In 2015 Canadian Dark Power Metallers Borealis released “Purgatory”, an album that elevated the band onto a new higher level, booking their place as one of the top bands in their genre and (to a much less worldly important level) was one of my top 5 albums of the year. It still gets regular plays because as much as it is accomplished, it is musically deep and layered…a very hard act to follow! So after spending some of 2017 re-recording and re-releasing their first 2 albums to bring them more in line with their current sound, 2018 sees the band unleash their 4th full-length opus – how does it compare?
Well, you know how it’s a bit of a cliché when a reviewer states that “this album carries on right where the last one left off”? You knew it was coming…this album carries on right where the last one left off…yet somehow it’s even better! I’m personally overjoyed that the band have continued to explore and expand that melodic-yet-still-crushingly-heavy Evergrey-esque route that “Purgatory” was so rich in. The riffs are down-tuned, chunky and effervescent, the drums and bass powerful and intricate, the lead-work entertaining and energetic, the keyboards add just the right amount of depth and sparkle and the vocals are actually even more accomplished and varied that they were last time around. Vocalist Matt Marinelli seems to have matured even more on “The Offering” if that was possible, growing in confidence, knowing just when to give a song that extra injection of emotive power, capturing the lyrical story with precision and conviction. There are some great, memorable choruses and hooks on here – ‘River’, ‘Into The Light’, ‘The Awakening’ the excellent ‘Sign of No Return’…too many to mention, but these tracks, like so many others, have their strength in how all the musical elements combine with the vocals to make it all work so well – as it should be!
So what of that conceptual story the album follows? Well, it’s probably best explained directly by singer Marinelli, so here’s direct quote – “The album follows the creation, rise and ultimate demise of a cult who practices human, more specifically child sacrifice. They believe this method of belief, sacrifice and devotion will bring an end to the suffering of humanity, as well as bring back the innocence of mankind that was lost to greed and industrialism. However, due to their lack of respect to powers greater than themselves, they unwittingly create a deity out of the sacrificed kid, whom ultimately delivers punishment due to their injustice. The men in the cult are too self-consumed with their righteous quest, they’ve completely overlooked the fact that children are the true key to restoring and preserving lost innocence.” So there you go, I literally couldn’t have explained it better myself!
Another very worthy mention has to go to drummer Sean Dowell, who, despite being a fantastic sticksman in his own right, carrying all the rhythms and therefor the songs to their ultimate, he has given this album one of the clearest, most powerful and rich productions and mixes any band could hope for. Not only are the drums mixed perfectly (as you would expect), but each instrument and the vocals are as close to perfect as you could hope for. Guitarists everywhere can be seen fainting in shock and disbelief – drummers don’t just hit things with lumps of wood y’know…
This is one fabulous album! It surpasses it’s already excellent predecessor and just moves those goalposts even further. Borealis have found a style, they have honed it, and they have made it their own. I haven’t even touched on the glimpses of expertly placed female vocal or emotive violin, just even more for you to discover for yourselves – because if you have got this far through the review, then surely you can’t be in any doubt that this is an album you want to hear. Borealis are in the Power Metal premier league now and there’s no stopping them.
(9/10 Andy Barker)