The debut EP from Portuguese gothic metal band Inner Blast is one of those frustrating releases which have much more to offer than is allowed to show. Sleepless Monster is an imaginative collection of songs sabotaged by a poor production which leaves them a shadow of the glory they suggest they have within them. The EP has been self released by the band and as with all independent artists finances are rarer than finding people publicly praising Justin Bieber. This possibly is the situation with this release, its need for a top notch production and appreciative mind behind the controls with no disrespect to the person(s) who took the role here, losing out to available funding. There is seemingly an impressive release bursting to get out and one can only hope an opportunity to let the band realise that promise in these songs is sent their way.
The seeds of the Lisbon band began in 2006 with the current quintet coming together four years later. Through live shows and taking part in rock contests the band soon had people taking notice which led to an invitation to submit a track for a CD compilation available through Infektion Magazine and also an appearance on Rock on Side B vol.1 release through Raging Planet Records. Sleepless Monster makes it easy to see why Inner Blast drew such responses and will continue to, the band creating well crafted and atmospheric music to open up and satisfy the senses. Arguably they are not yet the most original but they are more accomplished and promising than most similar styled newer bands.
The release opens with Better Days a song which takes no time in drawing full attention its way. The opening atmosphere through the keys of Monica and soaring vocals tones of Liliana lighting up the air. As the track emerges with the rhythms of drummer Sabu guiding the ear firmly whilst the guitar of Aquiles scythe sharp riffs through the atmosphere there is an intriguing pull. The song is an intelligent mix of powerful energy and driving metal sounds, which without having the most intimidating intensity are pleasingly forceful, alongside a mesmeric melodic warm of vocals and harmonies which one can only be impressed by, sadly though the production negates the glory that could have been. The excellent voice of Liliana lies against the music rather than within so there is a clear definition between the two which sounds wrong. Her range is strong but when she hits those searing highest notes it is like a sonic laser with no tempering production to bring their richness and rounded quality through. The other issue is the hollow feel across all aspects of the song. The assumption is there was an attempt to expand on and deepen the undeniable ethereal quality of the music but rather than let the sounds organically create this the added help just makes it sound like it was recorded in a cavern or a cold public loo, sad as this is a rather decent song as is the release as a whole.
The title track comes next and as with the rest of the release take the previous comments as to production and such as permanently standing across all songs so we can just concentrate on the positives. From a groaning almost bestial breath the guitars conjure an electrified pattern which frames the lyrics and vocals of Liliana whilst the keys weave an excellent melodic siren like glaze across the ambience of the song. As with the first track it feels like there is an aggression urging to break free but tempered by the harmonic breath it is held down to good effect.
The best two songs on the release come next in Tears and Fixation. The first opens with sounds of a brewing storm laced with emotive piano play before opening its eager arms to share an explosive passion which breaks through the limiting production. The voice of Liliana is at its most triumphant on this song whilst musically everything is perfectly aligned with the bass of Luis a brooding and prowling presence, The second of the two again introduces itself on a hypnotic piano start before spreading into a startling and fully pleasing melodic charm, the song a wash of heated beauty fired with stirring guitars and punchy rhythms.
The closing and decent Open Minds again has a similar stance as the previous pair especially for its start which suggests diversity is still waiting to be fully explored within the band but it is an easily agreeable song to end what is in Sleepless Monster certainly a very promising release despite being held back by production. Given the chance to truly express themselves and their songs in a top environment the feeling is Inner Blast will be a band to watch and enjoy much more.
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