- Album Reviews

Black Fate – Between Visions and Lies

Black Fate is a group that has an established founding in 1990, but has undergone a number of lineup changes and hiatuses that have developed over time to form the band’s current sound.  This Greek band is making its mark on the metal scene, especially with the new additions of Gus Drax (Biomechanical, Sunburst, Solo) on guitars and Vasilis Liakos (Innosense) on bass, joining the founding Black Fate drummer Nikos Tsintzilonis and established and recognizable singer Vasilis Georgiou (Innosense) on lead vocals.  Between Visions and Lies is the follow-up album to their 2009 disc Deliverance of Soul, and after 5 years of waiting, it provides an auditory onslaught of heavy but melodic tunes for the patient listeners.

As would be expected of a track of this title, Rhyme of a False Orchestra, begins with a bombastic symphonic and operatic introduction before the segue into the powerful metal delivery of the rest of the song.  With building verses into the catchy chorus, it ebbs and flows between rapid-fire kick drums and guitar and more coasting rhythms with a little syncopation thrown in.  The solo section begins more tempered, with rhythm parts that counter the solo melodies, and builds up to contains plenty of harmonized shredding. The chorus continues to reprise until the end, which comes about abruptly with a faint violin echo.

Lines in the Sand (listen in the lyric video below), though it may be too early to draw the comparison, sounds as close to a middle-era Kamelot song as any on the album.  Even the falsetto ethereal vocals over the staccato strings in the introduction of the song is completely reminiscent of Interlude I (Opiate Soul).  Soon after, however, there is an unmistakable chunky and powerful introduction of the band joining in and setting the tone for the first verse that sets it apart from being a Kamelot clone, albeit in a similar vein in style of power metal.  As it leads into the first bridge, the tempo tends to suspend in a half-time feel with a more prominent keyboard/synth line, differentiating it between the verse and the chorus.  The song maintains galloping drums and crunchy guitars throughout most of it, and allows a bit of the keys to support and augment the main melodies and vocal soaring.  Just before the solo segment, the song reprises the similar descanted falsetto vocals, marcato guitar rhythms, and staccato strings that had introduced the song.  Transitioning into a busy and layered solo segment, the chorus reprises once more as it heads toward a second solo segment, which wraps up the song with very Savatage/Trans-Siberian Orchestra-like ending with the ascending scale arpeggio with the victorious and final end.

The third song, The Game of Illusion, begins with a keyboard entry as the multi-layered guitar riff comes in with some fast-footed drumming.  The pace of the song is relatively moderate, though the drum rhythms really shine on this song with 16th and 32nd note kick drum rolls that keep it from feeling too slow or dragging.  The guitar parts are fluid at times, but can be very precise and syncopated in the choruses.  The solo break takes a different route from the rest of the song with some faster riffing, phasing, sci-fi synths, and an ascending bass line that repeats as a nice accent.  This song is not too flashy, fast, or complex, but there is strength in its simplicity that is solid and allows the vocals to emote more, showing some of Georgiou’s depth, as well as highlighting some precise drumwork by Tsintzilonis, accenting with Liakos’ bass, and anchoring with Drax’s guitar.

Into the Night starts off more of a ballad, and begins with a string quartet and arpeggiated guitar playing softly along with them while the vocal melody is sung velvetly over them.  However, after about a minute, this easygoing approach is soon traded in for a new beginning that starts off much more aggressively, essentially presenting a completely different song.  The chunky and more aggressive sounds takes over with some occasional piano interludes that link the verses and choruses together as another small glimpse of the former classically influenced introduction.  A few soundbytes are interspersed during the solo sections, giving it a bit of interest, and the solo portion near the last 1/3 of the song provides a variation of styles, with the reappearance of the strings, various percussion and sounds, soundbytes of voices over shortwave radio, ringing bells, and the eventual increasing incorporation of the guitars into a more formidable solo presence.    The chorus reprises with a key change, and fades out with an industrial mechanical fadeout.

The fourth song, In Your Eyes, begins fairly solidly with quarter note chord establishments, starting the song with a moderate but stable tempo that doesn’t increase in pace but the rhythms continue to get more complex and fast so that it seems the song speeds up.  This track strongly emphasizes the use of pinch harmonics with the guitar parts, especially during the verses, which add an extra edge to the piece.  The chorus has a quite catchy melody that carries the heart of the song and the solo portion provides some smoothly executed runs.  This is a song that is straightforward and makes its musical and lyrical point in a moderate four minute length.

Call of the Wild starts off with a strong, anchoring bass line as the distorted guitar introduces the chord structure in the intro, before the full instrumentation comes in with the main melody line.  The verses have a moderately pitched vocal line, undergirded by unintrusive power chords. The beat is somewhat suspended going into the bridge, but then returns into the chorus and following verses, with the same pattern in subsequent bridge/chorus transitions.  The guitar soloing shreds more than some of the other tracks on this album, showing off some of Drax’s chops.

