Black Riders Part 1 – HeartScore
The 6th album to be released by HeartScore sees the man behind the project Dirk Radloff going in a bit of new direction. Well I say a “bit” but this is perhaps more of a totally different direction and shift from prog rock too metal. His latest album Black Riders Part 1 is certainly nothing like its predecessors, and it appears to have unleashed the BEAST! out of him. There is quite a Mighty Wrath Of War going on throughout this latest release of his which was inspired by the dark poems of the famous American 19th century author Stephen Crane.
Well no doubt Judas Priest had their “Metal Gods” and Queen had their “Lap Of The Gods” but through Crane’s inspirational words, I suppose you could say that HeartScore now has it’s “Wrath Of The Gods” and this is quite a very powerful and masterfully well crafted piece of work. The way the album flows along it even comes across is like a concept album to some degree even if it’s not, but how all the tracks have been so well placed it can give you that impression.
I suppose in a way it is a concept based on author of the words himself Stephen Crane. Although setting music to poetry is nothing new for Dirk Radloff and 4 of his 5 previous albums were all set to the poems of famous authors who are no longer with us, and have not been for more than a century in most cases.
No doubt a lot of people would never have heard of Dirk Radloff and his project of HeartScore unless you was an unknown musician like myself who got to discover him and his music on Soundcloud and various other streaming sites alike. But before I go into a bit of the man’s background and his music, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.
The Packaging & Artwork…
The CD comes in a very slender and neat slimline Digisleeve with a pocket on the right hand side to hold the disc in place. As quite often with some DigiSleeves they do not come with a booklet just like the one here, and all the linear credit and production notes are written on the sleeve itself. Overall it’s a very neat and tidy looking presentation and the fact that its slimline, it also takes up less space to store.
The artwork cover and all other drawings were done by Alexander Stanton. The artwork concept, design and layout was done by Dirk Radloff himself. I like the way the artwork drawings have been printed onto a black background, and it perhaps gives one the impression that the drawings have been drawn onto a blackboard with how they stand out so well. You get a lot more of Stanton’s artwork if you buy one of the super packages to which also comes with a 48 page Hardcover Book.
HeartScore The Project And The Man Behind It…
Dirk Radloff is a multi-instrumentalist from Germany who received formal classical training on the violin as a child and music very much ran in his family and his father also a played the violin & cello. He studied music at an early age and learned how to read and write music on the staff. He also took up playing the guitar and in his youth spent much of it playing live in various bands even playing American surf music similar to instrumental bands such as The Shadows with a band called The Golden Tornados and I do believe he was also the singer in a rock band at one stage. But no doubt music flowed through his veins and he had also studied the art of arrangement and composition.
By the time Radloff had got into his 30’s he very much decided to work on his own studio project to which he called HeartScore. No doubt Radloff had learned all the fundamentals of music well enough and had studied very hard in composition and arrangement. He had also picked up a lot about production work and in 2003 he released his first album Sculptures under the name of his own project HeartScore. The very name of his project implies two things. The first meaning that its music written from the heart or could even be seen as Art. The second means that the music was scored onto a musical staff or piece of paper.
To be honest you have to be very clever to be able to compose music in the way that Radloff composes his own music, and he does compose or write it before he’s even played a note of it himself. If Radloff has a weakness its certainly not in his musical capabilities but rather the lyrical side of things for his songs. Which is why when he set up his own studio project he decided to set his music to the poems of well known American poets, such as the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Langston Hughes, and Emily Dickinson for example.
Radloff’s own musical influences are quite vast and come from a wide spectrum of musical styles and genres such as classical music of the many GREAT composers such a Wagner, Liszt, Chopin, Bach you could probably name them all. Rock, Prog Rock, Jazz, Metal, and even Pop such as the likes of The Who, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Steely Dan, Yes, King Crimson, Voivod, King’s X, Captain Beefheart and so on, and a lot of those styles can reflect in his own music he writes.
I would even say that his own vocal multi part choral vocal harmonies come from his love of Queen’s music, and they still feature in his music today, despite coming off the main vocal duties himself for a few years now, and these days he very much hires an American singer by the name of Chris (Courtesy of Studiopros) to take on the main vocal duties for him. He also appeared on his last album that was released back in 2016.
But hiring or bringing in other singers and musicians into his own project, as very much been a thing from the offset since his first album Sculptures. And even on that album he had Oliver Harstack contributing some dramatic vocals on 4 of the tracks of the album. Radloff’s debut album Sculptures is a very good album by the way, and one that he himself sees more of an experiment and having a weakness to it regarding his own compositions and perhaps the production side of things. These days he tends to shun away from it. You will not even see it on his own Bandcamp site where he sells most of his music these days either.
