Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Angel 7 - Black and White (2007)

What's with all these bands from the Russian Federation just kicking copious amounts of butt? It seems like more bands from that part of the world are staking their claim on the Christian metal scene. First, Holy Blood from the Ukraine showed up and wowed everyone with their debut "The Wanderer", then blew everyone away even more with "Waves Are Dancing". Then, I heard about Blood Covenant, with their symphonic black metal sound that was quite accomplished in comparison to their early work as thrash outfit Iron Cross. Now, Angel 7 (also known as 7th Angel) comes along on Bombworks Records and does it again. This unique band is a hybrid of a number of metal styles. There are elements of NWOBHM, thrash metal, black metal, death metal, and even some neo-classical elements here and there. Imagine throwing Sonata Arctica, Frost Like Ashes, Narnia, and a random death metal band into a blender, adding a healthy does of keyboards, and making the song structures unique & interesting, and that will give you just a hint of what Angel 7 actually sounds like. The dynamic duo of Slava Malinin & Nikolay Kiriljuk certainly know what they're doing, and make quite a unique musical statement with "Black And White".

The first thing I noticed is that for a 2-man band, the sound is quite accomplished. Slava is very capable as a drummer, bassist, keyboardist, and as an arranger. Nikolay is certainly no slouch on guitar, either. Secondly, there are a lot of symphonic elements here that, while done primarily on keyboards, fit well with the music and work within this setting so they don't sound cheesy or like they took shortcuts. There are times the symphonic elements remind me of PlayStation-era RPG music, like the Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete remake, or Final Fantasy VII (especially the title-track intro). This is a good thing, however.

"Black and White" kicks things off with a nice symphonic intro, before "New Heaven Above the New Land" kicks things into high gear with a driving guitar line & rhythm section. Vocals here are decidedly black metal in style, but Slava Malinin injects some degree of "melody" in them by kind of singing along with the rasp, which works much better in execution than it might sound on paper. The dual-keyboard lines sound great here, making the layering quite effective. Guitars are heavy, but retain more of a thrash or traditional/power metal sound (though modern, like Metalium). "The Price of War" has some cool low-end vocals that are reminiscent of Rammstein, though it's more of a layered effect with 2 or 3 layers of low-end harmonized vocals. It gives off kind of a Bal-Sagoth vibe, which I love. Solo work here is awesome with dual guitar & harmonized leads, and some nice trade-off work that sounds just like it was 2 guitarists "dueling" in a sense. "Power of Belief and Love" has an awesome keyboard intro with guitar underpinning it that works well, and sets up the primary melody line for the song. This song has some the quasi-black metal vocals as well as a few death growls thrown in for effect. I like the low-end spoken word vocals layered with the quasi-black vocals as well. This is a candidate for catchiest song on the album, for sure. "TV Antichrist" is the heaviest thing so far on the album, with great driving rhythm guitar and some nice harmonics to boot. The keyboards don't dominate this song like they tend to elsewhere. The combo of death growls and black metal rasp in a trade-off works well here, especially with the urgent delivery. The "spoken word" low-end vocals are a bit off-kilter here w/ the rhythm (though not quite syncopated), though I believe that was intended; it creates an interesting effect. "Jerusalem" begins with an almost Arabic feel, remding me of Almora a bit (their "Shehrâzad" album especially). This song is also quite heavy & has near blast beats coming at you after the short instrumental intro. There's also a quiet folky passage toward the end w/ harmonized vocals that sounds cool, & reminds me a bit of some of the folk metal bands I've heard, though none specifically. "Armageddon" has a cool intro with a lot of "whining" guitar harmonic work going on. This song is a tad slower paced than some of the others, employing less double-bass work overall, but still pulling it out for the chorus portion. "Spirit of Freedom" is a short, sort of ambient instrumental with nice keyboard effects. "Till I Die" picks things up again with heaviness, energy, and cool keyboard effects (you can hear the "90's fighting game keyboards" in there). More layered low-end vocals complement the quasi-black vocals well. "From Darkness Into Light" may have the fastest double-bass drumming on the CD in a couple spots, but overall it's a very mid-paced instrumental with nice lead work that is both flashy at times, and in others serves the song well. The ebb & flow melody structure is also quite nice. "Babylon Will Fall" closes out the album nicely with a speedy, heavy tune that mixes some more low-end vocal layering with the quasi-black vocals and some chunky guitar riffing.

All in all, this is a stellar release by a band that I can see going places. If the secular metal world takes them seriously, they have a shot at creating a nice niche for themselves with their unique sound & style. Here's hoping they are given that chance.


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