Have you ever thought about how a love-child between Evergrey and Nickelback would look like? Well, Borealis is here to answer that question. Hailing from Ontario, Canada, these rockers started out in 2005 making a sound that resembled Progressive/Power Metal with their debut, ‘World of Silence’, which I actually liked. By their second effort, ‘Fall from Grace’, the band took a different path by adding modern elements to their music and changing their vocal lines, with singer Matt Marinelli becoming sort of a Chad Kroeger on steroids (thus the Nickelback comparison). The band then achieved a greater exposure by signing with German giants AFM Records, and by keeping their modern elements adopted in ‘Fall from Grace’, attempts to captivate the listener with an emotional and epic display in ‘Purgatory’, their third full-length.
Resting on the shoulders of guitarist and vocalist Marinelli, these Canadians deliver to us a curious piece of music, mixing elements of Progressive, Melodic Metal and even Pop in some passages, a dangerous combination that more purist metalheads would strongly disapprove of. Nevertheless, the album’s strong production and rather cool riffing tend to ease the ears of those less open to this hybrid form of Melodic Metal, which seems to be earning a lot of sympathizers across the globe, especially in the United States.
Having clarified that, you will find in ‘Purgatory’ a tentative to thrill the listener throughout the length of the 12 songs in the album… which fails miserably. The emotional vocals, melancholic keyboards and angry riffing all sound over-the-top and pretentious, and this approach, combined with the “Kroeger-esque” vocals and lyrics about relationships, forms a phenomenon I like to call “Emo-Metal” that bands like the aforementioned Evergrey are masters of creating.
The album starts with a good try in “Past the Veil”, featuring quality riffs and decent keyboard lines reminiscent of the old Evergrey (yes, Evergrey was once a great Progressive Metal band and used to write cool lyrics about aliens, religion and paranoia instead of writing about getting dumped by your girlfriend, like they do now), but loses power as the album goes on, like in the next songs “From the Ashes” and “The Chosen One”. Marinelli’s pop influences come afloat especially in “My Peace”, where his vocal lines are purely melodic, lacking punch and originality. Surprisingly, the best piece of the album lies with the ballad “Rest My Child”, where the band seems to have abandoned, even for a brief time, the pretentious aura that surrounds the other songs and attempted to deliver an honest song, even reminding me to some degree of Iced Earth’s “Ghost of Freedom”.
To sum it up, ‘Purgatory’ is a below-average effort by an otherwise talented band. It has great production but poor songwriting, and great musicians but poor ideas. If you are a purist metalhead and want to enrich your music library with new bands, stick to bands like Visigoth, Crypt Sermon, Crystal Viper, Skull Fist, etc. If you are a casual listener and don’t mind alien elements in your dose of Metal, then maybe this is for you. I won’t give it a lower rating because even with all its mistakes, at least the sound is still Metal. What is sad, though, is that these guys had all the tools to make quality music and be respected, but have taken the path of producing a product instead of producing music.