“The Offering” (out March 23rd, via AFM Records) is the fourth studio album by Canadian power / progressive metal band Borealis, and their second concept album, after 2015’s “Purgatory”. Formed in 2005, the line-up consists of Matt Marinelli (vocals & guitars), Ken Fobert (guitars), Trevor Mcbride (bass), Sean Werlick (keyboards), and Sean Dowell (drums). Known for their strong melodies, tasteful instrumentations, and a neat blend of modern metal riffs, classic power metal and progressive elements, they never disappoint as they always deliver what is expected of them with style.
The concept of “The Offering” seems ripped from Stephen King’s twisted mind, as it follows the story a cult who practices human sacrifices in the hopes that these will bring an end to the suffering of mankind, but in their foolishness they give rise to an evil force. And, as with any decent horror story, the plot engulfs you and the music keeps you entertained until the very end (more or less) with powerful vocal lines, epic melodies, heavy guitar riffs, and dynamic drum patterns.
The fire between us
Sign of no return
The second son
The devil’s hand
Into the light
The ghosts of innocence
But unfortunately they focus so much on the power metal aspect of the music (especially on the double-bass drumming), they forsake the horror elements that would have made this album a truly memorable one. Where’s the creepy atmosphere? Where’s the evil voice of the maleficent deity? Where are the cries for the innocent lives sacrificed in vain? Don’t get me wrong, the music is really good throughout the album, as everyone is bringing their A-game (especially vocalist Matt Marinelli), but I feel it clashes with the concept. I mean, they did such a great job with “Purgatory”, conveying all the necessary emotions and moods, I don’t know why they missed the mark with this one, in this respect. My opinion is that, if you set out to do a concept album, do it with all the drama and theatricality the plot asks for.
True enough there are some keys and orchestrations that are creepy-sounding, but they are buried under the guitars and drums, they are barely audible at times, when they should be, if not front-and-center, at least more up-font. Also singer Matt Marinelli seems to be adding some extra rasp to his vocals in key moments of the albums (“Forever Lost” or “The Offering”), which is a nice touch, as is the duet from the power ballad “Scarlet Angel”. The cello lines in “The Devil’s Hand” brings forth this sentiment of despair making it one of the few tracks that reinforce the plot. The best track on the album is “The Ghosts of the Innocence”, which wraps up the narrative and sees the demise of the cult. It has a great build-up, blending gentle piano lines with powerful drumming and aggressive guitar lines, as it delivers the message in a crystal clear manner. My only wish is that more songs were as well-crafted and diverse as these two.
So, is this a good album? From the pure (power) metal point of view, it’s excellent. The listener will be blown away by the music as the guitar work is very well executed (case in point: “The Path”), the drumming is solid, the vocal lines are superb, and the production is crisp. It may just be their best album to date. Everything is top-notch. However, from the concept point of view, it’s not as good, because I feel the story could have been told in a different fashion. It’s not for nothing that, when doing a concept album (or even a longer piece), a whole array of styles is used to convey all the ups and downs of the storyline. Which I feel is not the case with “The Offering”, because the album is not as varied as I had hoped it would be.
My nit-picking aside, I really enjoy the heaviness of the music, the excellent guitar and drum work, and the exquisite vocals. As such, I rate “The Offering” with a solid 8 / 10.
Follow the band on-line:
Matt Marinelli (Vocals & Guitars)
Ken Fobert (Guitars)
Trevor Mcbride (Bass)
Sean Werlick (Keyboards)
Sean Dowell (Drums)