Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Black Ink - Reminiscence (Demo) (2012)

With the crop of great bands coming out of Italy, it would seem that everyone is trying to get a piece of the metal pie. Formed a short year ago, Black Ink are taking a stab at the throne, hoping to gain notoriety with their new demo, a five song offering titled "Reminiscence." But with such a crowded scene, it can be difficult to separate yourself from the pack, something that becomes evident early and often for this alt-metal five piece.

There is certainly promise here, especially in the opening moments of "Cold Soul." As the winding guitars become tangled in varied and eclectic keyboard melodies, you may find yourself hoping for something more than what you get. As the verse kicks in, a somewhat murky vocal line provided by frontwoman Laura Lerti enters, and the intricacies of the backing band seem to leave. What you are left with is something akin to an alternative rock band, with an affinity for keyboards. Each instrument blends together in a cloudy wall, rather than standing out as individuals. A guitar solo that seems out of place and strained tries to bring you back, but instead gives you cause for concern. It isn't until the keyboard takes command that you get back on point. From concept to complete, something seems to have been lost in translation.

An entirely different feel comes on "New Day," which, at times, sounds like a completely different band. There is a defined groove to be found, something that may remind you of Canadian standouts The Tea Party, with a electronic buzz. And while the track doesn't exactly ooze uniqueness, it does establish an identity of sorts, with a more clear focus on guitar riffs and wild drums. Lerti's voice sees more freedom here, coming through with power and grace. But the key to the overall sound is, and remains, the use of keyboards. Layered throughout, the various keyboard supplied elements take an otherwise stale musical offering and elevate it. The guitars are more inspired, though still overreaching at times. The track "Black Ink," however, takes an odd turn. The track is bass heavy, which isn't an entirely bad decision. But what is left is a half baked concoction of keys, repetitive chords, and vocals.With the numerous tempo and style changes, this plays out like a meal of leftovers, put onto a single plate. Some pieces work, and others don't, which is hard enough for a three minute track. But over the span of six plus minutes, it is difficult to digest.

Any hope of building momentum disappears as "Bitter Tears" begins, the definition of a ballad. While the piano work is top notch, the song lacks any drive, any punch. And while it may have a home on a full length album, as a respite or mood setter, it is an odd choice to plop square in the middle of a five song EP. That decision leaves all of the pressure on the closing track, "Confused," which goes back to the original formula. The guitars chug away, without much lateral movement. The keyboards come to the rescue time and again, injecting life into the lifeless with short melodic bursts and piano driven tones. Even a dynamic, jazz infused bass line gets some play. But the tendency to favor the generic hurts, leaving you with little more than a lukewarm product. And while the production isn't necessarily bad, the discerning ear may be disappointed with aspects of the mix, which seem to leave Lerti's voice falling flat far too often.

I'm not sure if it is ever a conscious choice to blend in with the crowd, or stand out from it. In fact, I would doubt that many bands ever say "hey, let's make music just like everyone else." But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen, an unfortunate side effect of a growing scene. For Black Ink, it seems to be their Achilles heel, failing to produce anything that is uniquely theirs. Sure, there are flashes scattered throughout this 30 minute offering, but they are too diluted to make an impact. The positives are few, but with only a year under their belt, there is time to grow and mature. Then they can look back on "Reminiscence" and see where it all began.


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