Ballads ‘n’ Bullets
What exactly is metal anyways? In Legend’s debut album “Ballads ‘n’ Bullets” presents us with just bass guitar, piano, and drums, somehow in the chaos though, we get a dramatic, heavy, and fresh album that sounds as metal as any band touting three guitarists. I guess we can call it prog metal, in the true progressive tradition of bands the like of Jethro Tull.
Ballads ‘n’ Bullets brings us 14 songs, all around the 3-5 minute range, being that some detractors might call In Legend a “gimmick band”, the first question that comes to mind is “Can this band really stay fresh and interesting over an hour of music?” Yes. Absolutely yes. The production and overall sound of the album is immersive, at times imposing, at time somber, both beautiful and edgy. The from Bastian Emig are excellent as well. What’s interesting is that he’s not just satisfied being an awesome piano player and singer, he also plays drums for Van Canto. At some point that comparison was going to have to come into the picture for “non-standard metal”, however I am much more a fan of this brand.
What’s surprising, and it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise, is that, used correctly, the piano is an excellent music for playing heavy metal. Never mind the fact that it’s been used in practically every other established musical genre with great success, sometimes the metalheads are just slow to learn.
But saving another essay on this (incredible) idea, let’s get down to the music itself, and the specifics of why this album is so great. The opener, “Heaven Inside”, gives us a taste of some absolutely delicious composition. This won’t surprise anyone really familiar with piano music, but to the average metalhead it might be a surprising about how rich the lower notes on the piano sound. This creates a really dense atmosphere for some really great stuff to take place. The third song, “Elekbö” is my personal favorite on the album, for having an almost foreboding chaotic sound.
Ive been trashing on ballads a lot lately in other reviews, but Ballads ‘n’ Bullets come with two that restore my faith in the idea. “At her Side” has all the sentimentality and emotion to make a great ballad, with a catchy chorus, and enough presence to rise above the cheap poetry that metal bands are so fond of and actually become great music.
“Yue” is an instrumental piece, clocking in at 5 minutes and only featuring piano, that’s a risky endeavor. I don’t really see In Legend as a band afraid of taking risks though, and Yue is one that pays off and then some. Near the end of the album, we’re treated to the pounding “Heya”, with masterful vocal presence and a very catchy chorus.
As far as that's wrong, I really do feel like this album could do with some occasional guitar work. In the intro to "Elekbo", there's what hears like a few muted distorted swipes on the guitar (and possibly at other parts in the song, though I can't say with certainty), little flourishes like this could really fill out the albums sound without detracting from the focus on the piano. I also wouldn't have minded a longer track, perhaps in the 8-10 minute range, maybe add in some orchestrations and a choir for it. There's lots of unexplored potential in this formula and I certainly hope they keep pushing forward.
Ballads ‘n’ Bullets is, if a bit of a gimmick, a highly enjoyable, fairly innovative, and overall captivating listen. Certainly on my list of the best albums of 2011 so far.
Dagg’s rating: 3.75/5