Review: “Self Titled” by Blackhearth

The long awaited studio album from the basque Heavy Metal alchemists Blackhearth has been nearly a decade in the making. It was finally completed in January 2019 at Auryn Studios (Aretxabaleta, Gipuzkoa) by Tristán Iñiguez, the drums and vocals having been recorded at Tío Pete Studios (Urduliz, Bizkaia) by Iñigo Escauriaza before it was Mixed and mastered at Auryn Studios by Tristán Iñiguez. That’s what you call a long haul flight. The band comprise Alex Hernández (Guitar) Asier Larrea (Drums), Jorge Sánchez (Bass), Endika Ortega (Guitar), Julio Veiga (Keyboards) and Alain Concepción (Vocals) and make music inspired by 1980’s NWOBHM bands and the earlier days of German metal scene.

The album kicks off with “Flying Away” which has a nostalgic feel to it akin to Night Screamer and in so doing creating a sound that isn’t so much a modernized version of something with a NWOBHM sound but something that sounds like it was actually recorded back in the 80s. Concepción’s vocals are on the gruff side of clean giving a snarling edge but remain easily sing-a-longable. The riffs approach but doing quite reach Thrash levels but then they don’t need to. It’s time to get that leather jacket out. “Tarker’s Mark” builds a haunting atomspheric over a longer intro before diving into some faster riffage that only lacks a dive bomb whammy bar moment. The mix allows the bass to be prominent and it’s loose stringed click-y tones are an interesting choice for the style. Synths provide a constant backdrop like the mists of time over a graveyard in the dead of night and having multiple solos in the track of varying lengths and indulgence keeps things flowing nicely. This could have easily been a Metallica track. “Face The Enemy” sees a small upturn in pace with a shorter track what gets to the point with some well crafted solo guitar and keyboard parts. There is a dual harmony vocal in the chorus that makes the song a little bit cleaner than suits it but it’s still a fine example of what the band are capable of.

Chugging along nicely “The Truth You’ve Missed” sees Concepción shaking his fist and giving an improved vocal performance akin to Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. Indeed if you were listening to one of their older albums then you could easily be mistaken. Melodic guitar elements have a sense of 80s horror film creep while the big bluesy solo is a nice touch with Synths adding a choral quality. It’s perhaps a verse over long dragging it out to nearly 7 minutes but it creates a nice platform for the 3 minute follow up “Earls Of Darkness”. A dive into higher energy riffage with a faster flow and dueling guitars building an epic solo crescendo make this one a prime choice for a single. “The Magician” is another longer cut approaching the 7 minute mark and builds haunting atmospherics from the start to create something that belongs on a film score. Concepción uses his storytelling ability to great effect and showcases more vocal range though while you’re hoping for it to break out into some heavier riffs it doesn’t rise from its melodic musings. “Blackhearth” picks things up in the riff department and the 11 and a half minute cut packs in as much as it can with solos and more progression in the sound building bridges and then smashing them down. Naming the song after the title of the band is an interesting move for a track that is as long and epic as this but it is one that encompasses their sound. Imagine if Megadeth went Progressive perhaps with Marty Friedman being given a chunk of creative control. That’s what Blackhearth are like [7/10]

Tracklisting

  1. Flying Away
  2. Tarker’s Mark
  3. Face The Enemy
  4. The Truth You’ve Missed
  5. Earls Of Darkness
  6. The Magician
  7. Blackhearth

Self Titled by Blackhearth is out 29th October via Sliptrick Records and available for pre-order over at bandcamp

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