[Metal/Gothic] Evanescence – Synthesis (85%)

ortexAfter several years of hiatus, Amy Lee and Evanescence broke their silence by releasing “Synthesis”, an album providing a re-orchestration of their previous songs. Amy dropped the guitars and the drums to let place to other instruments. Amy is already gifted by a beautiful voice and a talent to play piano. When Evanescence mixed her voice with her piano melodics, this is where my auditory and limbic system explode into a serendipity.
Evanescence played a sort of gateway for me to explore the symphonic metal genre (this is how I got introduced to Nightwish and Within Temptation) but never went fully symphonic. How does the album stands without metal riffs and drums?
It stands good, some songs are impressive by their intimacy and their simpleness, some are kind of a disappointment. Let’s go through together the 16-tracks spanning a bit more than 63 minutes.
We start with “Overture”, an instrumental opening track that introduce us to the piano and violin tones that are the trademark of the album. The first track is the cover of “Never Go Back” from their third album “Evanescence”. Listening to the piano opening sequence is just a thrill on the skin, giving me some goosebumps. This is an example of a successful cover by its ability to remove the heaviness of the original and still sounds so wonderful to the ears. The third track, “Hi-Lo”, was one track that was initially planned to be in “Evanescence” but was not retained. As is it is, it is such a beautiful and intimate song that makes you wonder how it would have sounded in its metal version.
In the opposite, “My Heart is Broken” (the 4th track) sounds much better in its original cover because it already provided such a wonderful blend of the metal, piano and Amy’s voice. The 5th and 6th tracks were sounding as good as the original cover are “Lacrymosa” (The Open Door), “The End of The Dream” (Evanescence).
“Unraveling”, the 7th track posing as an instrumental and melancholic piano solo interlude is sounding so beautiful by its own.
“Imaginary”, the 8th track, is one of the biggest disappointment. The original one, already present in their EP “Origin” was simply perfect as it was, a perfect blend of Amy musical and vocal performance with the heaviness. It was one of my favorite of “Fallen”. This cover just axed it and fail to give justice. What the heck Amy on that one?
“Secret Door” is as good as the original one. Both were instrumental in their conception, very light and sober so they are very comparable. Some of the finest compositions of the band and kind of make you wish they pursued into the direction of Within Temptation or Nightwish. “Lithium”, another of my favorite from “Fallen”, also received the good treatment even amplifying the beauty of the original version.
“Lost in Paradise”, the 12th track, is another failed attempt and liked the original more than the cover in this one. “Your Star”, contrasts and shows how a cover can give back some justice to a track often went unnoticed in the original album (The Open Door).
Track 14, “My Immortal” is the litmus test. I have listened to two versions of the track back in the days: the radio edit version that was heavy and one bootleg downloaded from P2P (Kazaa or eDonkey, I don’t remember) that had the instrumental segment purely on the piano. The cover one revives the bootleg ones, embellishing it and making it even better. Damn, I wished this track and “Bring Me to Life” were not appended to the cinematic turd called “Daredevil”.
“The In-Between” is a piano solo new song written for the album. Oh my! Such a delight of listening Amy playing the piano on this one and emphasize the grave notes giving this melancholic feel to the song. Nobody plays the piano in the metal scene than Amy.
“Imperfection”, the last track is the last “meh” on that album. Not a big fan of it, sounds like a mishmash of styles that makes in my opinion an undigestible thing to listen.Be a judge by yourself you can listen to it below.
https://youtu.be/7_XoKJP1XK4

Now I am really mad and disappointed i missed on the latest Evanescence tour (due to scheduling conflict) because after 15 years and the loss of Ben after “Fallen”, Evanescence still stand strong of its feet and really should explore some facets of the symphonic metal. A recent meet and greet between Amy and Simone Simons (Epica) could open up some collaboration, especially with some input from Mark.

 

 

Advertisements

[Metal/Gothic] Beyond Forgiveness – The Great Wall (80%)

