Album Review: Black Fate – ‘Deliverance of Soul’

Some people reading this might be wondering why I’m reviewing this record, as this was first released in 2009. Honestly, I was tempted to skip over this one myself when I saw that the promo was a re-release (albeit a remastered re-release), as I assumed that most people wouldn’t be interested in it and I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to cover myself…but then I looked at the people connected to the band and I immediately changed my tune when I spotted that the band’s vocalist on this record (who is still in the band now, I should point out!) is Sunburst vocalist Vasilis Georgiou, who was then on his debut on a studio album (although he had recorded a demo with the band Victims Reborn in 1996, so he definitely wasn’t a stranger to the studio at the time!), and that two other current members of the band (though not members of the band when this was recorded) are also names that Sunburst fans should recognise: guitarist Gus Drax and ex-Sunburst bassist Vasilis Liakos. Considering Fragments of Creation is still a strong pick for record of the year for me, I figured it might be best to do myself a favour and see how much Georgiou has changed as a vocalist in the years since.

So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the band, here’s a quick band history for you: Black Fate are a Greek metal band from the city of Larissa, which is the largest city and capital of the Thessaly region of Greece and is fairly near (around an hour’s drive) to the port city of Volos (as well as being a candidate for the title of European Capital of Culture 2021). The band themselves formed in 1990, which also makes them one of the oldest active Greek metal bands, despite only releasing their debut album in 2002. The band’s only constant member has been drummer Nikos Tsintzilonis, who has played on all of the band’s records to date, with the rest of the lineup having shifted with time. Probably the only real detail of note beyond that is that the band have released four records in total: 2002’s Uncover, 2003’s A Piece of Dream (which comprises the band’s first two demos, which were recorded in 1992 and 1993), this record and 2014’s Between Visions & Lies. The lineup for this record, aside from the currently recognisable Tsintzilonis and Georgiou, includes guitarists Giannis Theologi and Elias Tsintzilonis (I’ve no idea if he’s related to Nikos or not), bassist Albertos Oikonomou and keyboardist Achileas Mochioulis, none of whom (aside from Elias, who was also part of the band Oblivion, which released a self-titled demo in 1996 and has done nothing since) have any other credits outside of Black Fate, as far as I can tell.

So, how did this band sound in 2009? Well…I’m not convinced by Deliverance of Soul, but I’d be lying if I said it was bad at the same time. There’s good ideas on this record and there’s solid performances on it, but the final result just doesn’t grab me enough for me to actually like it.

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The band’s sound is honestly something I’d describe as being cut from a similar cloth as Kamelot’s Siege Perilous, as it’s a slower and somewhat atmospheric record compared to stuff like Epica and Karma, but where the similarities end is in the details in the record, as Black Fate aren’t as symphonic as Kamelot, instead favouring a more traditional (though still progressive-tinted) style of power metal. It’s really not a bad sound, but, even when the record was released, this would have been a sound that everyone would have already heard more than a few times before and I don’t feel Black Fate really bring anything to the sound that you haven’t already heard (and done better) by other bands in the genre.

The songwriting is also problematic for me in that it’s just kind of dull. Not bad, I should stress: there’s nothing about it that is necessarily poorly done on a technical level and, while there’s nothing wildly original about it, it’s certainly serviceable enough to be enjoyed if you like this kind of thing. Unfortunately, the material itself just isn’t all that interesting to listen to: it doesn’t really do anything to command your attention, the technical aspect of the performances aren’t anything that is going to impress people especially familiar with this style of music and, for a power metal album, there is a disturbing lack of anything really catchy about it. It feels like the sort of music you’d hear casually playing in the background of something rather than something you’d actively dedicate time to listening to, which, considering the point of metal music is to command your attention and make you want to focus on it, is a pretty major failing on the songwriting front. However, like I said at the start, the songwriting isn’t badly done on a technical level, it’s just the translation over to me as a listener where the whole thing fails to work.

