More than two decades have passed since Heaven & Earth released its debut album, Windows to the World. In the time since its release, the band has released four more albums, spending four years at the least and nine at the most between their releases. The band will match the lesser of those spans Friday when it releases it fifth album, the aptly titled V. Set for release through Frontiers Music s.r.l., this 12-song album is imperfect but enjoyable nonetheless. To its positive is its overall musical content, which will be discussed shortly. The record’s production on the other hand proves somewhat problematic, but not so much so that it dooms the record. This will be discussed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed later, too. Each item noted here is key in its own way to the whole of the record’s production. All things considered, V is not a complete success, but nor is it a failure.
Heaven & Earth’s aptly titled fifth album, V is an interesting new offering from the band, which has spent more than two decades establishing itself. The album proves itself worth hearing in large part through its musical arrangements. The arrangements exhibit a wide range of sounds and influences. From hard rock to prog to general rock and even some 80s influence, the band offers audiences a wide range of content. ‘Never Dream of Dying’ for instance, takes the band in a distinct prog direction. The whole thing opens with some ominous keyboards and drums, belying that note, but as front man Gianluca Petralia’s vocals join the mix along with the guitars, the whole really develops that noted stylistic approach and sound. Speaking in precise terms, the whole lends itself to comparison to works from Dream Theater’s early 90s albums, Images and Words and Awake. On a completely different note, ‘Little Black Dress’ with its upbeat, bluesy arrangement, is more of an early 90s blues rock composition. The staccato notes from the guitar, the equally tight time keeping, and pronounced bass line do well to make that clear. It is the polar opposite of the arrangement featured in ‘Never Dream of Dying.’ This is proven even more as the song progresses and a catchy little keyboard line is added to the mix. On yet another note, ‘Running From The Shadows’ – an even later entry in the record – lends itself to comparison to works from Deep Purple right from its outset. It is just a solid rock composition, centered around its keyboards and drums in this case, again, just like so many works from Deep Purple. Even the sound here is so similar to works from Deep Purple. At the same time it still boasts its own unique identity. Between these songs and all of the record’s other works, the whole makes clear that the musical content featured in the record is of the utmost importance to its presentation.
While the musical content plays an unquestionably important role in the album’s presentation, the album is not perfect. There are some occasional issues with the record in terms of its production. The issues stem from the balance of the vocals and the instrumentations. Case in point is ‘At The End of the Day.’ The song’s arrangement features a lot of activity throughout its six-minute-plus run time. The thing is that there is so much going on even in the softer, more contemplative verses, that the vocals sound washed out to a point. To be more precise, there is a certain airy sense about the vocals throughout, requiring an even closer listen. The more active moments require even more of an increase in that attention. Much the same can be said of its predecessor, ‘Nothing To Me,’ the album’s penultimate track. That slight issue with the imbalance is just as pronounced here. Maybe it is just the speakers on this critic’s playback system, maybe not. If not, then this is still something of a concern, especially being that is evidenced in the album’s opener, ‘Drive,’ and to a lesser extent, ‘One In A Million Man.’ So it is not like this is a confined concern. It seems to happen at various points in the album, enough so that it is noticeable. Again, maybe the issue stems from the speakers on this critic’s playback device. However, that it only seems to happen at those given points says otherwise. Even with this in mind, it still is not enough to make the album a failure. The record’s sequencing works with the diversity in its musical arrangements to make the record even more appealing.
This record’s sequencing is important to its presentation because it keeps the album’s energy flowing throughout for the most part. Even in slightly more relaxed moments, such as in the bluesy ‘Poverty’ and the funky Chickenfoot-esque ‘Flim Flam Man’ the album’s energy still remains stable as the songs are still moving even despite being slower. The only point at which the record really pulls back is in ‘At The End of the Day.’ The reserved feel and tone of this song is in direct contrast to everything else featured in the record. It honestly might have been better placed somewhere else in the album, considering this. More specifically, it might have been better suited somewhere closer to the record’s midpoint, in order to break up the album, especially considering the general pacing. It would have provided audiences more moment to catch their breath. Either way, the sequencing is still relatively strong here even with this in mind. Keeping that in mind along with the diversity in the songs’ arrangements, the album in whole still has much to offer audiences. All things considered, these aspects and the mixed production makes V imperfect, but still enjoyable.
Heaven & Earth’s forthcoming album V is a valiant new offering from the band. It does offer plenty for audiences to appreciate, such as the diversity in its musical arrangements. That diversity includes arrangements that exhibit prog influence, as well as blues and pure guitar rock. It is spread out throughout the album, ensuring that this aspect alone keeps audiences engaged and entertained. While the diversity in the album’s arrangements offers plenty for audiences to appreciate, the songs’ production is slightly problematic. There are points throughout the album when the vocals seem somewhat washed out by the instrumentation. Thankfully this does not happen so much that it dooms the album, though it cannot be ignored. The record’s sequencing works with the arrangements to add even more appeal. That is because it keeps the album’s energy fluid throughout. The only negative to the sequencing comes at its end, with the much more reserved closer. It is the only truly misplaced addition to the record in regards to the sequencing, so it is also not enough to doom the album. Keeping all of this in mind, the pros and cons present throughout the album make it imperfect but still enjoyable in its own right. V is scheduled for release Friday through Frontiers Records s.r.l.
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