State of Conformity has an industrial synth beginning with a chugging guitar and rhythm entry that is more syncopated during the verses, but smoothes out on the chorus with straight eighth note foundation.  This pattern continues through the first half of the song, but things start to change up about halfway through.  The synth makes a more prominent appearance, and there is a somewhat dissonant and syncopated punchy interlude (which quite reminded me of Vanden Plas’ Frequency) that gives way to a more laid back, lounge-y type sound.  But this more relaxing stretch doesn’t last for long, when some extensive runs bring the section back into the bridge/chorus again before ending again on an industrial “note.”  The vocal lines are very catchy and smoothly delivered, and the music takes twists and turns to make it interesting and worth following.

The eighth track, Without Saying a Word, begins with a somewhat strange juxtaposition between a string quartet and a significant bass solo prominence that employs a delay effect that makes it sound sharp in comparison to the strings, especially in the upper octaves.  This pitch difference in this portion is distracting to me, and doesn’t allow me to enjoy the sentiment and the experimental nature of this part of the music (as well as each time it reprises in the song).  However, it soon segues into an easygoing tempo with acoustic guitar, traveling bassline, and moderate and supportive percussion. This song is more emotive and could be considered a power ballad, and gets heavier as the track continues, though the tempo remains adagio.  There is some variety throughout the song, as the music pulls back to the acoustic again with the return to the verses and the bridges while the electric guitar appears in the choruses with a particularly blistering solo in the last quarter of the song.  As the song fades out from the last chorus reprise, it segues out with a quite beautiful piano outro that is to be especially noted.

Perfect Crime is somewhat akin to In Your Eyes in that there is a large and immediate use of pinch harmonics to kick it off.  Along with some accented keyboards and solid rhythm, the verse comes in with a more traditional guitar delivery.  The song has a crunchy 4/4 beat that stays fairly consistent, though there are moments where it suspends over the beat (such as during the bridges), and at other times when it adds more complexity to the time signature (such as into the choruses).  During the solo section about 2/3 through, there are some highlights especially with a slap bass solo and the shredding but creative guitar feature that even jumps octaves.  This song is fairly straightforward and is a good staple on the album.

Next up comes Weight of the World (listen in the video below), which starts off with a punchy introduction, but backs off with the beginning of the verse, led primarily by the bass and drums underneath the lead vocals in the first half.  It picks up about halfway through the verse, as well as into the chorus, but allows for some sustaining of the beat through the bridges and part of the choruses, giving the song a balance between the suggestion of the beat and having the beat planted firmly in your face.  The alternating effect gives the listener the best of both worlds and keeps one from being too prominent.  The vocal melody is also easy to latch on to in this track and is a kind of mortar that holds all of the various instrumental parts and intensities together.

In Fear is the shortest track on the album, closing it out in dramatic fashion.  It begins ominously with music box melody, with a martial snare and a rainy city soundscape in the background.  Timpani and orchestral additions slowly creep into the song and the snare takes on the more protruding presence as the orchestral arrangement continues the melody while the soundscape has faded away.  It continues with the main melody until it fades at the end into a thunderstorm.  This instrumental orchestral piece is a truly stunning yet unexpected end to this album full of power metal.  The variation, however, is a nice addition and gives the album a classy and powerful finale.

Most of the songs on Between Visions and Lies are moderately timed, with an average of four and a half minutes a song, giving the listener plenty to take in without being too belabored.  The songs are energetic with memorable vocal lines in particular that make the music easy to catch onto and lyrics that have layers of depth to explore.  I’m definitely not the first, nor will I be the last, to compare vocalist Vasilis Georgiou to be so closely akin to vocalist Roy Khan in his tone, delivery, and timbre.  For those who desire that style of music and vocal quality, Georgiou and Black Fate will satisfy that niche that many have looked to fill the Conception and mid-era Kamelot void in recent years.  However, Black Fate is not a mere copycat and stays fairly true to the power metal genre and though they include some occasional bells and whistles, their focus lies primarily on the vocal- and guitar-driven power metal, supported by fast-footed drums and fleeting-fingered bass. Gus Drax‘s guitar work has a style and signature all his own, and shows that he has both versatility and consistency in his delivery, tending on the more aggressive side, as well as having some favorite techniques of his own that show themselves often on the album. Liakos‘ bass and Tsintzilonis‘ drums make a solid and interesting rhythm section, and can turn up the gear when needed in the songs.  Liakos creates interesting basslines, especially when he is featured, but he equally provides a solid foundation for the music.  Tsintzilonis maintains intricate or complicated and fast rhythms at times with precision, but he also knows when to scale back and keep a light beat when the music calls for it. In addition, the keyboard parts contributed by guest artists Themis Koparanidis and Giorgos Maravgakis are not to be neglected, given their important accompaniments to the songs that really add to the character of the songs. Black Fate’s newest album is a solid fourth installment in their repertoire, and though it may not have reinvented the wheel, it has an appeal that will likely satisfy and win over its listeners.

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