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Balance is Tempest's first studio album of new material since 1997's The Gravel Walk. The band endured several personnel changes in the years following The Gravel Walk: The 10th Anniversary Compilation introduced new members John Land (bass) and Dave Parnall (guitars) in 1998, while the following year the group's independently released Live at the Philadelphia Folk Festival welcomed new guitarist Todd Evans, who displayed a harder rocking style than his predecessor Rob Wullenjohn. Balance finds Tempest again adjusting to the addition of key members, namely bassist William Maxwell and fiddler Jim Hurley, who replaces the effervescent Michael Mullen (who rosined up the bow ever since the group's 1996 Magna Carta debut Turn of the Wheel). Only singer Lief Sorbye and drummer Adolfo Lazo remain from the band's late-'80s inception. With a keen sense of traditional Celtic and Norwegian music, Tempest is a rock band that prefers to pepper its songs with those influences and not vice versa. Balance is perhaps the group's most hard-rocking effort to date, particularly due to Evans' crunching electric guitar. At times he conjurs up comparisons to Richie Blackmore; other times the virtuosity and eclecticism of Lanny Cordolla surfaces. Evans' two instrumental numbers, "Dance of the Sand Witches" and "Battle Mountain Breakdown," are scorching worldbeat rockers that needn't take a back seat to Jimmy Page or any of the '70s guitar gods who dared to venture beyond basic three-chord speed and cock rock. The Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention likenesses still exist, but this album is the most individualistic of Tempest's nine albums to date. Sorbye's songwriting and vocals are solidifying with age and Lazo's drumming is equally confident and authoritative. Given Tempest's foundation in '70s rock and its string of five or six exceptional albums, had this band existed 25 years ago, it would most assuredly be mentioned alongside Tull, King Crimson, Genesis, and Gentle Giant when citing the elite of progressive rock bands.

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