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Blind Ego


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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars German band BLIND EGO was formed back in 2005, and have been the ongoing solo project of Kalle Wallner (RPWL) since then. This is much more of a solo project than a regular band as such, with a line-up that have changed considerably from one album to the next. "Preaching to the Choir" is the fourth studio album to be released under the Blind Ego moniker, and is set for a February 2020 release through German label Gentle Art of Music.

Blind Ego as of 2020 may not be a purebred progressive rock band as such, with many compositions having more of a direct hard rock touch to them. Due to that, there may well be some fans of progressive rock that will choose to not investigate this album. But for those with a slightly wider taste in music that can appreciate a progressive rock band orienting themselves towards a hard rock landscape, or arguably the other way around, Blind Ego's new album "Preaching to the Choir" is one that merits an inspection. A quality album by a quality venture.

Report this review (#2311763)
Posted Sunday, February 2, 2020 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars [Originally published at The Progressive Aspect]

Blind Ego is the solo project of RPWL member Kalle Wallner. That might seem obvious to many reading this, but I found this out quite some time after first listening to the band. As much as I can appreciate why so many people like RPWL, they don't do it for me. Blind Ego, on the other hand, I have always enjoyed what I've heard. I do wonder how many people may not have given Blind Ego a chance, if they know the RPWL connection, because I have a feeling if I had known that, I may never have listened to them myself ? and I would have been missing out.

So, first things first. Blind Ego do not sound like RPWL. It is a more streamlined, straightforward, harder-rocking sound. There are keys, but they have no dominance. I wouldn't be at all surprised if fans of RPWL do not find Blind Ego to their taste (or, in my case, vice versa). Furthermore, Blind Ego is a solo project, with interviews promoting previous albums emphasising Kalle Wallner's desire to work alone, instead of writing songs with a band. Differing line-ups have seen quite different sounding albums ? or even quite different sounding songs within an album.

I first came across Blind Ego by way of Dante, who are on Kalle Wallner's record label. The previous studio album was promoted on their Facebook page, and I duly gave it a listen, not knowing anything about the band. I liked it, but it didn't blow me away, and I put the band aside to listen to again sometime. Sometime didn't occur until Dante again mentioned Blind Ego, because Julian Kellner of Dante had joined Blind Ego on second guitar. I enjoyed the Liquid Live release far more than Liquid itself. Seven of the ten tracks on Liquid Live come from Liquid, but all seem to have an extra dimension and cohesion live, especially when sung by one vocalist. Liquid Live is a very solid set, played by some quality musicians, quite obviously enjoying themselves doing so.

Now, if you are wondering why I am giving all this detail, there is a reason. The new Blind Ego album, Preaching to the Choir, is not only my favourite yet from the band, but it is the first to have been released by a long-standing line-up. Since the release of Liquid, Blind Ego have had a touring line-up of Wallner, Julian Kellner, Sebastian Harnack, Michael Christoph and Scott Balaban. The consistency of the live line-up has solidified an identify for the band, that I had always thought missing, and they have taken that into the studio. Preaching to the Choir is a more consistent and cohesive listen than any prior Blind Ego album, and where Blind Ego has always been a solo project, it now sounds like a band.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that Balaban is a key to giving Blind Ego its own identity. Where on previous albums Blind Ego has appeared a collection of well-known artists ? especially in regard to the choice of vocalists ? Balaban is somewhat of an unknown quantity. As much as I might, for example, like Arno Menses, there is no getting away from the idea that I am listening to a song with Arno from Subsignal singing it. That is to say, another band than the one I am actually listening to is in my mind. I sincerely hope that Kalle Wallner keeps this line-up as long as he is able to, and especially Scott Balaban, as his vocals definitely fit the music incredibly well.

So, the music. The core of Blind Ego is still the guitar and keys of Kalle Wallner, but along with the rest of the band, it is manifestly audible that they have now played together and gelled for some time. This band sounds more fluid and in unison than on any other Blind Ego studio release. The fluidity and unity is reflected in the flow of the album, too. Where previous studio albums could sound quite different from song to song, almost sounding more like a compilation than an album, Preaching to the Choir sounds like a whole.