But I myself beg to dither, and this is an album that purely rocks, and it also comes with a very good production and has also been professionally mastered too. And later on in footnote of my review here I shall be giving somebody the opportunity to win the album in my very first ever competition. But please bear in mind that the CD is not brand new, but it is as good as new and is in excellent condition.
Also my reason for giving one person the chance to win it, is because I have the album twice as you can see in the picture below. So it’s not that I am going to be starting a trend of running competitions in my reviews by any means, and I am not that wealthy enough to go out a buy a brand new copy either to give away :)))))).
As a musician Radloff is very talented and his main instruments he plays are the violin and guitar. Apart from those instruments and his voice, much of the other instrumentation is programmed such as the drums and keyboards for example, and occasionally he will bring in the odd musician now and then to play some of those instruments and others for him.
As a composer he is also very serious about his music, and is always looking for other avenues to market and sell his music. Not in the way of becoming rich and famous, but I suppose in the way of getting his music out there a bit more for more people to recognise and take a bit more notice of it. After all there is not much point in making records and releasing them in the form of a physical product only to find out that your basement is getting cluttered up with them :))))))).
For any composer who makes music in their studio only, who does not go out and play live. Its always going to be difficult to attract any great deal of attention to your music. Like many musicians like Radloff they also have a family and a job to keep a roof over their heads and only get the chance to make music is in their spare time. Most people create music in their spare time as an hobby and even give it away for free. But if you had spent all the years studying music to be able to create it in the skilful way he does, and threw in the money it cost to produce it as well. You certainly would not want to be giving it away, that’s for sure.
Making music can be very costly, and Dirk Radloff is not the type of person who will skimp on creating his music and getting it out there either. He is not the type of person to give up on it either, despite the fact that it costs him a damn site more money to make an an album, than what he will ever get back in return. It’s perhaps understandable because there is no doubt there is a lot of skill that goes into his music, and there are not many musicians even in the mainstream world who possess this guys talent, and can write music in this way of putting the pen to the paper first, and play it afterwards.
I first stumbled upon Dirk’s music a good few years ago now on Soundcloud and it appealed to me enough to buy it. I have been a fan of his music ever since and have even collaborated with him on occasions as many other have as well. But from also being an avid listener of music and not just a creator of it myself. I can honestly say you have to be some sort of genius to be able to create music the way he does.
I am not saying the music he makes will appeal to everyone’s taste, and this recent new change in direction could even be even be seen as a way of seeing if it does grab more attention and appeals to more people. Even if he is also quite heavily into metal himself. But he also has gone about things a bit differently with his choice of physical media formats he has chosen for this new release, and no doubt he is still looking into other avenues to get his music across to people.
Black Riders Part 1 Limited Editions…
Besides the usual Digital Download of the album you can buy. Black Riders Part 1 also comes in the form of 2 other physical media packages. Both of these packages also come with the option of a Super or Deluxe Package that comes with an Hardback Book. All of these physical packages are also extremely limited and only 50 copies of each have been made and are available to purchase. No doubt that Dirk Radloff has gone to even more expense in paying to have these type of physical media formats made with the less quantities he has ordered, in relation to getting them cheaper by ordering them more so in bulk.
But I guess he was fed up of stocking them by the masses in his basement :))))))). So in the long run he may have done the sensible thing. But there is no expense spared here and they are all quality packages to suit your personal choice.
The CD package is perhaps one of the most common of the physical media formats these days and is my personal preferred format these days (apart from a 5.1 mix on SACD/DVD or Blu Ray that is) and its also perhaps more widely available even though they have re-introduced vinyl again these days. It’s also the most durable and reliable format and does away with all your surface noise and snap, crackle and pop marks :)))))).
This next media format is something you do not see so much these days, and just like vinyl it appears to making a comeback in some places, and somebody thought it would be a good idea to try and re-introduce the Cassette back onto the market.
For me personally the Cassette was a format I was glad to see the back of in reality, although no doubt it served its purpose back in its day, especially for musicians to record their song demos on. Portable Cassette players were quite convenient to do so by simply picking up your guitar and hitting the record button and recording it onto a blank tape. These days it’s just as convenient enough to do so with your mobile phone or computer.
No doubt they used to also use this format for pre-recorded albums of mainstream artists back in those days too, but back then I can honestly say that I myself never walked into any record shop and brought one brand new, and I would not either. I would always buy the vinyl record back then rather than waste my money on such an inferior audio format. I am not saying they do not sound good and its really down to if you’re not the type of person who spends a great deal of money on HiFi and are not that bothered about genuine quality and forking out that much more for it. I would even say that a lot of today’s younger generation are not really fussed about genuine quality when it comes to playing their music these days, so this will certainly appeal more to them.
