Review by: Through the Dark Radio

It’s been almost ten years since Promise Land gave us their EP. And after many challenges and changes, they have brought forth their full length album: HARMONY IN RUINS. Some of the changes are quite noticeable. First, a new lead vocalist has been added to the band – Rod Kozikowski. Original member David Michael shares the lead vocals as well as being guitarist and keyboardist and Eric Bowser continues his duties on the drums. Second, the band uses female backing vocals – done by Janette Ralston – which adds another beautiful layer to their music. And lastly, the music is heavier and fuller than the demo EP. But one thing that hasn’t changed is their up-front lyrics. Promise Land deals with some difficult subjects – how love can overcome hatred, suicide, human trafficking and doubt in the Christian mind if they really are letting Christ show through them in their everyday life.

The album starts off a couple of instrumental tracks. Listening to all of instrumental tracks on Harmony In Ruins, you can tell how far the band has progressed when you compare it to the song “Shock & Awe” from the demo. The opening track “In The Beginning” makes you feel like you’re flying through clouds eventually getting to something brighter and brighter until you see a burst of light and find yourself at your destination.

“Harmony In Ruins is without a doubt a fantastic symphonic metal release.”

The second instrumental track is the title track “Harmony In Ruins”. It starts off with what sounds like an acapella choir immediately followed the music. The guitar-work done with this track is pretty impressive. But that’s not to take away from the orchestral part backing up the band. There is a bonus track of “Harmony In Ruins” with just the orchestral parts. You really get to hear all of the parts separately from the band. It really shows the complexity of the arrangement. And with the band added, it just takes it that much higher.

The first vocal track on the album is “C.I.U.” which is fully amped-up version of “Christ In Us” from the demo. The song deals with a police officer who is Christian who loses his partner in the line-of-duty. And he doesn’t know if his fellow officer knew Christ since he never actually witnessed to his partner and he hopes that Christ’s love was shone through his life. Compared to the orginal version, this one is heavier, faster and more guitar-driven. But the best part of the song is the ending where you have a multi-layer vocal part with different lyrics. What really makes this work is that no one vocal part is emphasized over the others. Theocracy is another band which does this just as well.

“The Piper Illusion” is the next song on the album. It’s a slower tune but still dark and heavy. And as the title hints at, the song deals with how we like to follow “The Piper” (a.k.a. The Deceiver) when he spins us his lies that we prefer to hear over the truth. And how “The Piper” will flee when we call up The Truth – that is Christ. I like how the song starts off with a flute/pipe. It reminds us a bit of the fairy tale of The Piped Piper, which is actually mentioned in the song. David Michael has some blistering guitar licks in the song, both in the middle and near the end of the song. Rod’s vocals are really strong in this song as well. You can feel him truly calling out to be delivered from the lies of the “Piper”.

“Leviathan’s Voyage” is another instrumental track and it is clearly my favorite of the instrumentals on the album. It’s a purely orchestral piece that is similar to “In The Beginning” in that it takes you on a journey. You can feel yourself gliding just above the waters, seeing whales gliding along, breaking the water from time to time until they finally break one last time before diving into the deep.

“Before The Dawn” is a very sad song that deals with a topic not often talked about in the church – suicide. It tells of a girl with “feelings of hopelessness” and how she only sees one way out of it. It starts offf with a sad motif by piano and strings before David Michael weaves her story along with Janette Ralston handling the female vocals and spoken parts. Fortunately, the song ends with hope – the hope of Christ that is always there waiting for us. In the last part of the song, the band joins in full force with Eric laying down some drumming to go along with the emotional guitar-work of David Michael.

The original version of the next song “Hiding Place” – the story of Corrie ten Boom – was originally released in 2010. The album version – just like “C.I.U.” is a kicked-up version that blows the original version away. Instead of a synthesized version, it has a piano opening before the band kicks it into high gear. Plus, the lyrics are much clearer on this release. Overall, it’s just a tighter sound. Fortunately, there is a bonus track on the album of “Hiding Place” that is just instrumental so you really get to hear how differently the album version is from the 2010 single release.

–“ There is little doubt that this is will be among the top albums for 2014.”

The band brings up another almost nonexistent topic in the church – human trafficking – with “Her Name”. This is undoubtedly the most complex song that the band has done. The rough guitar tone, effective use of cymbals and various pauses helps add to the urgency of helping out those victims of human trafficking instead of turning away. The only problem I really have with this song is that it feels like it could continue on some more but instead it stops.

The mid-tempo song “Holy” is the last vocal track on the album but it is easily my favorite. Mrs. Ralston joins David again on vocals. This song is a cry out to God similar to some passages in Job or in the Psalms – crying out to God in our darkness and recognizing His Holiness. The keys are a bit more pronounced on this song but they add to the song instead of getting in the way as some bands unfortunately do when using keys. The harmonies that David Michael and Janette Ralston deliver are just filled with emotions and true worship. This is just a great worship song to our God.

“Eclipse” closes out the album – aside from the bonus tracks already mentioned. It starts off with strings playing an almost waltz-like tune before it changes direction. A snare joins the strings before a bass line takes center stage with a simple motif that it repeats. Other instruments join in with tidbits that add to the bass-line before the snare rolls one last time and the song fades away to close it out.

Harmony In Ruins is without a doubt a fantastic symphonic metal release. The changes that they have gone through have helped to make them the band that they are. And it has shaped the songs that they have given to us. The switching of vocal part between Rod & David remind me a bit of the dual vocals that Tourniquet had with Guy Ritter and Gary Lenaire. There is little doubt that this is will be among the top albums for 2014.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Reviewed by: Through The Dark Radio; Jeff de los Santos


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