Album Reviews

Borealis – Purgatory

I was first introduced to the music of Canadian power metallers Borealis in 2010 when they performed at the prestigious ProgPower USA XI Kick-off show opening for Leprous and the legendary Accept. I recall the audience being very receptive to their brand of heavy, melodic power metal as was this reviewer. The band burst onto the Canadian metal scene with their debut World Of Silence (2008) and thanks to exposure at ProgPower USA, reached a larger audience, with 2011’s Fall From Grace (Lion Music/Hydrant Music), which in turn garnered them an invitation to perform at Belgium’s PPM Fest in 2014. After a 3-year wait, the band is ready to reach an even larger audience with their third studio album Purgatory on their new label AFM Records.

With each album, Borealis’ songwriting and musicality has only improved and that trend shows with the songs on Purgatory. For those who are unfamiliar with Borealis’ sound, I would describe them as a combination of Symphony X’s musical complexity and Evergrey’s heavy riffs and melancholic vocals. The album starts off with the powerhouse Past The Veil, a song with chugging guitar rhythms courtesy of Matt Marinelli (Guitars & Vocals) and guitarist Mike Briguglio. The rapid-fire machine gun style double bass drumming of Sean Dowell creates an energetic feel, while Sean Werlick’s keyboards add a layer of melody. Dowell starts off the next song with his impressive chops behind the kit as Werlick’s somber keyboard melody plays the intro to From The Ashes. Marinelli’s impressive and emotional vocal delivery is highlighted with a guest appearance from fellow Canadian Sarah Dee, whose voice meshes perfectly with Marinelli to create an amazing duet.

The intro to The Chosen One has a cinematic symphonic metal feel too it and then the drums kick in to reveal a very melodic power metal song with a Evergrey meets Firewind feel. Marinelli’s emotive vocal delivery helps to convery the lyrical content. The soaring harmonies during the chorus are the icing on the cake to create something truly special. Destiny is a song with heavier elements, including a crunchy guitar rhythm and pounding drums, but also features a softer side with a piano break and Marinelli’s softer vocal tones. These two opposite ends of the metal spectrum work extremely well in the context of the song building to an exciting crescendo. There is some extremely powerful, epic and shredding guitar solos featured here as the talented Briguglio gets his chance to shine. Holding it all down is the rhythm section of Dowell and bassist Jamie Smith with precision and timing.

Things slow down on The Darkest Sin, a shorter song, which has a bluesy, yet dark feel with somber orchestrations and acoustic guitars, while Marinelli’s vocals are more soulful ala Russell Allen of Symphony X. The next track My Peace brings back the chunky riffs and speedy power metal drums and has a nice vocal melody over the riffs and keys that gives the song an uplifting feeling. The next two songs, Place of Darkness and Welcome to Eternity are two heavy melodic power metal anthems. The guitars are huge, the lead and background vocals are top notch and overloaded with emotion and power. Welcome to Eternity also uses symphonic elements and acoustic guitar to add a cinematic and dramatic feel to the song.

Sacrifice is a kickass uplifting song with a few Evergrey-esque techniques with the chugging guitar rhythms and the melancholy vocals, yet the song never loses the Borealis sound. Marinelli is one of those singers that are immediately recognizable by his vocal tone. Once you hear this man sing you can always pick out a Borealis song when you hear it. The heaviness subsides again for the emotional and melancholy Rest My Child. Marinelli is in fine voice as keys and an acoustic song in a song that will move the listener with the songs simple message accompany him. The song builds with intensity until the full band breaks in shatter the silence as Marinelli’s vocals intensify to a stunning and satisfying conclusion. The title track is another barnburner that relies on heavy guitar riffs and bombastic orchestration as Marinelli’s vocals have a more aggressive and ominous tone that fit the song perfectly.

The albums final track Revelation ends things on a melodic metal note; the guitars are toned down in place of clean guitar passages and a mid-tempo approach. The heavy guitar rhythms are still make an appearance and lead into one of the best choruses on the album, utilizing the powerful soaring vocal harmonies to their fullest potential. The song itself feels like it ends all to abruptly as I was enjoying the chorus immensely. With their third release, Borealis is sure to turn heads in the prog/power metal community and with a prime opening slot on the upcoming Evergrey/Voyager/Oceans of Slumber U.S. tour this Fall, these Canadians will open themselves to a much wider audience.

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