Way back in 2013, I was reviewing for powerofmetal.dk, and Kenn asked me to handle a band named Blacklands. This German band surprised me with their album “A New Dawn”, which turned out to be a lovely progressive rock album with hefty female vocals. Well, here it is 2016, and the band reached out to me about their new album “Peaceful Shores”. This album is a great example of how exciting it is to review albums: Blacklands has progressed, become more varied, and has crafted a great album here that should definitely grab your attention.
As I said, their debut was progressive rock in the classic and neo-prog veins, along with some more modern rock segments. Many people expected them to be progressive metal, I suppose due to their name. However, “Peaceful Shores” does exhibit Blacklands doing a little progressive metal, as well as other genres. On this new album, we have progressive metal with nu-metal style rap vocals (Still Bleeding), we have gorgeous progressive rock that transitions into big band music (T.I.M.E.), we have great pop songs (Alone Again), and even very grand orchestral songs (the appropriately named Grand Circles). Additionally, we also have modern rock songs (Like Tears in Your Eyes) and even a 16+ minute epic that has a little bit of everything (Winterskies). As you can tell, there is plenty of variety this time around, with the gaps being filled with the great progressive rock from the debut.
The band consists this time of Tanja Magolei-Schüpper on vocals, Michael Stockschläger on guitar, Manfred Reinecke on keys, Oliver Müller on bass, and Thomas Kelleners on drums. Both Tanja and Oliver are new to the band for the sophomore album. In fact, the previous singer, Moja Nardelli, left after completing much of the new album, so Tanja had to go through and redo the whole thing! Tanja sounds much the same as Moja, but I would point out that her voice is less “hefty” (as described above) and more nuanced. She is also able to fit the mood of specific songs, which is probably why the variety of styles on this album really works. Either way, she does not feature a typical, fragile female voice, but is instead strongly present in every track.
The band itself plays very well, too. I find it interesting that, even while so many other genres are present, Michael manages to play some absorbing classic rock and progressive metal style guitar solos that, for some reason, mesh perfectly; not to mention the fact that he switches entire genres at whim. Drums and bass sound alive and satisfyingly mixed, and the keys from Manfred sound great, whether in piano or classic prog form, as they are very symphonic at times.
I’ve seen this album described as a “tsunami”, but I would probably just call it the perfect storm of genres, musicianship, and catchy songs. My favorite songs are definitely “Still Bleeding” with its heavy music and alternative rap vocals, and also “Grand Circles” with its glorious ending. Blacklands, despite the setbacks, have come back with style, and have managed to get better along the way. “Peaceful Shores”, then, is the epitome of progression and evolution in a band, and I can’t wait to see what they try next.