Forgive me for starting with a rant, but who in their right mind thought Find Me was a good band name? Seriously, that has to be among the most boring band names I’ve ever seen! If I saw a band with that name and wasn’t required to review it, I’d have skipped past it without it making an impact on me, which is NOT what a good band name should do. Think of some of the more iconic metal bands out there, like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Gamma Ray: their names pretty much SOUND epic and legendary, even if you don’t know anything about them. Find Me? That’s kind of scraping the barrel in terms of band names, only a bit above the overly long (and, in my opinion, somewhat stupid) names like Iwrestledabearonce and We Butter The Bread With Butter!
Also, protip for aspiring musicians reading this: don’t name your album after a fairly well known band that isn’t your own. While I doubt anyone is going to mistake Dark Angel for Dark Angel, it did cause me to have to do a double take when I first saw the promo for this, as I was wondering whether there’d been a mistake on the promo or some other band with the name Dark Angel was out there. Which also serves to highlight how bad a band name Find Me is, because I thought it was the album title on first glance!
So yeah, me and this album got off on the wrong foot, to put it mildly. I thought the band name was unimaginative at best, the album name brought to mind a completely different band and the only musician I recognised was drummer Daniel Flores (who readers may recognise for being the drummer for The Murder of My Sweet, a band who released an album a few months back that I actually happened to like), so the expectation going in was of the record being unimpressive. So imagine my surprise when I heard the record and found that it was actually really good! How good? Well, I can’t think of a lot of records that I’d put above this one that I’ve heard this year!
The record is very much your typical AOR record in terms of sound, sounding a bit like Journey with some Def Leppard touches to keep things interesting. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you like this kind of thing, but, if you want to hear something new, then you’re not going to find this record to your taste. Still, it is undeniably well written, with every song possessing a chorus guaranteed to get you singing along and, while the lack of a real shake up of the traditional verse-chorus style of songwriting could be a problem if you want something a bit more varied (although I don’t feel this is a big problem considering, well, AOR is basically 80’s pop rock and the vast majority of people who listen to AOR are already big fans of it, so this is pretty much doing what it is supposed to and appealing to the target audience of the genre!), it doesn’t really suffer from following this structure, as the record is well paced and varied enough that it’s hard to really lose interest in it.
Considering the project is a collaboration between the drummer and producer of The Murder of My Sweet and the vocalist for Blanc Faces (…don’t worry if you’ve not heard of them, they’ve not really done anything since 2009), Find Me is understandably good in the talent department, with the drums sounding very good and the vocals making me think a bit of what Michael Sweet would sound like if he was an AOR vocalist. However, I must really give praise to Philip Lindstrand, who plays the bass and most of the guitars on the record and does an incredibly good job with them! This isn’t to take anything away from keyboardist Soren Kronqvist or Christopher Vetter (who contributes additional guitar to the record, although I can’t say which songs he contributed to, unfortunately), but the bass and guitar are so well played across the record that I feel not giving him the praise he deserves would be unfair to the guy!
The production is also pretty solid. I took the time to quickly compare it to Beth Out of Hell (The Murder of My Sweet’s record from earlier this year, which Daniel Flores also produced) and, surprisingly, I can actually hear a more restrained mastering job on Dark Angel, which is a plus for me, and there is more of a bass presence on Dark Angel than there was on Beth Out of Hell, which was one of my complaints about the record. I highly doubt my talks about mastering and bass production have anything to do with this (it’s far more likely that the more restrained mastering job just works better for AOR than it does for symphonic metal), but, regardless of the reason for the more restrained production job, I honestly couldn’t be happier than it was done, as I feel it makes the record sound more comfortable on the ears! I would have liked a tiny bit more bass presence (not a huge amount more, as it is pretty good the way it is) and I feel the backing vocals could have done with being a bit louder (I did hear them on the record, but it took a few listens for me to realise that it wasn’t just Robert Lablanc’s voice I was hearing doing the backing vocals!), but, beyond that, I have to say that Dark Angel has pretty much the perfect production for what I’d look for: a mastering job that is loud enough to give the music a kick when it needs it, but not so loud that it starts to detract from the record over long periods of listening time, a production job which gives the bass a chance to be heard properly without letting any of the other instruments dominate the mix and avoiding sounding overly plastic (for lack of a better word) while still using digital production to its best. Excellent work overall on the production front!
Ultimately, I think the only thing that lets this record down a bit is that the songwriting isn’t all that adventurous, and even that’s not a big problem if you’re a fan of this sort of music already. I think this might actually be my favourite record that I’ve covered for Frontier Records so far, if I’m completely honest: there’s no tracks that I felt let down by or wanted to skip, the complaints I have are minor and the good aspects of the record outweigh the complaints by a huge measure. I imagine most people will have written this record off just from the band’s name and the fact it’s being released so late in the year, but I would seriously urge you to make the effort to pick this up if you have even the slightest fondness for AOR. You won’t regret it!
Dark Angel will be released on the 4th of December by Frontier Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.