But the Cassette was perhaps more prone to get damaged and the oxide on the tape did not last that long before it started to deteriorate. So it was not the most reliable of audio formats and in reality I would even rate the digital download on MP3 a more reliable product even if it’s not a physical one. But no doubt seeing the rebirth of the Cassette is perhaps more of a novelty for the younger generation these days, so I can see why Dirk has decided to include it here.
Both the CD and Cassette packages also come with the option of buying them in a Super or Deluxe Packages as I mentioned earlier. All of these packages also come with a free digital download of the album too. But with the Super package you also get an Hardback Book, and the only way of getting your hands on the book is by buying it in one of these packages, as its not sold separately. No doubt this package will bump up the price and the book is a separate item and it does not come with CD or Cassette fixed inside the book like most mainstream packages. So you do get two quality items for the money here.
This is the package I opted to go for myself in the end has you can see by the picture below, and to be honest I am glad I did. You can also see that I went for my preferred choice of audio format too, and this what you get with with the CD Super Package.
To give you a better look at the book itself, I decided to post a video presentation that Dirk did himself and posted on his own Youtube channel himself awhile back. It saves me making a video to show you plus he has a lot better means than myself of making such a video too, and the music you can hear in the background is the only instrumental track on the album and is titled “Gods” and no doubt it ROCKS too.
To be honest the book is certainly more impressive than how it looks in this video, and here Dirk mainly flicked through the pages, so you are not really going to see how impressive all the artwork Alexander Stanton has done here, and he’s certainly done plenty of it too. Besides the really GREAT! artwork the 48 page book also comes with all the lyrics and some useful informative information about the American poet Stephen Crane whose poetry is set to the music we have here. It really is a splendid well made package and GREAT! presentation.
The Album In Review…
Black Riders Part 1 by HeartScore was released on the 1st November 2018. The first day of November was specifically chosen to tie in with the date that the American poet and novelist Stephen Crane was born which was on the 1st November 1871. I pre-ordered my copy on the 22nd of October and it arrived a few days before its release a week later on the 29th which is not bad going at all considering it came from Germany.
The albums itself contains 20 tracks, and even though the biggest majority of them are very short and being around the 2 to 3 minute mark, the album still weighs in with an overall playing time of 60 minutes, 58 seconds making it the longest of all HeartScore albums. Though quite a few of his albums are generally around the 50 plus minute mark and his previous album only had half the amount of tracks on it, but was in fact only around 3 and half minutes shorter than what we have here.
Speaking of his last album which never came with a title and was the first album to feature a session vocalist by the name of Chris. The fact that album never had a title apart from Radloff’s own project name of HeartScore in many ways it perhaps marked a brand new direction for HeartScore with having a lead vocalist. But what you get with this new album is more of a change in direction to anything Radloff has ever done before regarding the albums he has put out over the last couple of decades.
To be honest over the years I have known Dirk I have always kept in close contact with him and his music on Facebook like a friend. I have most likely heard more or less nearly everything he has done regarding his music, and I have to admit when he first posted some of the new tracks he was working on for this album over the last year, I was not overly impressed with the new directional change from prog to metal.
Metal is not really my thing in relation to prog rock apart from bands like Black Sabbath who are not really thrashing it out, and neither do they have a vocalist whose doing nothing else but death growls where you cannot understand a bloody word they are saying :)))))). So that type of metal never did really appeal to me. Thankfully Dirk had never seen the need to change his vocalist, not even for this new direction he was heading in with his music. But speaking of the session vocalist he uses from Studopros Dot Com they do not come exactly cheap at 100 Euro per song. Especially when you have an album with 20 of them and the biggest majority of them are really short.
No doubt you do sometimes get a discount when you hire a session singer to sing more than one song in one session, and he would of also saved some money on one the tracks to which is an instrumental track. But I still would of reckoned it would of cost him well over £1,000 in my currency to hire Chris just to make this album, and that’s without paying for the session player to play a bit of Saxophone on one of the tracks too. So has you can plainly see, Dirk does take his music seriously enough to lash out the money in making it, and there is no skimping here at all.
Musicians & Credits…
All songs written, arranged and produced by Dirk Radloff. All lyrics written by Stephen Crane. Mastering by Russell Sinfield. Artwork Concept Dirk Radloff. Cover Artwork & Drawings by Alexander Stanton.
Dirk Radloff: Guitars/Violin/Choir Harmonies/Make Noise O-Coast Modular Synthesizer/Programming & Drum Programming.
Chris: (Courtesy of Studiopros.com) Lead Vocals.