The drum-driven Massive is a fairly simple but very effective opening number to the album, and also a great introduction to Scott Balaban's vocals. The chorus is one of several ear-worms I have found myself humming to myself at work. The title track follows, and is a little more bombastic. And if we're talking ear-worms, then this is the one. If there is one chorus I find myself humming or singing to myself more often than any other, it will be this one.

Strangely, the next track is the absolute nadir for me. I say strangely as Burning Alive has been chosen as the lead single. Obviously Kalle Wallner and/or the band feels that this is the strongest song to promote the album with, and yet I find it completely uninspiring. In fact, I find it the least representative of the sound of the album. For an album full of exciting sounds, this track just sounds bland to me. It is not for lack of trying, either. I have listened to the album (and therefore this song) over a dozen times. In an attempt to see whether I just haven't enjoyed this song so much, because I like the songs either side of it so much, I have listened to the album on shuffle so that Burning Alive is not necessarily sandwiched between two tracks I'd rather hear. Sorry, Kalle and company, this is the one track on the album that I just can't get into.

The following track, however, is my favourite on the album. Line in the Sand starts with an electronic burst that makes one wonder just what is going to follow. For me, this is one of the strongest songs on the album, and the one which should have been the lead single. Blind Ego is a band which excels as much with the harder and heavier pieces as the calmer and quieter. Line in the Sand shows off both aspects admirably, although it is clearly heavier in general.

But just in case it were not obvious, Dark Paradise comes after and is a quite beautiful ballad. For me, this is one of the greatest strengths of the band. I don't exactly hate ballads ? but it is far more usual for me to dislike them than enjoy them. Ballads can so easily be cheesy and corny, and that is fine for a lot of people. Blind Ego with Dark Paradise show that they are a band that can play a ballad without resorting to cheese and corn. Perhaps this is due to the 'Dark' more than the 'Paradise', but whatever it is, it works.

The album finishes with an incredibly powerful one-two punch of Broken Land and The Pulse, which are my next favourite tracks after Line in the Sand. The Pulse, especially, I feel needs to be mentioned. I suspect this will be the favourite tracks of many people who listen to the album, and I wouldn't be surprised if over time it takes over from Line in the Sand in my affections. Just as the album began in a drum-driven way with Massive, the drums play a big part in The Pulse. Actually there is a slight Tool vibe to The Pulse (through a Pink Floyd filter), with drums and bass providing a solid backbone and grooving together throughout. It is also the most overtly prog song on the album. Although all the members of Blind Ego come from a prog background, the band usually keeps prog exactly there ? in the background. It is there if you listen for it, but it is only in The Pulse that you really know you are listening to a prog band.

Personally, though, I have never cared about labelling music. I think it is usually a pointless exercise. This album rocks, and ultimately that is all that matters. If this is what Blind Ego sound like, from here on in, I cannot wait to hear the next release!

Report this review (#2378162)
Posted Friday, May 8, 2020 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars For a band who are on their fourth album, releasing their debut 'Mirror' as long ago as 2007, it seems a little mean to point out that this is actually a side project of RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner, but given he will always be associated with them, it has to be done. However, unlike RPWL, and indeed unlike the band which preceded that one, Violet District (whose only album 'Terminal Breath' came out in 1992 ? I remember reviewing it at the time, god I'm old) this is not a band heavily influenced by Pink Floyd. To be honest, based on this album alone I wouldn't even call them a progressive rock band ? I haven't heard the last two so don't know how they compare ? but here we have a melodic hard rock outfit with, at best, some neo prog influences.

So, although some RPWL fans may search this out due to the connections with that band, they may well turn away in some dismay as here we have an album where the guitarist allows himself full rein to hit power chords and simply rock in a way which he restrains himself from doing in RPWL. When asked about the album title, Wallner says "It's about blind understanding. When you get the right people on board, there is no need for lengthy explanations. You just hit the recording button. And when you then give the right musicians the right music ? that's when they help you take it to the next level. No need to convince anybody, no discussions. And no compromises are necessary. You just pump it out." This is certainly an album which has been pumped out, with a superb melodic hard rock performance with great songs and licks, and a special mention must be made of singer Scott Balaban who strides across proceedings like a colossus. This may be his first studio album with the band, but he has been involved for a while, and indeed was the singer on the 2017 live album 'Liquid Live' and he is the perfect foil to Wallner. He also provided most of the lyrics, and the result is something which is powerful and instinctive.

