Album Reviews

Blackshine – Soul Confusion Review

blackshine_soulconfusion_cover

Released by: Sound Pollution

Release date: March 22nd, 2013

Genre: Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/Blackshinesweden

 

Line Up:

Anders Strokirk – Vocals, Guitars

Albin Andersson – Guitars

Martin Karlsson – Drums

Fred Cardona – Bass

 

Tacklist:

01. Moriendo Renascor

02. Solid Redemption

03. Soul Confusion

04. Eternal Cold

05. Holy Sins

06. Bloodred Silence

07. The Inferior

08. Carnal Destination

09. The Reaper

10. Life in Sin

11. Dead Blackened Hole

 

As some of you may know, when we review albums, we often get some info sheets that go with the promos giving a little insight into the band, some selling points and some general history of the band in question. This around, I get the pleasure of reviewing the swedes of Blackshine. The band is already at their 4th album with Soul Confusion and this is my first contact with them. With words like “legendary” thrown around, I’m always a bit cautious, as it always seems like the label tries to oversell the band. In this case, I have no idea where this band is from since the members are all unknown to me and as far as I know, have not been in any well-known bands prior to Blackshine. The only member that is sort of more known to me is vocalist/guitarist Anders Strokirk, because he was a member of extreme metal bandNecrophobic at some point and I like that band. The band’s been around for a bit, since their debut is back from 1997 (they formed in ‘94) and yet they only have 4 albums since then. Not only that, but it’s actually been 7 years since their last one, 2006’s Lifeblood.

So their 4th album lands into my review queue and I don’t really know what to expect. I get a cute acoustic intro that sounds like somethingIn Flames would cook up in their late 90s albums. “Pretty good start”, I told myself. Then the rest of the album is just pure heavy metal, played quite competently and generally decent. To be quite honest, it’s not exactly my cup of tea but as always, my review will be fair and reflect my feelings on the album and its songs. There’s no orchestras or even any keyboards to be found on here. There’s no real attempt to push the boundaries or to make it sound new or innovative either, but that’s fine to me. I’d rather have a band that plays good heavy metal than a band that tries to experiment and screw up playing some purposely wacky stuff, resulting in an inconsistent, really demanding and messy album (Mr. Andy Winter, I’m looking at you!). That said, the info sheet also spoke of the vocalist (Anders Strokirk) having quite a unique set of pipes, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, he is quite unique indeed. He has a very gruff, rough but powerful voice which reminds me of what you would end up with if you channeled both Joakim Brodén (Sabaton) and Chris Boltendahl (Grave Digger) together at the same time.

Throughout the album, the sound is pretty diverse. It has its own comfortable niche but it sometimes strays a bit off the beaten path, such as the hint of extreme metal in the form of buzzing guitars in “Bloodred Silence” which surprised me. Soul Confusion isn’t a concept album of any kind, and to me that’s almost refreshing, since I do tend to listen to a lot of these. Each song has its own identity and story to tell. I could keep blabbing on and on but I think in this case, it’s best if I actually break down the album as I usually do.

As stated previously, “Moriendo Renascor” is an acoustic intro which reminds me of what In Flames sounded like on their acoustic breaks (such as “Pallas Anders Visa” on 1999’s Colony). It’s not a bad start to the album. The first real song is the energetic “Solid Redemption” which has a really cool main riff that’s pretty enjoyable with a catchy chorus. Anders’s unique style of vocals are quite the obvious attraction from the start and if you’re a fan of the two aforementioned vocalists, I don’t see a reason why you’d hate him. I do however feel that the growl-like, harsher vocals kind of don’t work for me here and feel sort of unnecessary. The title track follows (“Soul Confusion”) and it’s a pretty good song but for a title track, it ends up not really standing out for me. It’s good, but not outstanding and not a “killer cut” by any mean. It is a very energetic, speedy song which brings out the extreme metal influence. Once again, the grunting scream near the end feels forced and unnecessary. “Eternal Cold” is a pretty boring song to me. It doesn’t have anything that stands out about it. No catchy chorus and no solo(s). The same could be said for “Holy Sins”, which also has silly lyrics (“I sodomize your soul”? Really? Give me a break!) yet at the same time ends up nicely heavy, which is frustrating to me because I like the heaviness but the rest turns me off.

The middle of the album opens with “Bloodred Silence”, the best song on the album for me on Soul Confusion. It’s very energetic, has a catchy chorus and the vocals aren’t too much torture this time around. There’s also a big extreme metal influence here, with a segment sounding almost like something from Amon Amarth. Pretty cool, I have to say. “The Inferior” opens with a nice riff and a neat bell sample but ultimately turns into another pretty unremarkable song with boring vocal delivery that doesn’t stand out for me at all despite an attempt at a catchy chorus. “Carnal Destination” is pretty good, really like the chorus to this one and it’s a short, punchy song that doesn’t drag forever. Nice guitar work, too. “The Reaper” follows and I really like the guitar work in this one as well but not so much the vocal work, again. It’s a good song, though. “Life in Sin” is a good song with a catchy chorus but drags a little bit towards the end and could have a minute or so shaved off, to me. The closer “Dead Blackened Hole” is the longest song here at over 6 minutes and honestly, it’s not my favorite here but it’s a fitting closer featuring everything that Blackshine is all about on Soul Confusion. It also boasts a damn good guitar solo.

In the end, Soul Confusion is a bit of an uneventful slab of no bullshit, balls-out heavy metal. It doesn’t break any new ground, and it doesn’t try to, either. It just does what it does somewhat decently, and that is rock hard. In a way, that is also somehow what I find wrong with it. I find that while it is palatable, it just doesn’t really grab me by the balls and forces me to listen to it over and over. I appreciate the heavy sound flirting with extreme metal but as a whole, it doesn’t feel very memorable at all to me and there’s honestly not a single song I feel like I want to loop or play again when the album is over. It doesn’t really make me want to hurry to check out their past albums, either. Does that mean the album sucks? No, of course not. Not completely, anyway. It doesn’t make me want to stab my ears with pencils or make me itch to press the skip/stop button. But if it was more memorable and made me come back to it, I would give it a higher score. As it is, it’s decent, but it’s missing a little something-something for me that I can’t quite put my finger onto. I still have to mention the guitar work, though. The riffs are effective and the guitar sound is really good, so those enjoying some good guitar work may dig this. Nonetheless, worth a listen for fans of pure heavy metal without any keyboards or additional fluff.

Originally, I was going to give it a 6, then a few more spins brought it down to a 5 and now I’m at that point where I almost want to give it 4 but I feel that wouldn’t be fair to the band, since it’s clearly me that has issues with some of the things Blackshine offer. I guess that for me, it’s just not my bag and doesn’t offer anything that tickles my fancy, besides a pretty unique vocalist (which I personally don’t especially dig). As such, the album gets an average note as that is how it comes off to me. The second half does save it, however. I find that it has the best songs and it ultimately saves the album from a lower score from me. My advice for this one is to listen to it yourself; you might hate it even more than I do but you might like it a lot more, as well.

 

Written by Chris Auclair

Ratings    Chris    5/10

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