Gdaliy Garmiza: Saxophone (On Track 1 “In The Desert”)
All FX Sounds (On Track 10 “God In Wrath”) Provided by Free SFX Dot Co Dot UK.
The Album Tracks In Review…
Black Riders Part 1 is without a doubt an album that mainly consists of short tracks apart from 2 of them that is. But not even them are really that lengthy at 5 and 6 minutes. There is no doubt that Stephen Crane was a writer of short stories and poems and that is why most of the lengths of the tracks are quite short I would expect.
To be honest the fact that I seen just how short some of Cranes poems was whilst Dirk was in the process of making some of the tracks for this album, I felt that there is just no way that I myself could use poems like that to make songs with in the first place, and I would have had to rework them and add some more lyrics to them to work. Or even write my own words based around the subject matter of the poem itself, which would of been more of the way I would of went about things here personally.
I would even of thought that his singer Chris never had a comfortable job trying to put what few words we have here to sing to the music, and no doubt it is hard work with the music Dirk had presented to him to sing. But the fact that he had so little to sing and had to repeat some of the poems twice over may have even pissed him off :)))). I certainly know I would of been if somebody chucked these short poems at me to sing :)))))))).
But what I would also say is that certainly a lot of things have changed since I heard those first mixes awhile ago of some of the tracks, and the final mix and mastering of the tracks has certainly shed a lot more light even on the dark side of things we get with the wrath and anger of Cranes own words with how this album as actually turned out in the end.
The American poet, novelist, and short story writer Stephen Crane was born in New Jersey on the 1st November 1871 he died on the 5th June 1900 at the age of 28 whilst he was in Germany from a series of haemorrhages he had for the last few months of his life. Though Crane being also a reporter and writer for newspapers spent most of his time travailing, he spent most of his life in New York. He became notable for his works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. He is recognized by modern critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation.
His first book of poems The Black Riders and Other Lines marked Crane’s first serious venture into poetry. However it did not exactly go down very well and received mostly criticism, if not abuse, for the poems’ unconventional style and use of free verse. He wrote it 1895 the very the same year his second novel was published The Red Badge of Courage that gained him more attention and is perhaps his most notable works. His first novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets was inspired by Emily Dickinson and the fact that Dirk had written music to some of her poetry in the past may have been the connection we have here for him to latch onto the works of Crane.
The music Dirk wrote is well apt to Cranes book of poems and if anything it projects and unleashes the evil monster and the beast that he portrayed as god in many of his poems. So let’s now take a deeper look into the individual tracks of the album and see how well it as all turned out in my review here.
Track 1. In The Desert.
From the moment the album kicks off you get the impression that we are in a war and a very bitter evil one at that. There is no doubt doubt that Stephen Crane’s poetic words are suited to the dark evil side of war, and being in a war where you have just about had enough and are at the end of your tether so to speak. I suppose it could make one want to rip his own heart out and eat it with how war can be so disappointing, needless and pointless at times, and these words could also pertain to the bitter side of war even if that was not Cranes real intentions here. To which they was more based upon showing how human nature can be so inherently sinful and corrupt.
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter — bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.
No doubt the words we have here are more barbaric, and the creature in this picture and the words could just of easily have been a man. Cranes poems in his book The Black Riders and Other Lines may have been inspired by the wrath of god from the old testament in the bible interacting with disrespectful humans and was heavily criticised for the way he more or less portrayed god as the devil. But what we have in this poem could of easily related to the vision Crane had about war without him having battle experience that reflected in the book he wrote after it. The Red Badge of Courage to which won international acclaim for his writing about the Civil War that was more accepted by and praised by its readers.
Dirk uses electronic drums on this album and they do a pretty darn good job here pounding and stomping their way across the desert. As the track transcends along the drums are almost like machine guns pulverising and obliterating everything in sight. The drums really are like a heavy artillery. The heavy metal guitars follow the drums and project the the dramatics we have here too. Chris’s voice has the right direct and authoritative approach to deliver the words very well, and Gdaliy Garmiza’s saxophone adds that extra desert feel with his lines and along with the heavy guitars and it sort of gives this opening track a King Crimson feel with their album Red for example.
Track 2. Mystic Shadow.
The heavy artillery are still fighting in the desert by the sound of the drums spraying out more bullets in the middle section of this short track. This middle section is also quite punk rock like even though the drums and the heavy clashing of metal guitar are thrashing and thrapping it all out. We even get somebody trying to eat fire instead of his heart to pay for his sins so to speak :)))))))). You even get a slight bit of lead work from the guitar chiselling out some unusual mystic lines before it fizzles out at the end.
