Backhill is a new project from Finnish multi-instrumentalist Kimmo Perämäki, who handles the guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals on “Shadow Man”. Though his musical history lies in power metal (he is a former member of Celesty), “Shadow Man” leans in a bit of a different direction. The best description of this release would be melodic metal. It’s definitely a bit of a vague term in general, but it perfectly describes this album. The songs are built around great melodies, both vocal and guitar, and it sort of sounds like “easy-listening” metal. In fact, the only song on this entire album that displays any aggression is the short tune “She Said” (which is one of the stronger tracks). Aside from that, the rest of the album is more straightforward, and very easy to get into. At times, the band builds a bit of a creepy atmosphere, such as on the title track, but overall, this album is just about having fun.
Two very apt comparisons to Backhill would be the bands Altaria and Fullforce. Both are more focused on writing really great songs rather than sticking within the confines of power metal. As a result, the music ends up being a bit lighter, and perhaps alienates those who need some double bass, but the music ultimately proves very rewarding. Backhill takes a similar approach on “Shadow Man”. As the album goes on, it actually strays further from metal and more into rock territory. One exception is the closing ballad “Little Lighthouse”, which is neither rock nor metal. Despite being the softest song on the album, it is actually one of the best. It is a duet featuring some female vocals, and a really catchy chorus. The song actually sounds like it was written for Michael Kiske; or at least, both singers offer a similar delivery that is very effective (it's just easy to imagine how incredible Kiske would sound on this track). Another great tune is the instrumental "Jaako and the Beanstalk", which displays both Perämäki's shredding abilities and his ability to write incredibly captivating guitar lines.
Despite my praise above, I find the album to be lacking just a little. As mentioned earlier, I’m ok with it not being too heavy, but unfortunately it doesn’t feel like the songs always make up for the lack of speed and intensity. When they do, this album is incredibly enjoyable, but at other times, you kind of just want Perämäki to let loose and unleash a power metal assault. At the very least, this album displays a lot of potential. There’s nothing that’s outright bad, but perhaps a better balance between the band’s softer approach and some more rocking tunes could make the band’s future records stronger. Nevertheless, this is highly recommended for fans of the aforementioned Altaria and Fullforce, as you can never have too much of that style of music!
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"Jaako and the Beanstalk"
3.75/5 or 75%.
Written by Scott