A couple of years have passed since the American act BY BLOOD ALONE released their mesmerizing debut album “Seas Of Blood." As it was welcomed very warmly by both the press and the fans I can imagine that “Thunderbirds” is going to be an even bigger thing in the Americans’ career. Perhaps it will also provide them a possibility to move outside the North American territory overseas to tour at least some European cities. Yes, “Thunderbirds” is definitely a step forward for BY BLOOD ALONE.
Clocking at about one hour, the album consists of seven tracks where traces of Prog Rock, Folk, Goth Rock and Pop are blended together. Of all these compositions any could be described as the album highlight. Apparently the group has found a formula to elaborate a work whose every element is equally worthwhile. One does not have to wait too long for interesting things to happen as the very opener “Drive All Night," kicking off with a sparkling combination of drums and Hammond organs (or keys imitating the instrument) proves the group is in a great shape and condition. Perhaps the following track called “Night Terrors” even surpasses the opener when it comes to the melodies composed, arrangements within and the quality in general. What is important is that the band’s music never gets boring. Moments of clearly catchy, melodic character intersperse with more unpredictable passages. However inconsistent it may sometimes appear, there is a perfect balance maintained here. It feels then as if the group had an ability to shift from one style to another. A good example is the tune “Having Tea” where you get a mix of drums and a bass line creating a warm yet relentless atmosphere in the first stanza, several hasty passages with vigorous Hammond organs playing the first fiddle and finally a chorus where everything is transformed into a sequence that balances on the verge between Pop and cabaret song. There seems to be more nuances to discover on this album and to me they appear for example in “I Bleed” or “Misfit” where one can sense and hear a dose of black humour and music approach that could well be an illustration to a story of a Harlequin. Well, the title of the latter song somehow supports this impression. Talking of “Misfit," this composition appears to be the most beautiful musical moment in the discography of BY BLOOD ALONE. Starting with a slow-paced and an almost funereal manner, it sends the listener some cold chills down his/her spine, mainly through the use of keyboards. At a certain moment it all goes into a fragment, where the combination of the bass guitar and the mentioned keys becomes very warm and kind of soothing. If you add to this the soft vocal by Cruella, which in my opinion got better since the previous album, and the melody created, it is not surprising that the final effect is so satisfactory.
The sound has been improved and now it feels more detailed, more sharp, yet still it retains – in many fragments – the pleasant touch known from “Seas Of Blood." Together with some unique melodies and the vocal efforts, the whole structure is just a perfect break from the usual kind of heavier stuff served to music fans. It is very personal, almost intimate and somehow one just experiences an atmosphere of a fairy tale while listening to BY BLOOD ALONE’s new full-length. While the phrase “fairy tale” may evoke associations with tackiness there is nothing trite or tasteless here. The band is simply painting their artistic landscapes without a shade of pretentiousness like in the calmer parts of “Stalking," which by the way starts as if it was supposed to be a usual Pop/Rock ballad and which of course turns out to be something more surprising. Well, there are several moments that might emerge as pretty exaggerated or simply kitschy, yet I take it for granted that the band are using these means being fully aware of what they are doing and that this apparent occasional tackiness is but an enriching and valuable element in their musical puzzle. After all, it is also a sort of an artistic achievement to show one is able to use kitsch forms.
Actually I do not know if there is anything that I could point out as bearing any major flaw. BY BLOOD ALONE have come up with their own palette of sounds where each single note fits like a glove. It is difficult to distinguish the element of their music that makes them pretty special on the music scene. I guess it has to be the whole band that deserves credit for making “Thunderbirds” what it really is. The contribution of each musician is, as indicated, perfectly fitted into a greater picture of this release. Nobody is prioritised, everything is balanced in a flawless way. Taking all this into consideration I would not be surprised if “Thunderbirds” turned out to be a breakthrough for the band.
(Online May 24, 2011)