Crane very much wrote these dark poems based on some of his own personal experiences so its told, and no doubt he had some crazy shit going on in his head when he wrote them :)))))). They are all based on anti-religious themes and bring out the forces and presence of evil. The words we have in this short poem pertain to what he perhaps seen as the real the truth and not the truth that many believe as it should be. The god we have here is very much like the Damned :))))))) and the music we have here captures all the essence of it all.
Track 3. There Was A Crimson Clash Of War.
The album no doubt feels like a concept album with how each track bounces off each other, and how quickly they follow one another, they are almost joined together with how there is not much of gap between the tracks. It’s almost like each track is made of rubber with how they bounce and spring on you with a sense of dramatic action that is not going to stop. This track plants a picture in my mind of several Giant Locusts marching through the desert into war, and they mean action :)))))).
There is some great vocal expression from Chris and no doubt he’s done the business on all the tracks on the album. The drums are pounding and the guitars are menacing to drive the dramatic action we have here, and around the 1:50 mark we get a touch of the east with some fine lead lines to which are either coming from a synth, or Dirk may have even used his violin with some FX applied to it to make the sound we have here. Unless he brought in some Egyptian snake charmer :)))))). It’s very much one of the contenders for the Top Spot on the album.
Track 4. Behold The Grave Of A Wicked Man.
The story of a so called just spirit who prevents the maid from putting flowers on the wicked man’s grave, only her tears proved her love for the man more than the flowers, and the spirit was not just in the first place because he took his vengeance out on her and not the wicked man. Once again we get plenty of expression with the vocals and the music stomps it’s way along very well. We also do get more diversity with the changes on this track too.
Track 5. I Stood Upon A High Place.
Another short song with a short poem that works very well with all that Dirk has thrown into the pot here. He even manages to get his violin out for this track too. I suppose in some ways Crane’s words here could be seen as the pot calling the kettle black? or even a case of let he who is without sin cast the first stone?
I stood upon a high place,
And saw, below, many devils
and carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said, “Comrade! Brother!“
Track 6. Once I Saw Mountains Angry.
Well the first thing that came to my mind when I seen this rather bizarre title, was the bizarre words that Jon Anderson of Yes wrote for the song “Roundabout” with the sentence “Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there” and this guy Crane must of been off his Rocker:))))). But I suppose the moral of this story is that there is no need to make a mountain out of a mole hill, or rather you can turn a mountain into a mole hill if you have the courage to face up to it in the first place.
Like I mentioned earlier the way the tracks have been placed on the album, it does feel like a concept album, and it even feels like the story is continuing on from the previous track with the subject matter of them both being about high places. This is a very powerful track on the album with some great metal power chords on the guitar, powerhouse stomping drums, even the bass line coming from the synth is spring loaded and another excellent job by Chris on the vocals, and this is another contender for the Top Spot on the album.
Track 7. Black Riders Came From The Sea.
Black riders came from the sea.
There was clang and clang of spear and shield,
And clash and clash of hoof and heel,
Wild shouts and the wave of hair
In the rush upon the wind:
Thus the ride of sin.
The albums titled track sees the battle raging once again against the forces of evil and despite the lack of lyrics here they are not rushed and do get spread out more over the course of this song. This is actually one of the longer of the short tracks on the album, and at its time of 3 minutes, 35 seconds does allow the musical structure a bit more scope. So you do get a bit more diversity with this one, especially in the middle section with the transitional change. This allows Dirk to use his more familiar choir harmonies, to which the last two lines of the words are used for him to do so. It’s quite melodic too, and the only words that do get repeated by Chris here are those in the first line.
Track 8. Behold From The Land Of The Farther Suns.
The modular synth runs an electronic sequence throughout this track and I have to say it works pretty well with the combination of the guitars and drums. Once again Dirk gets to use his choir harmonies too and Chris do his usual GREAT! job with the expressive vocal line. The words we have here are pertaining to the bible where God comes back to find out that the Devil has taken over the world he created, and undone all the good work he had done.
Track 9. Once I Knew A Fine Song.
It’s time to simmer things down with “Once I Knew A Fine Song” and Dirk really has turned it into a fine song too, and we get a break from the heavy metal to something with more of a melodic structure. The synth has been put to good use and here it’s been utilised with a bass synth to drive it along with the drums. I quite like the different tones in Chris’s voice on this song and he really does get to sing it with the more sweeter side of his voice that has more passion. Dirk’s choir harmonies are also very sweet too.
The rhythm on the electric guitar blends in very well and violin gets put to excellent use here and adds something like a bit of Paganini‘ touch to it. Effectively Crane’s words we have here once again have the feel that they are running along the lines of a concept story album with how they relate to previous track. For example where on the previous track God lost his world to the Devil, these words could be seen as God thinking back to the beauty before the Devil got his filthy hands on it. It’s a GREAT! song and very much a contender for the top spot on the album.