This is a really enjoyable album from beginning to end, just put out of your mind that here is the guy from RPWL, as finally this feels very much like a band as opposed to a side project and it is going to be fascinating to see where they take it from here as they move solidly into melodic hard rock.

Report this review (#2414312)
Posted Saturday, June 20, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars BLIND EGO is RPWL's guitarist band. This album is their 4th. I had been alerted and seduced by "Mirror" and especially "Numb" of 2009, flirting with a good ARENA, a little PORCUPINE TREE and IQ, in short, good especially as the singers came from those of ARENA and gave a different air of what one would expect on his original band. We can feel here the hard FM, the AOR even with the well-chiseled choruses, but not only. The presence of Sebastian de SYLVAN'S on the bass gives more intensity, heaviness and goes into rock metal with progressive drifts, but let's take a closer look.

"Massive" begins with a very fat, full sound, 30 '' TO MARS lineage but with more synths, sustained neo-prog, then an effective riff tells us straight away about the background of the album; it's heavy, heavier than RPWL, the submachine gun drums are our ears, it's concise, slightly groovy prog metal, and the prog sounding comes with the keyboard layers; otherwise it's very punchy melodic metal, Kalle's touch having something to do with it. 'Preaching To The Choir', the 2nd longest track, always on a catchy tune, with several drawers with latency and metal prog like 30 '' TO MARS knew how to do it so well, the small chorus at the end showing nevertheless well the desire to get out of melodic prog metal. It's square, it's professional.

'Burning Alive' tumbles with an almost pop title, which would make you want to listen to the radio again' if the stations were playing music again! It's almost dancing, a clean, well-crafted sound, a little memory of the REO SPEEDWAGON from afar, a bit of the energetic TOTO with another voice though, plunged into the 80's for sure. "Line In The Sand" returns with a musical bombshell shared by nasty neo-prog, pop-rock verses and a wild chorus, violent even but also tamed by the soft voice that ensues, a little djent, a little in the line of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, it deposits! "Dark Paradise" with the mega hit on the border of the romantic ballad, hit that we could listen to in replay, a bit of EUROPE, a bit of JOURNEY, a bit of FOREIGNER for another potential hit, acoustic guitar, synth then millimeter solo of the guitar before the end in acoustics.

"In Exile" continues in the same vein, I can hear bits of Billy Idol's voice and a rhythm that makes you move your legs, good melodic prog rock in itself. 'Heading For The Stars' and again that warm, languid voice that goes wonderfully with the basic rhythm; a fracture occurs during the more melodic, more welcoming, more progressive chorus 'in the sense of proposing a different atmosphere' arising from the basic rhythm; here perhaps the two most beautiful guitar solos in a row and 5'30 "where there is nothing to throw away. "Broken Lands" leaves him on a heavy tune, an imposing bass and a melodic atmosphere, more predictable, the riff maintaining the energetic frame. "The Pulse" finally for the title which will make us regret the too short previous titles: voice ' la Bruce Dickinson, latent rhythmic base, the foot of any fan of prog from France, Navarre and Quebec: energetic crescendo and immense title , hypnotic; prog, that which we know no longer exists for a mixture of genres, passing through all states; a title which irremediably attracts the replay touch, an essential title, nervous, riffs, breaks, BLIND EGO in full force.

BLIND EGO released an album of raw and pure energy earlier this year. BLIND EGO allows you to travel on progressive landscapes by allying heavy prog and melodic prog, by pushing the prog metal of papa to the nettles and by giving it back a punchy outline, when many bring calmer sounds, which changes a little in the current universe. The only regret and sizeable, why not have composed more titles like the last one, why not have ventured more into these progressive climates? This album could have been even better in that sense.

Report this review (#2431753)
Posted Friday, July 24, 2020 | Review Permalink

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