|Review: Black Sun - Silent Enemy|
Label: Rockshots Records
Year released: 2020
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: August 23, 2020
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Rated 4/5 (80%) (4 Votes)
Black Sun are a Power Metal band from Ecuador that have been a major player in their local scene since 2005, opening for big acts like Judas Priest and Kreator and getting numerous accolades while not really getting much recognition outside of their home country. They started as a sort of low-fi HelloGammaMaiden clone that was near ubiquitous at the time, but early on they were held back further by iffy vocals and wussy ballads. They steered towards a more Traditional sound on The Puppeteer, which featured more hard-hitting songwriting and greatly improved singing, but it wasn't first-class by any stretch. This leads us to their upcoming EP, Silent Enemy, which sees the band parting ways with old singer Chemel Neme and teaming up with luminary Finnish producer Nino Laurenne, who appears to have greatly influenced several aspects of this record. When you combine that with all the marketing they've put into it, which includes a freaking short film based on the album's concept, it's clear that they're really trying to make this their breakout hit. After giving it a few listens, I think it could well end up becoming just that.
The first thing you'll probably notice about this album is that it has the best production the band has ever had, with a lush, crystal clear sound that gives every element room to breathe while sounding heavier than anything else they've ever done. This ties in with the songwriting, which has gotten a harder edge over previous works while still remaining a Power Metal album, making them less comparable to Gamma Ray and more towards Iron Savior and maybe even early Battle Beast with how energetic and unabashedly cheesy it all is. While they don't manage to be as compelling as either of those bands, they still have propulsive songwriting, killer riffs, and addictive vocal hooks that put this release well beyond their previous output. This is most notable in the vocals, which are handled by a bevy of guest singers like Noora Louhimo and Tony Kakko, who all deliver solid performances that are backed by much better vocal lines than in the past. This is particularly evident in the advance single "Still Alive", which features some solid interplay between a handful of singers for the verses while the chorus does more of a choir effect, which is bound to make it a crowd pleaser at live shows.
Despite all this praise, this isn't a perfect release by any means. The songwriting is solid, but does plenty that'll be familiar to fans of the genre, and the EP itself is held back by the intro, outro, and "No Return", which are mostly sound effects and pumped-up orchestrations meant to go with the concept of the album that end up just taking up space and making this an album of four real songs rather than seven. The story as presented isn't much to talk about either, as it's a generic '80s Sci-Fi romp about a resistance group going up against evil robots, but there's hardly any material to tell the story with. Probably saved a lot of that for the short film.
I've written a lot about this, and I guess it's because I can appreciate a band that's not ashamed to be bombastic and over the top like Metal was always expected to be once upon a time. This is a short, simple, unassuming soundtrack to wearing leather jackets and punching robots, and if that doesn't sound like a fun time, then you're taking yourself too seriously. A solid new beginning.
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