BALANCE OF POWER — Perfect Balance

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BALANCE OF POWER - Perfect Balance cover
3.93 | 3 ratings | 1 review
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Album · 2001

Tracklist

1. Higher Than The Sun (7:02)
2. Shelter Me (5:17)
3. Fire Dance (6:50)
4. One Voice (5:23)
5. The Pleasure Room (6:03)
6. Killer Or The Cure (5:37)
7. House Of Cain (5:06)
8. Hard Life (6:35)
9. Searching For The Truth (4:46)

Total Time 52:44

Japanese bonus tracks:

10. Time Of Our Lives (5:59)
11. The Other Side Of Paradise (4:47)

Line-up/Musicians

- Lance King / Vocals
- Pete Southern / Guitars
- Bill Yates / Guitars
- Tony Ritchie / Bass, Backing Vocals
- Lionel Hicks / Drums
- Leon Lawson / Keyboards

About this release

Release date: March 30, 2001
Label: Massacre, Avalon/Marquee.

Thanks to Lynx33, 666sharon666, diamondblack for the updates

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lukretion
Balance of Power have been completely off my radar until recently when, as I was flipping through an old metal magazine from twenty years ago, I read a raving review of this album. Intrigued, I decided to track it down and give it a listen: oh boy, what had I missed out on! Perfect Balance is a little hidden gem of melodic power metal, strongly recommended to anyone who has even a passing interest in the genre. But more about this later. First, let me briefly introduce you to the band. Balance of Power were formed in 1995 by a bunch of up-and-coming London-based musicians. After releasing their debut album in 1997, the band went through a couple of line-up changes, which included the vocalist. Enter Lance King, US-based singer with a past as session musician in several American hard rock/prog metal acts. The band and King will release three albums together before parting ways in rather acrimonious circumstances. Perfect Balance is the last album featuring King on vocals and, arguably, the best album released by Balance of Power in their career. After this, the band will release one more album with a new singer before disbanding.

Throughout their career, Balance of Power have always tried to combine two distinct influences. One the one hand, the neoclassical metal tradition of Rainbow/Malmsteen that inspired the European power metal revival of the 1990s. On the other hand, these guys have clearly grown up listening to a lot of AOR and arena rock. The sweet, super-catchy vocal melodies of bands like Journey, Foreigner, Asia and Toto left a definite mark on the impressionable minds of these young British musicians. Perfect Balance is miraculously suspended between these two poles. The songs are anchored in exquisitely neoclassical guitar riffs and arpeggios that could have been penned by Blackmore or Malmsteen themselves. Given these foundations, you would expect the songs to climax in powerful metallic choruses. Instead, quite brilliantly, Balance of Power bring in these massive AOR choruses that are sweet, light and catchy and that you just did not see coming. It’s an endearing combination that turns things on their head and gives a special freshness to their music. This is most evident on tracks like “Higher Than the Sun”, “Shelter Me”, “One Voice” and “Searching for the Truth”.

Elsewhere things take a darker turn as the music becomes less flashy and more pensive and melancholic. Songs like “Fire Dance”, “The Pleasure Room”, “Killer or the Cure” and “House of Cain” would not have disfigured on an album like Queensryche’s Promised Land, another audible influence of the band. It’s because of songs like these that the band is sometimes classified as prog metal. That and because Lance King’s impressive voice can sometimes remind of James LaBrie, especially when he sings in the higher register. But there is much less complexity in the nine songs of Perfect Balance than in your standard prog metal album. The song structure is in fact fairly simple, sticking mostly to the verse-bridge-chorus canon, with only minimal digressions and instrumental detours. Sure, there are plenty of solos and keyboard/guitar duels, but these also feature prominently on most classic/power metal albums of the era. And even the solos are kept in check to make sure they do not steal too much the scene. Balance of Power are not a band whose objective is to showcase their technical proficiency. No doubt, these guys can play: just listen to the superb interplays between the two guitarists Pete Southern and Bill Yates. But the band strictly keep their technical skills to the service of the song, differently from a lot of the progressive metal of the time, where technical wankery often took precedence over sensible songwriting. Take the rhythm section, for instance. Drummer Lionel Hicks is the album’s producer and bassist Tony Ritchie is one of the main songwriters. You’d expect flamboyant and complex rhythmical patterns, but instead the rhythm section is mostly focused on giving the song a good groove. It may be unspectacular, but it is very effective as it gives the songs the solid and steady base that is needed for the rest of the band to develop the melodic and harmonic motives.

At this point, prog metal aficionados may start to fear that Perfect Balance is a fairly pedestrian and unglamorous album. But that’s not the case. The arrangements are very classy and sophisticated, also thanks to the excellent contribution of keyboard player Leon Lawson. He features on the album as a session musician, which is surprising because the keyboard parts are all over the place and a truly integral part of the band’s sound. The production is super-clean and detailed, which is quite remarkable for a fairly unknown band on a small budget. The melodic hooks that are at the heart of the songs are truly excellent, resulting in compositions that quickly grab the listener’s attention and leave a lasting impression. This is particularly true for tracks like the excellent opener “Higher Than the Sun”, the Rainbowesque “Fire Dance”, and especially the trio of darker tracks that appear in the middle of the album, “The Pleasure Room”, “Killer or the Cure” and “House of Cain”. And then there is Lance King, a truly excellent vocalist. He has a great range and sounds equally comfortable with mid-range vocals and high-end notes. His tone is very warm and expressive and he reminds me of a cross between James LaBrie and Geoff Tate. He leaves his mark on each and every song he sings on. It is truly a pity that King and the band split ways after this record because theirs was a partnership that had so much potential.

Fortunately, before splitting up Balance of Power gave us this little masterpiece that goes under the name of Perfect Balance. It is not a faultless album, as it contains a couple of songs that can be arguably considered as fillers (“Once Voice”, “Hard Life”). Yet, it does leave a strong impression on the listener. It is very melodic and catchy, but never cheesy as a lot of AOR and arena rock can be. At the same time, it also has that Rainbow/Malmsteen vibe that will make any metalhead’s blood rush to the head. It’s a perfect balance, as per the album title. Do not miss out on this hidden gem!

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