Still following their own path, Portland Maine's By Blood Alone returns with their third album Thunderbirds. Four years have passed since Seas of Blood (2007), but not without challenges. Lead singer Cruella had to battle breast cancer shortly after its release. Expect Thunderbirds to be some of her most personal and emotional expression. In native American mythology the 'thunderbird' is considered a "supernatural" bird of power and strength. Perhaps, excluding the supernatural element, this describes Cruella and By Blood Alone's resolve to create this work.
Never one to be pigeon-holed into the goth rock or metal scene, Thunderbirds finds BBA pursuing new adventures within the melodic, gothic, and progressive context. After a listen or two, By Blood Alone seems less metal (though it has not entirely dissolved), more rock, definitely progressive and eclectic, and nearly old school UK melodic prog rock. Throughout Thunderbirds, I thought I was hearing a female led version of Uriah Heep, but more wistful, technical, and inventive. Maybe it's the keyboards which sound like a cross between an Hammond and Whrefitzer.
From the rollicking opener Drive All Night, which defies any suspicion of goth convention, to the deeply moving closing piece Misfit, BBA travels an open road of intrigue. There are seven tracks here, but excepting one they all clock at seven minutes or better. This is your proverbial money's worth. Night Terrors is moody but transcendent and spirited piece. The longer I Bleed is plodding, near doom rock, and introspective. Having Tea, a song that see-saws between the ethereal and energy moves on the backbone of bass of drums. The title track finds By Blood Alone returning to more heavier prog metal, but with a whimsical feeling in its pace and contours. About five and half minutes in it has that sudden switch to a foreboding doom feel. Needless to say, with Thunderbirds, expect surprises from this band. (One thing they need to do is provide a lyric sheet.)
There is little doubt By Blood Alone is a band that will not stand still. Thunderbirds finds them in continuous progression, deepening their sound and exploring new directions. Is Thunderbirds their best album to date? Possibly. It is their most mature, intriguing, and entertaining work. Easily recommended.
There is little doubt By Blood Alone is a band that will not stand still. Thunderbirds finds them in continuous progression, deepening their sound and exploring new directions. Is Thunderbirds their best album to date? Possibly.