By Blood Alone – Seas Of Blood (2007, Jericho Records)
- Wants Me Dead
- Undead Friend
- Lovely Lies
- Seas Of Blood
- Deny Yourself
- Little Lady Lillit
Cruella – Vocals
John Graveside – Guitars
Jack Doran – Bass
Runtt – Drums
Jenny Williamson – Keyboards
Producer: Steve La Cerra
Total Time = 50:21
Nothing is better than reviewing an album by a New England area Metal band! By Blood Alone comes from Portland, Maine and SEAS OF BLOOD is the band’s first full-length album that follows up their recording debut, the four song E.P., ETERNALLY (2005). With a name like By Blood Alone, you would expect the band to be a brutal and vicious Heavy Metal band but that is not the case. By Blood Alone is a female-fronted Gothic/Progressive Metal band, in the same style as After Forever, Lacuna Coil, Nightwish and Temujin, with an emphasis on atmospheric keyboards, a driving guitar and haunting vocals.
The Progressive side of the band is their lengthy “jamming” sound that takes most of the songs past the 7 minute mark and provides each member a way to stretch out on their given instrument. There are lengthy solos and instrumental section in the longer songs that help provide a wider soundscape for the band to explore. There are plenty of time and tempo changes to keep the songs sounding fresh and interesting. The Gothic side of the band is clear with the excellent keystrokes of Jenny Williamson and the vocals of lead singer Cruella. I would say that there is a fair bit of Celtic/Renaissance influence to the music also, I can hear a touch of Blackmore’s Night on some of the songs. The sound isn’t really heavy and I think that is due to John Graveside’s guitar being too low in the mix while the keys and vocals are way out front. That’s a production issue that could easily be fixed. Vocally, Cruella is very good, she has a very beautiful voice. The problem I had is that I was waiting for her to go for it! To let go, hit some serious highs and belt these songs out with some power…..but she doesn’t, Cruella stays on an even keel and I guess it fits haunting style the band captures. That is the difference between By Blood Alone and the other female-fronted bands out there…..power. If there was more power in the vocals, more aggression, then I think the songs would stand out more.
‘Serpentarius’ clocks in at 7:30 and starts out sounding like a true Metal song with an opening guitar intro followed by galloping drums & bass and layered keyboards. Very uptempo at first but the middle section slows down into an extended instrumental break. Cruella shows off some power here but is stuck too low in the mix. Same thing with ‘Wants Me Dead’, it starts off with a galloping rhythm and guitar but slows down a little once the vocals and keys kick in. There’s a solo break after the first chorus that gives off a Blackmore’s Night feel to the song but I don’t hear woodwinds or a mandolin so I think I like this a little better! I like this song, it has me wanting a more uptempo pace because the band does it well. ‘Undead Friend’ is haunting track that starts out with this basic piano melody and Cruella’s singing. As the song progresses, the rest of the instruments join in, along with some extra keyboards. Very atmospheric, you get a chilling sense of beauty.
Another 7+ minute song arrives in the form of ‘Nidhogg’ that is right out of the Blackmore’s Night playbook. Again, no hurdy gurdies or flutes, the keyboards set the sounds and there is another lengthy instrumental section in the middle that lets each member stretch out a bit. It’s at this time, halfway through the album, that I realize that Cruella’s vocal performance is kind of the same as Anneke Van Giersbergen’s on The Gathering’s 1999 album HOW TO MEASURE A PLANET: a very even delivery within a very defined sound. Almost too even actually. The trend continues on ‘Lovely Lies’ although the music is a little more aggressive and the guitars weave in and out with the keyboards. The drums are mixed a little high but that’s OK because they give the song a little kick. ‘Lovely Lies’ is the band longest song on the album at just over 8 minutes but it is also the best in providing an overall picture of the band and the album. The title track is another long song and follows the same formula as ‘Serpentarius’ and ‘Nidhogg’ but there seems to be some life in the production here! The mix sounds a little better with everything sounding equal, one insturment not being drowned out from another. Best vocal performance of the album by Cruella and she is not mixed too low either!
A half minute instrumental opens ‘Deny Yourself’ and gives the sense that By Blood Alone is going to gallop along again like on ‘Wants Me Dead’. There are some quick breaks where one gets the sense that the music slows a little but, for the most part, ‘Deny Yourself’ is uptempo with some interesting drum fills. Of course, halfway though the song, the band slows the pace down to a crawl and provide another haunting mood. Things pick up again with the instrumental solo section but, by this point, I’ve heard them do this on almost every song! ‘Little Lady Lillit’ is all vocals and piano and it almost sounds like a child’s nursery rhyme! It’s interesting, especially when you hear the lyrics.
Overall, I liked the album. I’m a big fan of female-fronted Gothic styled bands and By Blood Alone fits that category. The band has songs and they are talented musicians but what they desperately need is a new producer. I haven’t heard any other albums produced by Steve La Cerra but I have enough albums of this genre in my collection to know what works and what doesn’t. SEAS OF BLOOD is begging for a remix! The keyboards are way up front in the mix most of the time and the vocals are either too high or too low. There are guitars here but Graveside is usually too low and under the keyboards. Same goes with the bass, mixed way too low. I adjusted my equalizer to bring in more bass and you can definitely hear Jack Doran. Now just because the mix is a mess doesn’t mean that the musicians are bad, they are all actually very good, especially keyboardist Jenny Williamson. If ambient/Gothic music is what you are going to do, then you need a great keyboardist…..Williamson is the real deal! If Cruella put a little more thunder in her vocals and John Graveside got his guitar equal time with the keys, By Blood Alone would be a heavier band. I like what I hear and I want to hear more…..I bet the band goes over really well live. Definitely a band I will be watching closely in the future.
Favorite Songs: ‘Serpentarius’, ‘Wants Me Dead’, ‘Lovely Lies’, ‘Seas of Blood’