The instrumental performances on the record aren’t anything really special by the subgenre’s standards, as I hinted to earlier, but I can’t call the performances bad in good faith either. The drums aren’t going to blow anyone away, but it is obvious that Nikos Tsintzilonis is a more-than-competent drummer, as he produces a fairly varied performance across the record and avoids the double bass drumming abuse that a lot of power metal drummers resort to. The bass guitar has some surprisingly good moments from Oikonomou, but he isn’t really prominent enough to make a huge impact upon the record, which is a shame, because he is interesting to listen to when he is given a chance to be heard. The guitarists have some good moments in the lead guitar performances, but the rhythm guitar parts are honestly not all that interesting, as they tend to fall into a bit of a groove around which the rest of the material  is based, which means that the guitars rarely come up with anything that is especially worth hearing.  Mochioulis’ keyboards do occasionally add something interesting, but, for the most part, he is in the background. I think all of this explains parts of my earlier complaints with the record: nobody seems willing to take up a central role on the performance front, so everything feels like it is trying to support something in front of it…but there’s nothing in front of it to support, so the whole thing fails to do anything interesting.

Luckily, Georgiou is still a solid vocalist, even at this early stage in his recording career. I don’t think his performance on here is quite as good as it is on Sunburst’s record (if you pardon the Kamelot comparison again, it feels like he isn’t being given the chance to use his voice to the best of his ability on this record, much like Khan on Kamelot’s Siege Perilous), but I’d be lying if I said he didn’t put forward a compelling performance, because he does. He demonstrates some passable death metal growls (see the opening of ‘Angry Silent Scream’), but mostly sticks to his tenor range vocals (which do indeed still sound uncannily like Roy Khan even at this early stage in his career, although with obviously less experience than Khan). I think the only issue I have is that Georgiou feels like he is singing a bit higher in his voice than he is completely comfortable with and, as a result, comes across as a bit lacking in confidence. However, considering this was his first studio album with any band, I don’t think this is a major issue and he certainly got better with time. Honestly, I’m surprised the guy wasn’t even considered as a replacement for Khan (and I’m saying this as someone who likes Tommy Karevik in the band!), because this record pretty much proves that he could have done the job excellently!

The production on this record is honestly pretty excellent overall. The bass is fairly audible (although I do think it needs a tiny bit more volume in some places), the mastering is fine (it could have done with a tiny bit more volume, but what’s on display is certainly more than acceptable), the mixing is pretty great overall (although I do think the keyboards could have done with a tiny bit more volume, as they can sometimes be hard to hear over the rest of the mix) and the instruments sound wonderful. Seriously, this is pretty much the sort of production I’d like to hear in metal, just with a tiny bit of fine tuning to iron out the issues I’ve mentioned. Huge props to Nikos Tsintzilonis on the production and mixing front and Erik Tordsson on the remastering of the record is definitely due and I seriously hope the guys get more work on the production side of stuff, because they have done an excellent job in my book!

Ultimately, I just can’t get behind Deliverance of Soul enough as a personal listener to really enjoy it, but there’s nothing to really dislike about it when you really break it down to its roots: it has acceptable performances, a strong vocal performance, technically fine songwriting and a strong production job. Maybe I approached this record with the wrong expectations (which is possible: I expected to be blown away and hear something which pointed towards what Sunburst would do, which, with the benefit of hindsight, was an entirely unreasonable expectation!), but I just get the feeling that this record is one which I should be able to appreciate on paper. In practise, though, I just find it rather boring. If you’re able to leave your expectations for something like Sunburst at the door, then this is probably not a bad album to check out if you’re a fan of power metal and want a more progressive touch that’s reminiscent of the majesty of Kamelot. Speaking on a personal level, though, this just didn’t convince me that Black Fate are worth focusing on. Maybe their follow up is really good (I picked it up while I was writing this, but all I’ve heard so far is the opening track…which, admittedly, WAS fairly promising!), but this record…eh, it just didn’t convince me, unfortunately. More power to you if you do like it, but it’s not for me.

Deliverance of Soul will be re-issued on the 29th of April by Ulterium Record. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.

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