Summer of 2005. Two aspiring guitarists Igor Manaijevič and Nejc Vidmar start making their own material and the duel of this new band get themselves a name. Black Diamond. Big troubles of getting other members of the group didn’t affect them, so they were composing the material all the time. The material was firstly offered to the public via Myspace somewhere around 2008. Even the first demo recordings showed us that this jewel from Novo mesto is posessing a potential of an amazing heavy metal group. Because of their unsuccesful searching for other members, the duel started working with session musicians, among the others Žanil Tataj – Žak (Turbo, Mary Rose) on vocals and Robert Kovačič (Scaffold) on the drums. They brought the caution, but Igor and Nejc continued to polish the music like a diamond, until the perfect shine. At last it shone in all of its brilliant blackness on their first album, Last Man Standing.

Last Man Standing is an amazingly rich album. The lenght of the album is over an hour and songs averagely end at six or seven minutes. But any fear that Black Diamond is putting the quantity over quality is unnecessary and forgotten in first moments of introductionary epical anti-war song “Opus 91 – 96″, which is singing about the Balkans bloodshed. Even at the beginning of an album it’s easily hearable, that this album contains the songs which were matured, developed and made under careful eyes and hands of their authors. Every song is soaked with mighty athmosphere, that pours out of every vocal melody and every guitar part. Even though the album and the songs are long, the album doesn’t appear too streched or boring, but the contrary! Fair time gives songs the ability to go through a real small evolutionary path. Black Diamond showed that they are masters of composing and arranging. Their heavy metal does often step out of the boundaries of the genre and closer to the progressive metal, that sometimes reminds us of US masters Fates Warning. In symphonic Dreams Of Tomorrow for example, Black Diamond shows two shivering refrains, a whole pallet of tempo and rhytm changes, extraordinry  intertwinement of guitar parts and layers of fantastically performed vocals.

Due to unbelievable Žak, the album easily reaches to the top of heavy metal. Žak with his power and persuasiveness of the biggest names like Bruce Dickinson and Jorn Lande, brings life, warmth and kicking power to the songs. I cant’t recall metal from this area ever being sang with so much balls. He takes the music of Black Diamond to the sky whether he sings pompous, epic choruses that rase your heartbeat, or softer moments, like sensitive sounding love balad called Hold Me Tonight. But it’s not only Žak who brings the brilliant vocals to the album. Moments of vocal exstasy are brought by others as well. Some of the best moments are definitelly in the middle part of the album. A song called Black Diamond in which Žak wrathfully plays the role of storyteller about small, exploited man, who is being downpressed by the dictatorship of capitalism day by day (that also epitomizes the album cover). Black Diamond than brillianty presents a dialogue between father and son, when son is presented by innocently sang vocals and fathers advising lines with low, experienced sounding voice. There are many moments like this on the album, which makes it quite a hefty task. But what’s offered on it is so rich and versatile, that even one second doesn’t appear nedless. In The Thing That Couldn’t Die for example, their reaching for dreams and hope is described almost metaphysically. Even though Last Man Standing is rich with a bit more dark and due to topics even heavy atmosphere, their fantastic instrumental and vocal performances make it sure, that there is a shine of hope.

Black Diamond can get closer to the listener and appear more honest and credible than ninety percent of similar bands, who are still singing about dwarfs and dragons. Especially because their well thought lyrics, whose topics we are (unfortunatelly) witnessing every day. The only song on this album that is sang in Slovene touches hypocrisy among “friends”. Perfect Žak’s performance, rich back vocals, amazing riffs and beautiful placing of acoustic guitars are the proof, that it is possible to make a killer song in Slovene language as well. This song, as well as everything else on Last Man Standing sounds great because of amazing production done by Simon Jovanovič (Studio Evolucija). He placed the instruments on sound picture amazingly. Guitars are fulfilling each other very nicely, vocals are just enough loud that they supplement other instruments and don’t overshadow them and drums shows lots of diversity. Rich sound is perfectly finished by mastering, done by Mika Jussila from Helsinki’s Finnvox studios. He had mastered albums for bands such as Deep Purple, Nightwish, Sentenced, Stratovarius, HIM, Gamma Ray,… He is even holding the unofficial record  in number of mastered albums. By all means a reference, that belongs to such a great album, like Last Man Standing is.

Album ends magnifically with a mighty ballad Tears In Eyes, which is soaked with heavy, depressive atmosphere and creeping vocal duel of Samo Urbančič and Sandra Tomovič (ex-Moveknowledgement). Melanholically grey picture of the song is painted by sad topics of child prostitution and abuse. Sad guitar lines, crying solo and shaking vocals leave a lump in your throat. Even though this good hour long journey leaves you emotionally exhausted, Last Man Standing leaves you fulfilled and richer for an unique musical experience.

Black Diamond are the proof that pesistance pays off. Even the unfortunate search for other members didn’t push Igor and Nejc into giving up. They were dilligently making their own songs and even published them. This is without a doubt a quality that not many new bands possess. Those bands are playing mostly cover songs and recording average demos, while Black Diamond are total perfectionists from this point of view. There is nothing strange in the fact, that Last Man Standing is one of the most complete products of slovenian metal. Richness of sound, vocal and instrumental performance on a world level, fantastic arrangements and well thought lyrics are virtues of the album, that even after many listenings, when you constantly discover new niances and secrets of heavy metal, makes your heart sing!

Rating: 5/5

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