I cannot recall if I ever heard a more American sounding album coming from Germany. It’s a country with a long and outstanding legacy when it comes to any subgenre of metal music, so there is not much need to look beyond for influences. However, that is not a problem as the borders are drawn by politicians, not musicians. Plus, Blackened Halo does a fairly good job mimicking the US feel in their creation.
Another not quite expected note on “Slaves of Salvation” is its sheer length. Publishing just over an hour of music is a risky business and requires a whole lot of skill and creativity. And that is not something you are expecting from a band that only has one EP in their discography prior to this album. Two tracks from the EP even show up on the album itself. Couple that with a Black Sabbath cover and that is over 15 minutes of playing time that could’ve been spared, making “Slaves of Salvation” a much more concrete release. And one that keeps the listener focused throughout. That right there is the main flaw here. I can’t be sure if that is the result of the lack of experience with keeping the tracks shorter and ‘to the point’, or something else, but it is the only thing I find wrong on the record.
On the up side, Blackened Halo does show a lot of potential. When I mentioned the influences from the USA, I was referring mostly to Iced Earth. Namely, Thrash Metal expanded beyond the mere aggression of the genre. For a more raging side of the quartet’s music, one must turn their heads to Metallica for reference. Most of all, the last couple of albums by the (in)famous Americans. You can hear it most clearly in the rhythm patterns. Rhythm guitar and drums, to be precise, which make for most of the dynamics “Slaves of Salvation” offers. Not to forget the groovy imprint that emerges from some of the mentioned patterns. Occasional melodic leads and solos also create a slight digression from time to time, showcasing the technical side of the band. Now, as is often a case, especially with young acts such as Blackened Halo, the songs themselves tend to suffer a bit from the technique. Again, lacking a bit of experience in fusing it into the otherwise memorable tracks and thus watering them down a notch. And memorable they certainly are, mostly thanks to catchy choruses. Speaking of those, one must note the vocalist, singing in impeccable English, without the slightest German accent. There is a strong and confident bunch of vocal chords within the man. There is surely some room for improvement, but he is definitely a valuable asset of Blackened Halo’s sound.
While on the subject of vocal performance, lyrics are the biggest surprise here. Choruses for the crowd to easily participate in the show are one thing. Quite the other are the rest of the lines sung by the mentioned Luka, with some help from two other members of Blackened Halo. The Germans have successfully avoided most of the clichés, though the topics they are dealing with fall under such category. Furthermore, the lyrics do not go to another end of the rope, meaning they do not stray into some deep philosophical approach. They are honest and point fingers at all those culpable for the current state of humanity and (most of all) religious hypocrites. On top of that, the Germans explore some history and literature, and do so in a very comfortable way.
So, where do I stand with “Slaves of Salvation”? As mention above, it is an album that shows potential. Nothing more for now, but if they play the cards right, there might just be a bright future awaiting them. Blackened Halo certainly has what it takes. The question is will they be able to fit the pieces together. I would like to think they will. Thumbs up