Borrowed Time - Borrowed Time
High Roller Records
Heavy Metal / NWOBHM
9 songs (41' 42")
Release year: 2013
Reviewed by Andy
Surprise of the month

Detroit-based Borrowed Time's 2010 demo was very brief, and it was therefore rather hard to determine their direction, though what they had on there looked promising. Four years later, we have their first, self-titled, LP, filled with the favorite elements of NWOBHM -- high, clean vocals, a two-guitar attack with lots of harmonizing, and plenty of galloping guitar-and-bass riffs, done just right. There are a few weak points in this album (notably the vocals), but not many.

The first thing immediately apparent on here is the complexity of the typical Borrowed Time guitar riff. Wallow In The Mire has all the minor key elements, guitars (played by Matt Preston and Victor Ruiz) trading off with each other on soloes, and the wailing vocals one would expect from a band heavily influenced by Iron Maiden, but the guitars are all in the upper register, the bass seems to be mixed way down, and, even when blasting power chords for a short time here and there, quickly jump away from those to concentrate on enormously effective guitar hooks. This is a a band that eschews a lot of sheer heaviness in favor of cleverness, such as on the 90-second introductory instrumental Dark Hearted, which the single-minded focus on technical guitar prettiness makes into a true masterpiece, continued in many ways on Libertine, which sounds very familiar to NWOBHM fans but still is enjoyable.

Borrowed Time's guitar work is excellent on almost every track -- and this is in a genre that has produced its share of legendary guitarists. But it really doesn't seem to be fully matched by the bass or by the vocals of J. Priest, which sound a little like Geoff Tate's without as much of the power. Even when he screams, it sounds quiet, and any time the band wants to boost him a bit, such as on the choruses, they layer his vocals, but that doesn't help -- it just makes them sound even softer. Maybe it's not his fault, though; the fact that the bass is harder to notice as well makes me think that the mix could be partially to blame. Beyond that, it is very difficult to find fault with songs like The Thaumaturgist or Dawn For The Glory Rider, both songs that are filled with soaring hooks, and which, by the way, are heavy as hell, especially Dawn For The Glory Rider, which sounds like a fantasy collaboration between Iron Maiden and Manilla Road. Of Nymph and Nihil is another case in which the guitar riffs and soloing are beautiful in both melody and sound, having a tone similar to something that Mercyful Fate's Hank Sherman might produce.

One song in which the vocals do sound just right is Pygmalion, a melodic song with a swinging, doom-style riff that seems to play better to the softer vocals; even when it gets heavier in the second part of the song, Priest seems to mesh more naturally with the rest of the band, and when Preston matches that riff with one of his solos, the effect is magical. The final track is probably also the heaviest, with the whole band going at full speed and easily stepping into the shoes of their speed-metal ancestors. They also manage to give all members a lot more equal time in this track, too.

Though I wasn't particularly a fan of the vocals, the sheer ability of Borrowed Time to turn out technical, melodic tunes that would stand out well in any collection of the masters of the 80s makes this an LP an excellent start. If they can get the rest of the band to stand out as well in the mix as the guitars and drum kit, Borrowed Time has great things in store for it.

Correction: Originally this review credited Matt Preston for all the guitar work in the album; in fact, he was the primary lead guitarist. Victor Ruiz was responsible for rhythm guitars and also wrote a number of the songs.

Killing Songs :
All of them, though my favorites are Dark Hearted and Pygmalion
Andy quoted 87 / 100
Other albums by Borrowed Time that we have reviewed:
Borrowed Time - Demo reviewed by Jake and quoted no quote
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