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Monday, March 21, 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Beholder deliver compassion and anger in equaly measures on Reflections

THE keyboard warriors of the world spout opinions on every matter under the sun - we're all guilty at tomes - but when you have a stance in the world it is the creative not the commentators who can deliver; and that is something Beholder have done on their forthcoming release 'Reflections'.

In the world of metal there is little new under the sun, but on Reflections they have taken the traditional metal trope, re-interpreted it for 2016 and produced an outstanding set of 10 songs - each with a message, each with a level of musicianship that belies its Kickstarter origins.

Indeed it is a sad reflection of times that a band as talented as Beholder needed to go out to fans to finance the release, but they can take solace in that the quality on display will surely have labels sniffing around for a full release and distribution.

It is an album jam packed with tunes that sit head and shoulders above many so-called big acts. Lyrically this is what we would all hope to understand, that we can be compassionate towards those in need, those who are isolated and persecuted, and we can rage in anger at injustice, cruelty and the worst aspects of society.

This is something that Simon Hall has done. Songs such as 'Heal The Wounds', which deals with the issues around the attempted murder of school girl Malala for daring to suggest that girls deserve an education.

The anger at those who tried to kill the young woman is balanced with the respect for her courage and the freedom to learn that is a right for all. The line "The freedom to sing, the freedom to cry, the freedom to simply walk on by" is one to send shivers down the neck.

Equally the lead release, 'Frozen Steps of Ot√łya is a deconstruction of the Norwegian mass murderer who killed so many young people on an island for some perverted cause. Hall takes the man's motives, destroys them and gives a voice of hope arising from the tragedy.

The power of the message is one thing, but without the music it would be just another poet in a world drowned in contrary views. Combined with the music it becomes a manifesto of hope, driving home with a package that sees a band rise to the next level in its evolution.

Make no mistake, this a heavy metal album, full stop. But it does not fall into the trap of living in the past, or trying to bask in what we sometimes expect from bands in a 'genre'.

There are riffs a plenty, but there are melodies to provide a counterpoint to the exorcism through metal. 'Danse Macbre' and 'Breath In the Silence', together with 'I, Machine' also show a band not afraid to be subtle and give space for the songs develop.

Scott Taylor, as said before, takes what can be a tired metal trope and delivers a stunning guitar display. Power and grace in solos and breakdowns will have listeners going back time and time to this album.

Si Fielding (bass) and Chris Bentley (drums) are a powerhouse of rhythm work. On 'Killing Time' and 'Army of One' they provide a foundation that enables each track's depth to be explored by all the band.

If there is one niggle it is on the outro of 'My Revolution' with its cacophony of voices, ending in a child's voice. The point of the lyric had already been driven home on the song, without the need to tell it again.]

But that is only a minor niggle, a few seconds that do not mar this release, but perhaps serves to emphasise how the 10 tracks are a true marriage of great metal and lyrical excellence.

In a world of so many false prophets of new sounds'; in a world where there are more genres than bands, some will not give Reflections the listens it requires. This is a release that needs time. On first listen it is immediately a good release, but after the third listen it emerges as a great release.

Review by Jonny


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