NOTE: The offer for a free CD is no longer available, but the entire album can still be downloaded in MP3 format.
For nearly a decade, it has been really easy to find music for free on the Internet. A lot of this music is not legally available for free, a fact which got early filesharing services like Napster into trouble. But there is also a lot of music that is legally available to download for free; for example, a lot of artists offer a few free songs on either their official website or their MySpace page. If one looks hard enough, it is possible to find entire albums available for free; they may not be the latest releases from the most popular artists, but oftentimes an album by a little-known artist can end up becoming an all-time favourite. When treasures like this can be found for free, they are even more special.
One of the biggest, most pleasant surprises I found in the past year was an album by The Pax Cecilia entitled Blessed are the Bonds. The album is available for free from the band's website. What makes this offer extraordinary is that they are giving away the CD for free - as in, not a digital download, but an actual, physical CD with packaging, artwork, and liner notes. I don't know how often they send out the CDs; mine took somewhere between a few weeks and a couple of months to arrive - long enough that I was wondering what a CD was doing in my mailbox when I found it there.
That's all well and good, but what about the music? Getting a free CD is nice, but surely it isn't worth much if the music isn't any good, or if it's poorly produced. Thankfully, Blessed are the Bonds suffers from no such problems. The entire album sounds beautiful, with plenty of dynamics that allow the quiet and loud parts to stand in contrast to one another, avoiding the "wall of noise" that plagues so many modern albums. The music is basically metal, but there are enough acoustic, piano, and string-based passages to give it a very unique sound that is quite unlike anything I've ever heard. There are parts of the album that remind me of Devil Doll and Tool (for example, on the first track, "The Tragedy", some of the string arrangements and the vocal style, respectively), but these parts are brief, and soon the music spirals out into some new sonic territory. It's definitely not the type of music one normally runs across, so for that reason alone it is worth checking out; the beautiful packaging and artwork are a great bonus.
Blessed are the Bonds is currently available from The Pax Cecilia's website; just click the Contacts link for their email address so you can send them your mailing address, and then keep an eye on your mailbox. Once your CD arrives, please come back here and post a comment to let me know what you think of it.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2007 was a good one for you and that 2008 will be even better; I'll do my part to help out by continuing to provide you with great music all year long.