Balms - Mirror - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Balms - Mirror

by Sean Hewson Rating:6 Release Date:2019-02-01
Balms - Mirror
Balms - Mirror

Balms are a three-piece from San Francisco and Mirror is their debut album.

Twin tracks of feedback warn of the barrage to come and Nothing In starts out as fairly standard, fuzzy, Shoegaze. However, the chord progression and vocal melody are strong. Possibly hinting at a Pop-Punk/Pop-Emo background (these guys met at school in the early 2000s). Bones has a more muscular bass and drum attack. The sound most reminds me of Placebo, another melodically-strong but also noisy band. This track is longer with a bit more interplay between bass and guitar, but the coda is over-long. Dark Rider has another big intro, held together by a meaty, fuzz bass; filling in a lot of space for the three-piece. The melody is less memorable here and the sound strays towards Goth/Alternative 80s. Plane is a bit more of a banger with a nice, intricate guitar part which stands as a default chorus, the falsetto vocal over the top is possibly not required as the music stands on its own. The ending is very Emo, but also good. The suggestion of Emo continues with the arpeggios of No One Is A Way Down. A nice, fuzz bass starts up I Feel Fine and it’s a nice change, but the dragging melody fails to sustain the pace and the song meanders on for 6 minutes. The switch to 3/4 time for the title track is welcome, as is the lighter feel, the backing vocals, and chord changes. The melody doesn’t quite engage though and Balms’ tendency to try and make everything epic takes over from the subtleties of the early parts of the song. The time signature and lighter feel continue on The Room and work better this time as the band keeps themselves in check and just let the song play out. The murky, reverb at the beginning of Hands Out is another nice change. Bigger guitars come in but they don’t fully succeed in drowning it out. A sudden change of pace and arrangement halfway through freshens things up a bit. But the big ending lapses back to their epic tendencies. Candle is also fairly bombastic but there is the suggestion of something a little more interesting in the vocal melody. Setting Sun, the final track, again starts in reverb-y murk, like Bowery Electric. They soon shift to their basic sound but hold back a lot more and the track is a lot better for it.

Mirror is a fairly solid debut. It doesn’t set the world alight but it does promise more from a second album. At their best, Balms are a tight, three-piece with some good tunes performed in a muscular, Emo-Shoegaze way. The problems come with the editing and arranging – the songs are a bit long and there is little in the way of flow or dynamics, just the three lads playing their hearts out from start to finish. This means that parts of the album can drift passed in a kind of pleasant, generic way. But, just a little tightening up of the arrangements will, I’m sure, reap rewards next time around.

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