You would be forgiven for thinking at first glance this is the debut of some Place Vendome cover act, instead of the seventh album by an established progressive metal outfit. Between Wild Landscapes and Deep Blue Seas is indeed the seventh full length album by Italian outfit Hollow Haze. In keeping with what’s become Hollow Haze tradition, there’s of course been a shift in the vocals department. Fabio Dessi (Arthemis) takes the place, adding a youthful, clean shaven aura to the style. An attempt at somewhat of a restructuring and rejuvenation, coming four years after their latest release Memories of an Ancient Time (2015), the style delves into a more mainstream melodic metal inspired sound and simplistic song structures. While there are certainly interesting material and ideas on here, the restructuring comes at a price.
The adventurous prog leanings have been almost entirely switched for a standard build melodic metal album in the vein you’d expect from a Frontiers records release. The sound, while grounded in Nicola Savio’s flashy guitars, is overly clean and AOR lined, like you’d hear on a Place Vendome album or The Dark Element’s self titled debut. Mostly Between Wild Landscapes and Deep Blue Seas is just a collection of your standard metal songs, some cleaner and mainstream flirtatious, and some with a little more gruff and depth to them, and then it just peters out and there’s little if anything that’s actually stuck. I mean, sure enough, it’s just as enjoyable as such an album gets and there is little to pick at or complain about in how it’s performed. It’s all very clean, neat, well played and the sound is crystal clear, but there is little in terms of anything special found here. Given a few spins however, some tracks tend to stand out a bit more than others, like opener Destinations which turns out is a pretty heavy power metal track with great vocal delivery from Dessi and even better guitars and some neat hooks to boot, setting the album off on the right foot.
Some of the best songs appear on the second half of the album, where some progressive touches emerge. For instance the burst of energy midway through the solo in New Era or the sheer weight and symphonic heights turned dramatic pacing in Resurrection. The solos become lengthier toward the second half, too, and the depth to the emotional range more tangible. Some faltering moments aside, the second half picks up the thread from Memories of an Ancient Time and showcases what I’d like to have heard more of on the album. It doesn’t really make up for the more vapid tracks like It’s Always Dark Before the Dawn or slow, meandering ballad I Will Be There, but Between Wild Landscapes and Deep Blue Seas kind of lands up somewhere in the decent to good-ish territory, with some real highlights and some stuff that’s just melodic metal by the numbers. Hollow Haze can and have done better.
Standout tracks: Destinations, New Era, Resurrection