• Great potential but flawed songwriting - A review of Edenbridge's "The Bonding"

    Edenbridge - The Bonding (2013)

    Edenbridge has been one of the world's greatest symphonic metal bands in its early career. The band had the talent to mix ambitious symphonic soundscapes, intellectual progressive elements and memorable choruses in songs like "Sunrise in Eden", "Shine" and "The Grand Design" to only name a few potent examples. However, the band has lost steam since the beginning of the decade. The band started to repeat itself and was rarely able to mix the three components mentioned above as efficiently as in its early years. The Bonding presents a band that is still better than the gros of symphonic metal groups but it also can't compete with any of its own first six albums.

    Things start promisingly with "Mystic River". It opens with a gripping riff before it gets more ambitious, bombastic and elegant with a great mixture of smooth and vivid passages and Sabine Edelsbacher proves that she is one of this genre's most underrated singers as her enchanting vocals are absolutely unique. Everything seems to lead to an epic finale when the band suddenly starts to fade out the track thirty seconds before it ends. That is possibly the worst ending for such a song. Fade-outs have never been good, are still not good and won't ever be good. It's a lazy and unoriginal way to end a song. If this were the very last song on the album, I could maybe tolerate this but in that case, it becomes the auditive equivalent to a coitus interruptus.

    After spoiling the song that would have potentially been the best on this album, Edenbridge delivers a good genre record but fails to add anything new to the formula. "Alight a New Tomorrow" is the potential single focused on a strong chorus, garnished with exotic folk soundscapes and dramatic symphonic elements but the guitar riffs are bland and exchangeable. "Star-Crossed Dreamer" has a very appropriate title because it's a smooth ballad with classical soundtrack elements but it misses an emotional climax. "Death Is Not the End" is another ballad that comes around with wonderfully played acoustic guitars and piano parts and soothing vocals but it once again misses a climax, overstays its welcome and ends with another vapid fade-out. Every song on this record has many positive elements which is mostly due to creative multi-Instrumentalist Lanvall and Edelsbacher's fascinating vocals. However, each song has some songwriting issues and fails to get to the point. The title track "The Bonding" once again exemplifies my thesis. It features haunting atmospheric parts and strong melodies but clearly overstays its welcome with a length beyond fifteen minutes.

    If Edenbridge wants to reclaim the genre throne, three things need to be done. First of all, less can be so much more. The songwriting needs to be more concise, the songs should be shorter and get faster to the point. Secondly, the band needs to find the perfect balance between symphonic, progressive and catchy elements again and this can only work by trying out new things and challenging itself instead of sticking to the formula of past glory. The idea to invite some skilled guest singers is already a good one, the guitar riffs could be heavier and the rhythm section should also be more involved to make for a more organic sound. Thirdly, the band has to find more original ways to finish its songs. fade-outs or abrupt endings aren't acceptable for experienced songwriters. A bombastic climax on one side or a smooth coda are options that should be explored more often.

    In the end, The Bonding is a good album but it's also a little bit frustrating because the band has the potential to be so much better. Genre fans and faithful followers of the band should grab this release but anyone else should discover the band's early records such as Sunrise in Eden, Aphelion and Shine first.

    Final rating: 70%

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