I happened upon the promotional copy of Blind Ego’s Liquid by chance and once I read the album’s promo sheet describing the music, it sounded like something that could be in my wheelhouse, so I decided to give it a spin, and boy am I glad I did. Led by guitarist Kalle Wallner, Blind Ego is a project that combines progressive rock, metal, ethereal and atmospheric soundscapes, lush melodies, powerful vocals, heavy guitar riffs, and impressive technical musicianship.
Liquid is the third album by Wallner under the Blind Ego moniker, releasing Mirror in 2007, and Numb in 2009. For fans of Blind Ego, they have had an almost decade long wait for the follow up album, and without ever hearing the previous two, I can tell you that Liquid is a monster of an album! Wallner has put together a prog super-group of internationally known professionals: Michael Schwager, formerly of Dreamscape, is once again found behind the drumset, while Seabstian Harnack (Sylvan), Ralf Schwager (Subsignal) and Heiko Jung (Panzerballett) took turns in taking over bass duties. The all star-cast is completed by a trio of vocalists consisting of Erik Blomkvist from Sweden, Subsignal’s Dutch frontman Arno Menses as well as American Aaron Brooks of Simeon Soul Charger. Mixing duties were handled once again by Gentle Art of Music’s Yogi Lang.
The album starts out with A Place In The Sun, with its heavy chugging guitars and melodic keys. The song has a dark atmospheric tone and along with Erik Blomkvist’s vocal approach, it is reminiscent of Promised Land era Queensrÿche. The second track, Blackened, has a totally different style, this time with Arno Menses of Subsignal taking over lead vocals. The song leans more on the alternative, modern prog rock sound and Menses was the perfect voice for a song with this kind of emotion and melody. The chorus is soaring and the vocal harmonies are crystalline perfection. Blomkvist returns on lead vocals for What If, another heavy prog rocker with a hint of metal. Another memorable and catchy chorus, some impressive guitar solos, and Blomkvist’s Geoff Tate-esque vocal tone (when Tate could actually sing).
Menses picks up the microphone for Not Going Away, a song that has an almost industrial meets prog feel to it, like Nine Inch Nails meets Subsignal, with the rhythm section of Schwager and Schwager locked in. Blomkvist’s rough edged vocals take on the lighter Pink Floyd-esque Never Escape The Storm. The song as well as the vocals slowly build in intensity until the final satisfying and powerful crescendo. Tears and Laughter is a mid-tempo song with a hard rock edge that features Menses emotive and impressive smooth vocal stylings.
Blomkvist’s theatrical vocals permeate the grooving prog of Hear My Voice Out There, which has an impressive melody and a heavier raucous refrain. Wallner adds plenty of tasty guitar licks to this one as well. Instrumental track Quiet Anger gives Wallner a chance to showcase his impressive and tasteful guitar playing combined with Heiko Jung’s equally impressive funky bass parts.
The lead vocals on the albums final song, Speak The Truth, are handled by the impressive Aaron Brooks of Simeon Soul Charger. It’s a shame that Brooks only appears on this one track, as he is a phenomenal singer that conveys passion and emotion on a very melancholy yet uplifting song which features the album’s finest melodic and multi-harmony vocal chorus.
While some listeners may have wanted to hear one vocalist throughout Liquid, I feel that the three vocalist approach works perfectly here as each vocalist brings a unique perspective to each of the songs they perform on, giving each of their tracks their own individual personality.
The word is that Blind Ego will be on tour with Subsignal in 2017, one can only hope they will schedule some U.S. dates as I would love to see the album performed in a live environment. Liquid is my surprise find of 2016 and will find a spot in my top ten of the year.
Kalle Wallner (RPWL): guitars
Arno Menses (Subsignal): vocals / track 2,4,6
Erik Ez Blomqvist (Seven Thorns): vocals / track 1,3,5,7
Aaron Brooks (Simeon Soul Charger): vocals / track 9
Sebastian Harnack (Sylvan): bass / track 5,6
Ralf Schwager (Subsignal): bass / track 1,2,3,4,7
Heiko Jung (Panzerballett): bass / track 8
Michael Schwager (ex-Dreamscape): drums
Mixed by Yogi Lang (RPWL)
Produced by Kalle Wallner (RPWL)