Track 10. A God In Wrath.
The Mighty God Of Thor hammers is way into the drama here and God takes his wrath out of the wicked man by beating several barrels of shit out him :))))). No sparing the rod of discipline here I can tell you :)))). He beat him that hard that his thunderous blows rolled over the earth so that people could hear it and come running to see what would happen to them if they did not play the ball game :)))).
This is one of the 2 longer tracks and the 2nd longest track on the album that runs for dead on 5 minutes. It runs along at a slow pace at first to allow God to hand out his beating and it uses a free sound FX sample for the thunderous hammering. The synth features throughout this track and crafts out the melody for Chris to sing along to. The hammering thunder rolls its way out after the first minute and half and Chris gets more support from the heavy guitars and drums.
It develops more into a song and allows Chris to express the words more over the next couple of minutes. It also picks up a bit more pace too, and the hammering thunder along with some percussion come back into play around the 3 and half minute mark to bring the pace back down and drive it home slowly. It’s quite a dramatic piece this one and the placement of it on the album works very well particularly after the change of mood it follows from the previous track, and effectively it works like the calm before the storm to bring the album back up again on the track that follows it.
Track 11. A Man Saw A Ball Of Gold In The Sky.
Not all that glitters is gold and no doubt things do look different when looking up at them in relation to gazing down on them, and that is what is behind this strange bit of Cranes naturalism method of writing. This is quite a very well structured song and the shortest track on the album which is 8 seconds shy of 2 minutes. The song rocks its way along with the metal guitars, drums and percussion and I like how the heavy driven rhythm of the power chords slows down in parts too. The metal guitars are very effective on this song and its also another song where Dirk gets to accompany Chris with some of his fine choir harmonies.
Track 12. In A Lonely Place.
Things are hotting up very well and this is a very powerful track and my joint favourite track on the album that jointly merits the albums Top Spot Award. Everything about this song cooks on gas from the start with it’s howling feedback from the guitar on the intro to its death metal powerful force the guitar brings out on this track. Once again we get more excellent expressive vocals from Chris and more fine choir harmonies from Dirk he’s done here and along with the drums this song purely ROCKS….
Track 13. There Was Before Me.
Another powerful track that has a King Crimson feel about it especially with its mystical intro. It’s another very well structured song with powerhouse drums heavy metal guitars, expressive dramatic vocals and it has a fine melodic section very fitting to the words of infinite beauty that was seen beyond all the snow, ice and burning sand in Cranes poem. It’s another contender for the albums top spot.
Track 14. I Met A Seer.
King Crimson meets Thrash Metal is perhaps the best way to describe this next powerful track and like many of these short tracks they power themselves along with GREAT! expressive force. This one even comes with some fine synth work and the drums are ricocheting bullets :))))))))))) and it’s another GREAT! track. This an early version of the song from over a year ago that Dirk made a video of in the way of an adaption to Stephen Crane’s words in the poem.
Track 15. Should The Wide World Roll Away.
Another song with plenty of the force driving it along and the opening melody that also runs in other sections of this short song remind me of something like a cross between The Prodigy and Adam And The Ants. You get the twisted fire starter and prince charming rolling this wide world away:))))) only with more fearsome MIGHT!.
Should the wide world roll away,
Leaving black terror,
Nor God, nor man, nor place to stand
Would be to me essential,
If thou and thy white arms were there,
And the fall to doom a long way.
There can be no doubt that Crane had a very strange way of putting things over with the words in his poetry, and even though this poem may strike doom and terror. But one could even turn the words we have here into being prejudice with the word “White” being the most positive word symbolising purity.
Track 16. Gods.
“Gods” is the only instrumental track on the album and the longest of the shorter tracks on the album. It’s not even the title of one of Crane’s 67 poems he wrote in his book of poems for the Black Riders though no doubt it works very well as a theme. This is very much my other joint favourite of the album that merits the Top Spot Award of the album along with “In A Lonely Place“. It’s a terrific piece with some really great lead work on the guitar, which is something most metal albums really lack, and that’s perhaps why it appeals to me a lot more. It’s all very well structured with it’s chord progression and transitional changes.
Track 17. Places Among The Stars.
Another nice little change with this fine song with gives Dirk another chance to get the violin out and this has quite soulful swing to it. There is some fine synth work in this one too along with the guitars which do project a bit of power to it every now and then. I think Chris could even be dancing around the stars whilst he’s singing this one. Once again the track placement is very good here and it’s as if we do have a story concept with Crane’s poetry. Since the wide world rolled away all is left is the emptiness of space to roll along in, and that is how it could appear too.
