I first came across Blackmore’s guitar maven Vahan Aslanyan being interviewed by Fish Pond family Dan and Anna Zerin on Entertainment Drive Thru. Coming across as a decent and unassuming stand-up guy, he explained the challenge of moving to the musicians melting pot of Los Angeles, and of flirting with producing and recording in addition to his burgeoning guitar career. Joining LA-based band Blackmore in November 2013, described as “Alternative Metal, Hard Rock, and Progressive Rock all rolled into one”, he added his skills to those of original members Adrian Barrios (vocals), Shaunt Sulahian (guitars), David Dadoyan (bass), and Vinny Mezian (drums).
2014 is an exciting year for the lads of Blackmore, joining the Fish Pond family in April, and with the summer heralding the release on July 22nd of new EP “Law of Time”. As a big rock and metal fan, it’s my privilege to get this early listen to the whole EP and to review it for you.
The brief 30 second teaser that Blackmore offered back in April (which you can find on their Fish Pond profile) was an exciting one. Limited to a short blast of crisp and harmonic metal music without vocals, it promised something new and energetic, with a guitar-filled theme. What they will release on 22nd July 2014 is a well-crafted work which balances very tight harmonic vocals and guitars with a precise rhythm section. It’s a joy to listen to as a guitarist, with vocal melodies that are catchy as hell. Enjoy it with me.
Beginning with the punchy “Animalistic”, we have lift off; it’s a good choice of song to start the EP, using the best of their dual-guitar harmony style to lead things out. The sound is gritty, dirty, yet with metal-precise timing and execution. The verse is menacing and in your face, like a crazy guy wielding a broken bottle, with Adrian’s snarling vocals promising to belt out a worthy refrain. When they open up the throttle, into the pre-chorus and chorus, this band gets really interesting. It’s all-to-the-wall, you can close your eyes and love on the details of any instrument you choose.
“Lead us home, take control,
I love the guitars, especially around 2:32, speeding the pace, and taking us into a fitting solo. It’s clear that all these guys have mastered their instruments through and through, and are determined to scatter it all across this initial EP.
“Battlefield” is a decent offset as a second track; with a heavy guitar and slower start, however similar to “Animalistic”, the verse is heavily driven by Adrian’s vocals and Vahan and Shaunt’s guitar work, rhythmic and a little funky to prepare for the much heavier and more technical pre-chorus and chorus. For me, it’s noteworthy that they have mixed a very technical and speedy guitar sound with some beautiful open chord distortion to excellent effect. The “wah” throughout the second half of the song is really appreciated too, it adds a new dimension to their sound.
On this song, particularly check out the last 10 seconds and the guitar run on it. Ridiculously decent talent.
Their third number, “Beautiful Hurricane”, reminds me in its outset of a Gary Moore number on speed. A little waltz beat starts the song off, soaring blues guitar, all to introduce a funky and beat-driven number with very light instrumentals to start. At this point in the album, their work is giving me more than a little reminder of days listening to Yngwie Malmsteen back in the day; the songs are stronger in my opinion, they don’t rely as much on ultra fast guitar, but they have that same crisp and highly technical feel to their song writing and execution. I particularly loved the segue from the chorus at 3:20 into a beautiful new guitar riff from Shaunt, a theme which carries the song out. As a guitarist myself, I give this song two thumbs up for so many “inspirational” moments.
“Backdraft” continues on a theme, powerfully guitar-driven from the start, but this one deserves a shout out for the fabulous vocals from Adrian. He really does offset that guitar sound with a powerful set of lungs, and makes sure that Blackmore won’t only be remembered as technicians, but as a well-rounded progressive rock and metal band. This song is filled with changing tempos and beautiful runs. There’s also a skin-crawling evil vocal effect at 2:52 coupled with a creditable demonic laugh at the end, which feels like a tip of the hat to black metal (but only a passing reference).
They complete the EP with “Downfall”. I like that this song starts out so softly, with the introduction of violins, smooth clean electric guitar sounds (note NOT acoustic), and once again Adrian managing to show his mastery of pitch and tone. True to form, 46 seconds in, like a bullet from a rifle, the song is off, all pace and metal again, running at a million miles an hour; this time reminiscent of Paul Di’Anno’s Iron Maiden days. At 2:16 in, the song gets machine gun heavy, I love the progression; in keeping with the title, musically the song gets heavier and the vocal more despairing as it flails ever onwards. Ending in great style, the last 16 seconds of the song is a resonating chord from the whole band; orchestral and very fitting, as expected from the work that these guys have clearly put into every note.
In my experience, there are many many bands littering history who have a single technical specialism, but fall short in supporting areas. Blackmore is blessed to have started their career with a very strong all around package; the vocals are varied and diverse, the guitars are super strong, the percussion and bass are creditable in keeping the pace together, and the songwriting is first rate for their genre. In short, “Law of Time” is a really solid start for these guys, and I really look forward to seeing them rolling this out in a live environment. Strong recommend for those open to the genre
Find out more about Blackmore at their profile page here.
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