Review Summary: An incredibly strong debut, from a band that sadly went to shit after this.
Released in 2008 by a bunch of 15-14 year olds, Black Tide’s “Light From Above” easily holds its own against material from other artists that are (or used to be) in the in this genre, mostly as a result of musical and vocal proficiency that is for the most part, on par with thrash’s bigger bands, but production that is considerably better than some of the band’s contemporaries.
The album starts off incredibly strong, in an opener that gets everything right. Every band member has some time to shine in this song, with the bass being actually audible, the vocals being very well performed, and both the rhythm and lead guitarist demonstrating just how skilled they are. Despite the fact that around 70% of this song’s lead guitar work is just going up and down a minor pentatonic scale, it’s executed with a deliberacy, and a precision that makes clear that the guitarist is definitely capable more playing much more complex stuff, should he feel the need to.
And more complex stuff certainly does happen, but for the time being; allow me to draw your attention towards one of the best songs on the album. “Shout” is mainstream pandering at its absolute best. Being quite possibly the softest song on the album, however it’s worth nothing that it still falls quite comfortably within speed/thrash/heavy metal sound of the album. It just goes to demonstrate the impressive consistency of this album, in terms of mood and sound- that the softest and most mainstream song on the thing is still intense enough to make any Shinedown fan *** their pants. (Shinedown has some good albums, don’t @ me) Marginally less heavy on the distortion, and a cleaner sound on the vocal side, “Shout” is just a really solid, entertaining, and incredibly energetic heavy metal anthem, with a few more simple, albeit effective and skillfully played pentatonic solos.
Of course, the album does have its missteps, as all albums do. The biggest of which being the song “Warriors Of Time,” which is by no means a bad song. However, it’s arguably the stupidest one. And the stupidity comes from the lyrics, which are incredibly cheesy, ham fisted, as about as subtle as your average Nickelback song. And the instrumentation isn’t special enough to elevate it enough to be no par with the rest of this album. However, it does have a very good music video, that you should definitely check out.
The last song that I intend to bring up in great detail would be the album’s 5th track “let me.” Put simply, this song is easily the best on the album from a vocal and instrumental standpoint. Unfortunately, the lyrics leave something to be desired. But poor lyricism is more than made up for by literally every other aspect of the song. Noticeably good drumming, and really really good basswork, are nice to see on an album that is already populated by vocals and guitar that have already been established to be very good. This song has the best leadwork in the album, and its driving riff is everything you could ever want out of a riff in this genre. This song is a near perfect marriage of speed, technicality, bouncieness, crunchiness and energy. The tone of the guitars is perfected in this song, as they take on a slightly harsher, and considerably fuller sound, that really rounds out the sound of the song, and the end result is an incredibly satisfying song.
And of course, this brings be to another point that needs to be made. The production. In my reviews, I really like to to talk about how well and/or poorly produced an album is, which I don’t see very often in other reviews. And I’d imagine the reason for this is that most people don’t really care about something like that, as the technical side of music can be easily be overlooked for a passive listener. I certainly didn’t care about it at all, until I actually started making music and in the process of learning how to produce what I had recorded, learned how much effort and work goes into that aspect of music.
So on the production side of things, this album is superb. Every instrument sounds fully fleshed out, and are all just as audible as each other, which makes for a great listening experience. The guitars have a healthy balance highs, mids, and lows, without falling into the trap of just turning the mids all the way down and everything else all the way up. I hate it when bands do this, and I am unable to enjoy music that does this as the guitar just sounds dull, muddy, and in general, rather bad. The whole album is cutting and raw in just the right way, where the edge to the music itself comes down to the tone of the actual instruments, rather than feedback, amp buzz or other kinds of interference that I often notice being artificially inserted into songs to flesh them out a little. While I have no issue with that, I still see it as a bit of a crutch, and I much prefer to hear bands that let the music speak for itself.
So overall, would I personally recommend this album. I absolutely would, for a fan of the genre, it’s everything you could ever hope to get out of an album, and it’s still accessible for newcomers for the genre, and has potential to garner some new fans. Sadly, after this album, Black Tide got really sub-par, really fast. Their next three albums were all severe drops in quality, as they transitioned to just being another average hard rock band. That said, none of them are necessarily bad, but I can only recommend “Light From Above.” With with all that being said, go listen to it right now.