Borealis - Purgatory (AFM Records)

Great record... now... where have I heard it before?
Release Date: 
19 Jun 2015 (All day)

How far can Canada’s Borealis take this? How far can any band whose sound is so deeply rooted in the sound of other, more noteworthy artists realistically hope to progress without branching out a little and having the guts to strike out on their own path?

Borealis have always had two pretty stark reference points in their now already decade-long existence; Evergrey and Symphony X. And on Purgatory, their third full-length outing, those reference points shine perhaps better than ever.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course, and if you’re going to base your work so strongly on someone else’s then you may as well pick the best of the bunch, so great portions of Purgatory are a rollicking good listen. Third track The Chosen One is spine-wrenchingly good, mixing the pompous misery of Evergrey to the sleek technical killing power of Symphony X in a way even those two bands would probably struggle to achieve, the guitars of Michael Briguglio and vocalist Matt Marinelli pummelling and caressing in equal measure, whilst the effortless majesty of Destiny does exactly the same – just more balladically. Marinelli’s voice is splendid throughout, a mellifluous mix of (of course) Russell Allen and older, more traditional vocal heroes like Lou Gramm (Foreigner) and sometime Yngwie sidekick Joe Lynn Turner, and yet… and yet you find yourself just occasionally wishing that the band would surprise you just a little and get out of their seemingly self-imposed straitjacket.

I’m not asking for rapping or drum loops, I’m not even asking for death grunts and blast beats. But just occasionally I don’t think it would do the band any harm at all if those two bands that I’ve already mentioned enough aren’t the first things that come into your mind after thirty seconds of every song featured on Purgatory.

At the start of this review I posed a question, and despite mulling it over in my brain time and again whilst listening to Purgatory, I myself still can't come up with the answer, beyond thinking that surely this band needs to find more of it's own identity as soon as possibly. Still, I should complain when the actual material on hand is so good, right? And as there’s no change in the template on the immediate horizon I guess I’m just better off wallowing in the sumptuous skill and first division delivery of tracks like Darkest Sin and My Peace. This is a great album – make no mistake about it- it’s just a shame it’s already been done in large measure by someone else…