That Borealis after a decade and three half decent full lengths would go on to record an entirely worthwhile album was not expected. On previous efforts the redeeming qualities have been few and far in between, with their own tribute band doing a better job of releasing a coherently high standard full length last year. So it comes as a surprise that the Canadian power metal outfit actually make their fourth full length album, The Offering, an interesting venture from start to finish. Take a look at the album cover, and it sets the tone exactly for what the album is like; dark and melodic. The sound, big and dramatic, sets the dark theme rolling well with the melodramatically emotional lyrics and Matt Marinelli’s vocals. The guitars get that right touch of emotion added by the sweet keys of Sean Werlick, who lingers in the background giving dynamic depth to the rollicking guitars. The deep, dark prevalence of Trevor McBride’s bass builds the next layer, alongside drummer Sean Dowell, building solid, rhythmic foundations for the licking fire of the lead guitars to set ablaze.
Especially the first five tracks are likely the best found in Borealis’ catalogue, and setting the album off on an incredibly high note. Though not super innovative or reinventing, they take all the best elements about the music and nail every moment. The melodic punch of lead single Sign Of No Return and the gritty riff parts of opening track The Fire Between Us, coupled with the epic sounding choruses reliant mostly on Marinelli’s voice without big choirs or layered vocals sets a big scope that immediately say Borealis are stronger and more in tune than ever before. That said, the album has a slight drop in quality after the first five tracks, with filler ballad The Devil’s Hand and overly cheesy Scarlet Angel, but still retains much of the vision started on the very first notes. Another downside would be that several of the songs just fade out, and not even that cleanly; suddenly they just begin to fade, instead of getting to reach a natural conclusion or a truly climactic ending.
Vocalist and guitarist Matt Marinelli comes to a whole new light, as each new song sees him venture into new territory. He stands strong, giving a varied impression across the album, filled to the brim with emotion. Title track The Offering brings out the Matt Barlow (ex- Iced Earth) influences in him, while tracks like Sign Of No Return or The Second Son rather see him soar melodically with Werlick’s dramatic keys. And the magic part is that unlike on predecessor Purgatory (2014) his voice actually sounds good and like his own. The Symphony X meets Evergrey sound they always had is still present, but the more prevalent touch of keys and less of the gritty, tough guy riffage of previous efforts make the album stand out as it puts Borealis’s talents where they should be. They were never the greatest musicians, but with the right sound they can make dramatic, emotive and powerful music, as The Offering well proves.
Standout tracks: Sign Of No Return, The Offering, The Second Son