Track 18. God Fashioned The Ship Of The World Carefully.
The powerful master force picks back up here with this powerhouse metal rocker that features more power thrashed out metal power chords driving it along with the synths and drums. The choir harmonies return and the lead vocals are expressed with convincing force. It’s another really GREAT! track that ROCKS HARD….
Track 19. Truth Said A Traveller.
Another track that stomps along with a GREAT! marching force and the choir harmonies we have here could even give this song a bit of a Queen presence and feel about it. Besides the guitars I like how the bass drives this along and it’s and GREAT! track on the album and like its abrupt ending too.
The story concept is perhaps a bit lost with these last few tracks, but even I still feel the tracks are very well placed on the album, and it’s not intended to be a story concept anyway, but it did have that impression to some degree I think.
Track 20. In Heaven.
The final track on the album is the longest and once again the modular synth is put to good use and it almost gives it the feeling of a Sci-fi horror on the intro. This is another track that paces its way along dramatically with Chris expressing the words every now and then throughout the song. The song itself is built up very well with guitars and drums adding force and might to it all.
Some little blades of grass
Stood before God.
“What did you do?”
Then all save one of the little blades
Began eagerly to relate
The merits of their lives.
This one stayed a small way behind,
Presently, God said,
“And what did you do?”
The little blade answered, “Oh my Lord,
Memory is bitter to me,
For, if I did good deeds,
I know not of them.”
Then God, in all His splendor,
Arose from His throne.
“Oh, best little blade of grass!” He said.
Both the picture I pieced together and the words that Crane wrote depict God as being the Devil, and that is very much more or less how Crane seen God throughout the whole of his book of poems he wrote for the Black Riders and Other Lines. The God we have here only favours the sinners and not those who do good deeds. “In Heaven” is another GREAT! track on the album and ends off this powerful album very well indeed. It also sounds like all the other little blades of grass got exterminated :))))))).
To sum up my review of Black Riders Part 1 by HeartScore I very much think that Dirk Radloff chose the right genre of Metal to put to Stephen Crane’s book of poems he wrote for his Black Riders and Other Lines. Most artists in this genre are always looking for something dark and evil for the subject matter for their lyrics, and no doubt Crane’s anti-religious themes portray not just the wrath of a god, but in an unjustly manner, and not just the evil that men do, but the evil their god does along with it. He could even be describing the barbaric side of war with some of his poems too.
To be honest most of Stephen Crane’s poems in the Black Riders are pretty hard to get the real gist of with how they have been written, and that’s why I did not go into them all in my review here. Plus the one’s that I did touch on, are very much my own interpretations of them to which even I myself may of not of fully grasped and could of got the wrong end of the stick with them. But I am far from any expert on Crane’s works and have not gone into any great detail about him in my research for this review either. His poetry I find is very bizarre to say the least, and it may even twist your own mind trying to decipher it all too :)))))).
What we have here is certainly a very powerful album where plenty of thought as gone into the placement of the tracks for it to work so well. The way the tracks have been placed does feel like it’s even done in the way of a concept story album with how the words in Crane’s poems follow one another. A lot of the first tracks on the album very much give you the feeling that there is one mighty battle of war going on. I like how there are also tracks like “Once I Knew A Fine Song” and “Places Among The Stars” to simmer the album down with their more melodic structure. They along with the two longest tracks give the album a bit more variety.
Overall Black Riders Part 1 by HeartScore is quite a solid enough album that manages to make a very exciting powerful experience over its 61 minutes and will certainly ROCK! your socks off. I think even though the biggest majority of the tracks are short, the way they follow one another with hardly any gap at all between them, does also lend to giving the album more variety with how it flows and it helps to keep the listener more attentive with how it drives its way along.
Even an old prog rocker like myself can enjoy an album like this even if Metal is not really my personal cup of tea. But the material we have here is still very well structured with some great chord progression and the album is very well produced and mastered giving you genuine quality for the money. I cannot fault the written material and my personal highlights from the album are “There Was A Crimson Clash Of War“. “Once I Saw Mountains Angry“. “Once I Knew A Fine Song“. “In A Lonely Place“. “There Was Before Me“. “Gods” and “God Fashioned The Ship Of The World Carefully“.
