Angel Dust - Bleed

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: 7943-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 65:01:00

Having been moved to sample Angel Dust based on Larry's comments on their earlier disk, Border Of Reality, I downloaded an MP3 from the Century Media site. If that's not enough name dropping for you, I reviewed that same MP3 in an editorial.

Liking that sample track "Bleed," I sought out the album. Angel Dust, like Vanden Plas and other prog metal bands that have come up in the wake of Dream Theater (or, at least, seem to have), have a sound that, at times, harks back to the metal bands of the late 80's without all the fluffery. You know: the music could be good, but got lost behind the image thing - the hair, the spandex - perhaps to counteract the image that metal equaled Satanism.

Of course, unlike say Poison or Warrant or Cinderella, Angel Dust have a much harder edge, deal with darker themes, and have a certain earnestness about them that the 80's hair bands didn't have. These guys have more in common with the angst-ridden alternative crowd. A line in "Surrender" reads: "My life - just a cesspool of lies." What cheery, happy bunch of lads, eh? I'd venture to say that if the image thing didn't become THE thing, eventually those bands would have moved on to more adult, more mature themes. Then again, maybe not. But thank goodness for bands like Angel Dust, Angra, Vanden Plas, Symphony X?fill in the blank, because there are so many talented bands out there.

Anyway, what I feel Angel Dust (and their brethren) have in common with the "hair bands" is the occasional hummable melody, a refrain that gets stuck and won't let go. The title track is good example of this, as I often find the chorus running through my mind. That's the starting point, the hook that draws you into to something deeper. What one sees there is, of course, personal - it depends on your point of view and state of mind.

What immediately strikes me about this album is that how dense this album often is - the feeling that everything is up in the mix - all balanced, but all up front. So imagine how up front the keys are when I tell you that they are up front in "Bleed. Steven Banx' keys find the right moments to be the most prominent instrument, and he gets the opportunity to make some great runs.

Actually, everything about this release is crisp - Dirk Assmuth's drums pack the right amount of punch, enhanced by Frank Banx' bass; Bernd Aufermann's guitars find the right balance between rhythm and lead, and Dirk Thurisch's another one of those vocalist with a great voice and good range. Oh, sure there are some vocal contortions that I find a little awkward, on the bridge of "Never" for example. The last sonic assault of "Never" does get a little chaotic, muddy, where the cymbal work sounds a little tinny.

But that's minor blip, when you get the beautiful guitar intro to "Follow Me" - the notes chime and hang in the air, almost crystalline. This is the ballad, with a groove that is one part Queensryche (circa Hear In The Now Frontier), one part Dream Theater, and one part roots rock. Again, there are some great keyboard parts by Banx. It's a very open and epic sound. But it's not exactly a happy, lovey-dovey ballad - more a dark ballad.

Aufermann intros "Follow Me (Part 2)" with an arpeggio that has a very Spanish feel, which gives way to a heavy and dramatic piece. The repeated section from "Follow Me" now has the full rock backing and this just opens it up. Epic again is a word that comes to mind.

In picking this disk apart, I find more and more to appreciate about it. I'm all for emotional guitar leads, and there are enough here to be satisfying. And those keys, I mentioned. And the great vocals, both solo and in harmony. This is one hell of a class act, I tell you, as they are now elbowing themselves in between Angra, Vanden Plas and Eternity X in the circle of favourite metal bands. And I'm a neo-symphonic-prog woman mostly, I have to tell you.

There is so much more I'd like to say - to point out little notes here and there that I find particularly great, but I'll conclude here with telling you about the bonus tracks. The first is "Memories" form the Border period, but previously unreleased - this is a stunning piece. On "Nightmare," an extended version from the Border disc, they sound a bit like Metallica circa 1991. The guitars seem crunchier and Thurisch sounds a bit like Hetfield - another great track. "Temple Of The King" was recorded for the Holy Dio tribute and is another stellar track.

Angel Dust are one hell of band, and Bleed is one hell of an album - this gets my highest recommendation. Great, great stuff.

Bleed (4:41) / Black Rain (3:49) / Never (6:03) / Follow Me (part 1) (4:32) / Follow Me (part 2) (6:16) / Addicted To Serenity (5:07) / Surrender? (7:08) / Sanity (6:03) / Liquid Angel (4:43) / Memories (4:54) / Nightmare (5:13) / Temple Of The King (6:32)

Frank Banx - bass
Steven Banx - keyboards
Dirk Assmuth - drums
Bernd Aufermann - guitar
Dirk Thurisch - vocals

Into The Dark Past (1986)
To Dust You Will Decay (1988)
Border Of Reality (1998)
Bleed (1999)
Enlighten The Darkness (2000)
On Human Bondage (2002)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: February 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1087
Language: english


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