy of your home system, and there is no doubt that this disc can be used as a reference disc to show off your system to your friends ........

THE BAND:

Each member of this band is extremely talented ..... at first listen, you cannot help but hear and think of Jörg Enke's keyboards flying around you from all directions.... its the beauty of his keyboards, and the orchestrations that introduce you to this band.... and throughout the disc, there is no doubt that Jörg is the base for this awesome sound, always producing a majestic, massive wall of sound to accent the rest of the instruments ....... however, shortly thereafter, it is not hard to hear that all of these guys are extremely talented in their own right..... it amazes me that each one is playing something different all at the same time, while trying to play around the sounds of the orchestra ..... the talents of the individual members can be heard explicitly on the track "Distant Reaches," in which you can hear every single instrument providing his own sound to the song..... aside from the massive keyboarded sound provided by Jörg, I have to give credit to each member of this band.... the bass playing on this disc is absolutely incredible .... nowhere on this disc, will you hear the bass player pounding out one note at a time, instead you will hear repeated notes as if he was attacking the instrument, in a frenzy of notes trying to accent the guitar..... in that respect, you will notice one serious guitar player here, in Martin Enke, who has the task of trying to play an instrument which is normally found at the forefront of a band.... instead, he has to try to make a sound that is compatible with an orchestra being played around him, and this he does superbly ..... this is a different style of guitar playing that I used to hearing, and it is welcome and superbly done.... every guitar note can be heard clearly ...... the drummer is phenomenal as well..... how he can keep up with all of this music going on around him and try to lay a beat down for everyone else to follow is nothing short of amazing.... I hate to use the word technical here, but there is no doubt that there are parts of this music that are highly technical, and the drummer is certainly well skilled in this area.....

THE VOCALS:

Matthias Pfaff ..... I always like to compare singer with other singers to give people an idea of who they are about to be listening to ..... Mathias has a mid-to-high-pitched, operatic tone..... I would have to compare him to a Ray Alder-sounding guy, although Matthias chooses to stay within a particular range ... the tones are similar though ...... is voice is very pleasant, and he sings and sounds well with this style of music ...... Nowhere on the disc does he scream or yell, and it is obvious that he wants to accent the beautiful sound of this music rather than overshadow it, and this he does wonderfully ...... the interesting thing about this whole disc is how it all meshes together, without any particular instrument standing out alone ... the vocals are superbly matched to the tone of the music ......

THE LYRICS:

Very intelligent, well thought-out lyrics .... you will not find any thought here that are concrete, except for maybe on "Distant Reaches," when certain subjects are made reference to such as machines, science, etc ...... But for the most part, the lyrics are abstract, thought-provoking words that will surely leave you wondering what they mean .... many ideas are geared to nature, such as the sky, storms, season, etc...... very deep, underlying themes were put into these lyrics, and Jörg and Michèl Enke definitely have some unique ideas of what life is about, and it is interesting to see their interpretations of things that we cannot see or touch ....... very interesting ......

THE COMMENTS:

I cannot emphasize the word "beauty" when I describe this disc ..... it is obvious that these guys didn't just sit around one night and think this music up ..... the most obvious trait to this disc is that they didn't want to go with a traditional approach to prog metal .... it is also obvious that these guys are very familiar with prog metal and its origins, but wanted to expound on it and injected their own variety of sound into it.... they really have come up with something fresh and unique here ..... just when you thought that everything that could be done in prog metal was done, someone comes along and produces a gem like this ...... My personal feelings, is that I am glad to see more and more bands coming up with ideas like this to spice up a beautiful genre in itself, and it shows that there are many more avenues to pursue in this genre than there was thought to be ......? Jörg Enke and the band put a lot of time, effort, and have gone through a lot of hardships to put this disc out, and I for one am simply amazed that a band could do all of this amazing on their own, with little help from anyone but themselves ...... This is an outstanding piece of work, and I cannot wait to see what these guys will come up with in the future ..... with bands like this around, that future for prog metal looks awesome .......

[The line up has changed since this album's release - Roland Weimer now on drums and Elizabeth Ramirez on violin (as a perm member). ed.]


Tracklisting:
Sunblaze: Origin - Alive - Sea of Silk - Scent of a Blossom - Illumination (14:09) / Distant Reaches (10:06)

Musicians:
Matthias Pfaff - vocals
Martin Enke - guitars
Mich?l Kalifa - bass
Jochen Donauer - drums
J?rg Enke - keyboards
Elizabeth Ramriez - violins
Carsten Donauer - clarinet and sax
Barbara Wagner - flute
(other guests...)

Discography:
Illuminating Heights (1997)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: www.sunblaze.de
Hits: 709
Language: english

  

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