Whether Black Riders Part 2 or not turns out to be the very next HeartScore album in the future, we will have to wait and see. But no doubt there are plenty more poems left in Stephen Crane’s book of the Black Riders and Other Lines. But Crane’s words are well fitting for an album like this, and I suppose I could say that Metal meets King Crimson and Other Lines maybe the best way to describe the new direction of HeartScore’s music, and no doubt Dirk Radloff has unleashed the “BEAST” and it ROCKS HARD…
You can find out just how well the album ROCKS HARD by giving it a blast or even purchasing it from Bandcamp from the link here: https://heartscore.bandcamp.com/album/black-riders-part-1
I Stood Upon A High Place And Saw Below Many Devils. One Looked Up Grinning
And Said, “Comrade! Brother!”…
The CD track listing is as follows:
01. In The Desert. 3:00.
02. Mystic Shadow. 2:17.
03. There Was A Crimson Clash Of War. 2:51.
04. Behold The Grave Of A Wicked Man. 2:37.
05. I Stood Upon A High Place. 2:29.
06. Once I Saw Mountains Angry. 2:01.
07. Black Riders Came From The Sea. 3:35.
08. Behold From The Land Of The Farther Suns. 3:05.
09. Once I Knew A Fine Song. 2:57.
10. A God In Wrath. 5:00.
11. A Man Saw A Ball Of Gold In The Sky. 1:52.
12. In A Lonely Place. 3:01.
13. There Was Before Me. 2:22.
14. I Met A Seer. 2:21.
15. Should The Wide World Roll Away. 3:14.
16. Gods. 3:41.
17. Places Among The Stars. 2:49.
18. God Fashioned The Ship Of The World Carefully. 2:46.
19. Truth Said A Traveller. 2:59.
20. In Heaven. 6:01.
Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.
Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.
As I mentioned earlier in my review I had a spare HeartScore CD going and it’s not brand spanking new but is in excellent condition with not a mark or scratch on it. The CD contains a 10 page booklet with all the linear production notes, lyrics and pictures. The album Sculptures was released back 2003 and it was the very first HeartScore album to be released. Back in those days Dirk used to sing the vocals himself and did so on his first 4 albums, and on this album he also had Oliver Harstack contributing some dramatic vocals on 4 of the tracks. The lyrical content is also very good and on this album he set his music to the poetry of Langston Hughes, Emily Dickenson, E. E. Cummings and Edwin Arlington Robinson.
The album Sculptures is very much a different breed of rock in relation to the metal we have here on his latest album Black Riders Part 1. It’s also my preferred choice of rock music out of the two albums as well. No doubt both forms of rock and metal music have more or less the same sort of power chords on the guitar to drive the music along, only one is more heavier than the other, but where rock music really has the cutting edge is with the lead guitar lines, and the album Sculptures certainly has all those elements.
Sculptures is a very well crafted rock album that contains some very well structured songs on it. Some of the chord progression even steps on the boundaries of prog rock and it contains two ingredients you do not see in Radloff’s music today. They are his own lead vocals and the bass guitar. The album is more less powered by the guitar, bass and vocals and even the programmed drums sound real. It also contains some keyboards on some of the tracks and to be honest I know that keyboards are not his instrument, but he can play a bit, and on this album he may very well have played them rather than program them like he does mostly.
Personally I do not think there is a bad track on the album Sculptures and the album comes with 10 of them and over an overall playing time of 44 minutes, 38 seconds. It’s got some classics along it’s path in my opinion too and I would even rate this album with a positive strong rating of 8 out of 10. To be honest the album Sculptures is hard for me to describe what rock bands you could associate it with. I suppose Queen would be one of them, but the album also flows very well like a good Deep Purple album even if it’s nothing like that band.
My personal highlights from the album are “Blue Bayou“, “When Sue Wears Red“. “Aunt Sue’s Stories“. “The Saddest Noise, The Sweetest Noise“. “Judgement Day“. “Little Julie (Delinquent)” and “John Evereldown“. As you can see I even chose 7 out of the 10 tracks on the album just in my highlights here, that’s how good this album really is, and its certainly a very good album.
What Do You Have To Do To Win?
To win the CD Sculptures by HeartScore all you have to do is answer the following 2 questions which are both related to the music of HeartScore.
Question 1. Give me the name the first real drummer to play on an HeartScore album?
Question 2. Give me the name of the only song set to Stephen Crane’s poetry that HeartScore most recently published that did not appear on his new album Black Riders Part 1.
As with all competitions they must have some rules. The rules are quite simple enough and all you have to do is post your answer to the both questions in the comment box of this review. Please note you can only post your answers here and not on any other social media site. The first person to post both the correct answers wins the CD.
In order for me to send the CD to you I will need to contact you for your name and address to send it too. So you can either drop your email address along with your answers so I can contact you for your address, or email me your name and address at firstname.lastname@example.org the CD is entirely free and I will pay for the postage myself to send it to you. All the best with the competition.