Balance Of Power - Perfect Balance


Year of Release: 2001
Label: Nightmare Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:44:00

Compared to their previous release Ten More Tales, Balance Of Power have a much crunchier sound on Perfect Balance. The retro feel of their Ten More... is entirely absent here. While still melodic power metal, the wattage has been upped a few clicks. Though I didn't want to make this review about whom they sound like, the inescapable fact is that lead vocalist Lance King often sounds like Geoff Tate and occasionally like James Labrie. But what if you'd never heard (of) either named vocalist? Therefore, I will say that King's voice is equally adept at the lower range deeper tones (not quite a growl) as well as the higher range tones...maybe a tweensy bit too screechy at times, but not to the point of distraction. None of this I noticed at their Progpower USA 2.0 performance, other than the heavier sound. What this gives the music is a little more heft, though they weren't a lite-metal band before (at least as far as Ten More Tales is concerned). This album is aptly titled, in that the "crunch" is nicely balanced with the "melodic." This makes it accessible to fans of either style without seeming to make any concessions to one or the other. Though fans at the extremes - that is, say, death metal fans and lite-metal fans - might find Balance Of Power either too light or too heavy. That doesn't mean they won't like it, of course, but they'll certainly weigh it against their preferred style.

Okay, about the album itself. The crunch is provided by Pete Southern and Bill Yates on guitar, Tony Ritchie on bass, and Lionel Hicks on drums. Leon Lawson guests on keyboards. The band are quite tight, chugging along in unison. They charge right out of the gate with "Higher Than The Sun," a no holds barred kind of track that makes it plain that Balance Of Power have come to give you nearly an hour's worth of solid power metal. There are some textures here that I'm not sure whether they're keys or overprocessed guitars -- perhaps it's a little of both. The song ends with a classical interlude from Lawson. Hicks' drumming throughout is quite solid -- a driving force on which to impale the listener. That Hicks also produced this release explains why the drums and percussion are up in the mix. Not overshadowing, but their presence is constantly felt. Throughout guitars flicker out from the mix like licking flames, curling and darting ... barely restraining themselves from bursting out with fiery solos.

This is a serious album that both rocks hard and has something to say. Southern, Ritchie and King are responsible for all of the music and lyrics here, either as trio or in some combination. The coming of some evil provides the basis for the underlying theme, though I wouldn't go so far as to call this a concept album. At least not one with a linear story. This album was recorded from February through April of 2001, so this is not in reaction to the events of September 11, and yet "The Killer Or The Cure" seems quite apt, though it is painted on a much larger canvas... A photograph of a billowing mushroom cloud and a armed US soldier are the illustrations that accompany the lyrics for this track. A host of issues are bundled up in the lyrics -- the Cold War, Hiroshima -- all metaphor, perhaps, for Armageddon. One thought the lyrics posit is whether having a nuclear arsenal is...well, is "the cure" (that is, the deterrant) or "the killer" (that is, that which will bring about Armageddon). Of course, the prevaling American political view is that while so-called "Third World" countries should not have nuclear capabilities, it is necessary for the US ("Western" nations) to have them to ensure world peace. I guess I should note that, other than King, who is an American, Balance Of Power are a British band. So this certain point of view, and certain the point of view expressed in this track, is not uniquely American -- as I'm sure you know. By the way, the band's first US appearance was at last November's ProgPower USA 2.0 festival. Musically, this track is very heavily influenced by Queensryche -- in fact, I'd venture to say that if you heard it out of any context, you'd be half convinced it was Queensryche, until the perhaps too catchy chorus kicks in. It's not poppy or anything, but the sing-song delivery points this band back towards their power metal past. Not a bad thing, mind you, as it is balanced out elsewhere (And after playing this album a number of times, Royal Hunt also come to mind).

One of the album's highlights is the Ritchie penned "Shelter Me." The opening guitar solo contains Middle Eastern overtones, which is echoed in the main arrangement. A soaring chorus elevates this track to lofty heights, all delivered with lots of warmth. Rather than coming across as syrupy, "Shelter Me" is grounded with a sense of gravitas. Well, you might think that it's a love song of some sort, though other than perhaps "agape" (love of God), it's not and so sugary overtones would be out of place. What's interesting is that a Middle Eastern overtone returns with "The Fire Dance," creating a bridge ... maybe more so a concept album than I previously said.

"One Voice" is an interesting track as it works on two levels. On the one hand, it seems an admonition to watch what you say, knowing the power words have. One line of thought being a misplaced word could bring about something very bad... not quite "the big A," but putting us the road there. But, on the other hand, it is an admonition to speak out. To use that one voice to prevent the evil from coming. In other words, don't wait for someone else to be pro-active, be pro-active. And with the catchy chorus, though not in the same way as "The Killer Or The Cure," it is the type of song designed for singing along to.

The keyboards that open "House Of Cain" seem out of place here with their Keith Emerson-like parpiness. This incongruity is heightened by the punchy percussion which is the lead instrument here (other than King and he LaBrie like delivery) and chugging guitars. Of the album's 9 tracks, this one is the most direct. Whereas the other tracks are written in a very open way -- that is, in a more impressionistic way, to put it in artistic terms -- the lyrics of "House Of Cain" are a little more, well, direct. The track ends rather coldly with the sound of single gunshot. This is, actually, more chilling than the ticking clock/timer that ends "The Killer Or The Cure." Perhaps self-destruction seems more "down to earth" than nuclear annihilation. Even more down to earth is "Hard Life," which is, in a way, a fairly typical (musically) prog song -- soaring chorus and all. The album ends with "Search For The Truth." One might call this the "good" to balance out all the "evil" that has come before, though that the protagonist has to search for the "truth again" means that not all is not settled. The phrase "These are the times that try men's souls" comes to mind, and this would be on of the subtexts here... in fact, a subtext for the whole album.

Perfect Balance is a solid album that is over far too soon. The energy that "Search..." leaves you with makes you a) want to hit play again (or which you had selected "repeat all") but also makes you want to do something, anything, to prove the band's dark predictions wrong, even as you enjoy listening to them being "proclaimed." Well done; another fine entry in the ever expanding prog/power metal field. Recommended.

The US version of the CD contains a multi-media component that includes a Quicktime movie of a live performance of "Ten More Tales," a bio, a link to the band's website and a slideshow of "mug shots" (i.e. pictures of the band members).


Tracklisting:
Higher Than The Sun (7:03) / Shelter Me (5:17) / Fire Dance (6:50) / One Voice (5:24) / The Pleasure Room (6:03) / Killer Or The Cure (5:37) / House Of Cain (5:06) / Hard Life (6:35) / Searching For The Truth (4:49)

Musicians:
Lance King - lead vocals
Pete Southern - guitars
Bill Yates - guitars
Tony Ritchie - bass
Lionel Hicks - drums

Guest:

Leon Lawson - keyboards

Discography:
When The World Falls Down (1997)
Book Of Secrets (1998)
Ten More Tales ... Of Grand Illusion (1999)
Perfect Balance (2001)
Heathen Machine (2003)
Heathenology (boxed set) (2005)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: March 24th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.balance-of-power.com
Hits: 1076
Language: english

  

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