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Ivanhoe - Blood and Gold

Blood and Gold
by Mark Machlay at 24 March 2020, 4:23 AM

Progressive music has always been synonymous with lengthy compositions, atypical song structures and heavier use of atmosphere. On average, a song can be between 5 minutes up to over 40 minutes in length. Often, they are criticized by the mainstream of spending too much time on instrumental sections and not enough with the “words”. German quintet IVANHOE seem to be bucking the trend of overindulgence lately. At first their albums were nearly 50 minutes or longer with an average track length of around 7-8 minutes, but their previous work was barely over 40 minutes and their latest, “Blood and Gold” doesn’t even hit 40 minutes with most tracks under 5 minutes. They seem to be challenging themselves to see how short they can make a song while still holding the title “progressive”.

In antithesis to this, opening track “Midnight Blue” opens with typical over indulgence with a long, noodly introduction. This ends up being a rollicking IRON MAIDEN-like opener, strong and powerful without diving too far into metal. “Broken Mirror” begins with a crushingly dissonant guitar riff but is more of a slow, chuggy, groove with some off-time drum work, especially gravelly vocal delivery and a great keyboard/guitar unison run in the middle. Quickly, the heaviness is broken with softer “Fe Ininita”. Light and Spanish-sounding acoustic guitar arpeggios underneath a beautiful duet between a smoother vocal delivery of vocalist Alexander Koch and guest vocalist Yvonne Luithlen gives a gentler breather before diving back into the heavy. Luithlen is better known in Germany among musical theater and she brings just the right amount of soothing against the gravelly Koch.

Title track “Blood And Gold” opens with a miniscule drum fill that serves to illustrate how triggered the bass drum sounds. This is another driving song with major symphonic elements added that bowl over into power metal territory. “Martyrium” pushes further into power metal at first but then drops down to straight chugging, giving way to thrash metal guitar doubling leads. It goes back and forth between the two extremes until the chorus when the song busts wide open, full symphonic metal. “If I Never Sing Another Song” is mostly ballad faire with a slow pulsing drum intro but things get heavy and symphonic again with strings during the chorus. “Solace” begins with a very IRON MAIDEN riff, then is doubled, then the drums join in a complex rhythm. Interestingly, the tone of the early guitar solo is more early 90's in tone, similar to KING’S X.

The one real misstep on the album is “Shadow Play”. It features two saxophone solos, seemingly summoned from nowhere. The first of which sounds like a baritone sax. Sonically battling with the distorted guitar frequency they blend together and both get unnaturally muddy. The second is higher in register and fits better in the mix but still only seems marginally connected to the composition. “Perfect Tragedy” is a decent ending track, suitable amounts of theatricality and chunk. In true prog fashion, the intro is nearly one third of the entire tracks length, starting subtly with a high register bass line, followed by long, glissando guitar notes. Heavy balls and chunk doesn’t come in until about 2/3 of the way through but it’s a suitably heavy riff and carries you through end.

IVANHOE have been going since the late 80's and the current lineup contains many newer faces. The band sound as hungry as ever and with these tighter, more compact compositions, they play better towards mainstreams audience and cross-genre appeal. This album could easily pique the interest of power metal, symphonic metal and of course progressive metal enthusiasts.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. Midnight Bite
2. Broken Mirror
3. Fe Infinita
4. Blood And Gold
5. Martyrium
6. If I Never Sing Another Song
7. Solace
8. Shadow Play
9. Perfect Tragedy
Alexander Koch – Vocals
Lars Vogtle – Guitars
Giovanni “Gio” Soulas – Bass
Richie Seibel – Keyboards
Bernd Heining - Drums
Record Label: Massacre Records


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