US metal bands playing Gothic Metal or Symphonic Metal are fairly rare birds, in contrast to Europe in which I found the market on the verge to precipitate. Beyond Forgiveness (Colorado Springs, CO) is one of these band that attracted me attention with their EP “The Ferryman’s Shore” and released a couple of weeks ago their first album “The Great Wall”.
How does it fare for a first album? It fares very well, navigating into the current of gothic, symphonic and folk metal keeping upmost of the musical composition “hand-crafted” (in others not over-relying on the keyboards and the studio processing). The result is very pleasant, maybe lacking some ambitious songs that hook you on, but a very nice escaping album that result me in calling the band some metal “troubadours” telling tales, fables and fiends straight out of the middle ages.
This is an album spanning over 10 tracks spanning over 58 minutes. The good point is all the stuff inside are all original materials, no rearrangement of existing materials from their previous EP and singles.
We get into it by the “End of Times”, their first track. It is setting the tones: some good classic metal tones, from the early days of gothic and symphonic metal. Personally, I like that especially considering that a lot of new comers playing the “symphonic” card abuse and overuse the keyboards and post-processing. We quickly transition into the second track and third tracks “The Great Wall” and “Sanctuary”. Good stuff so far. “Imprisoned” fare into more the symphonic metal than the previous track.
“Interlude”, an instrumental melodic ballad track gives the rest of the wandering bard, very nice interlude allowing to appreciate the guitar plays from Richard and Greg. This interlude track also announce a transition in the album, towards a more symphonic type of tone. Whereas “Moment of Truth” sounds more like the first half of the album, “Never Before” has this kind of old-style Nightwish style into it that is not bad. “Dream Before I sleep” is what I call an acoustic track with the voice of Talia accompanied mainly by a piano solo. Good. “I will fight Till The End” brings back the heaviness, just for this track as the last track “Every Breath” brings it more a folk feeling to the music.
Overall the album is quite good but I failed to find something to hook me on. Usually I have one or two “must-listen” song in an album but not this time. The album is very homogenous, maybe a bit too much. Something is still missing to make it a great, I don’t know something bold.
Nevertheless, it is a good starter, give a try and if you like your metal seasoned into some old school gothic and symphonic, give these guys a try, their album is available on Bandcamp and iTunes.

[Metal/Symphonic] Nightwish – Angels Fall First (20th Anniversary)

Today marks the 20th of the release of the Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish “Angels Fall First”. It is interesting to think that for some reason Tuomas does not consider it as their first album. Sure, it had a limited release, mostly in Finland, but I still consider as their first album.
It is interesting to listen back to this album in its retrospection. It is an 11-track album, lasting a 67 minutes. Coming back from that day, the first thing that comes into the attention is the use of keyboards elements wrapping the guitar riffs. But foremost, it is Tarja that brings on the attention. In my knowledge (and I maybe wrong on this one), this is the first instance of the presence of a trained of a professionally trained mezzo-soprano. Sure, femal-fronted metal bands were already here including in gothic metal bands like The Gathering.
It starts with “The Elvenpath” setting the tone, with excerpt quotes from the 1978 cartoon movie “The Lord of The Rings”. The second track, “Beauty & The Beast” somehow sounds like more Nightwish as we know it today, in which Tuomas keyboards lead the charge. A 10:22 track of some awesomeness in the blend of the instrumental symphonic elements with the guitars melodics played by Empuu. Thats it, the prototypical symphonic metal track that surely inspired many to also experiment the same in their studio. You can take anyone in a blind test, ask him or her the band behind the song and get “Nightwish” cited most of the time. I discovered this album much later than the release, but I can imagine the reaction folks had back then. “The Carpenter”, third track of the album is more in line with gothic metal elements, sounding more familiar. It is also the first track of the album featuring Tuomas in the vocals. I guess there is a reason Tuomas hates this album and also why he does not sing in the other albums :p. It’s okay but yeah kind of a let down from “Beauty & The Beast”. Just listen here.
https://youtu.be/Z4A5HwMOfW8

“Astral Romance” brings up the album to a higher level, that is another favorite in my playlist, some good old Nightwish here (I somehow prefer these kind of outdated tunes from their most recent albums). “Angel Fall First”, the fifth track, is somehow introducing us to the powerful keyboard ballads that Tuomas will produce later in his career. Again, Tarja’s voice is magnificent even in her beginning career. “Tutankhamen” brings the metal kick back in, making it very enjoyable. Again, I could serve it into a blind playlist and someone would swear this track is part of their later album. “Nymphomaniac Fantasia” is a nice one too, but maybe a bit “cheap” in my opinion. “Know Why The Nightingale” is another good one from the album.

“Lappi (Lappland)” is the only Finnish song but oh boy, I can guarantee a lots of headbangers rushed to a Suomi dictionary to understand the lyrics. But who cares? You don’t need to understand it to feel the beautiful in this song. Again, it hints us about the whiz inside Tuomas in handling the keyboards, much more at ease than singing. Some damn good old Nightwish!

The album concludes with “Return To The Sea” inspired by gothic elements and finally “Once Upon A Troubadour”, that is honestly not much my favorite. Blame it on Tuomas or not, I don’t know just not that fond.

[Metal/Doom] Hallatar – No Stars Upon The Bridge (95%)

Hallatar, a side project band former by Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen, Swallow The Sun guitarist Juha Raivio and ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick released the tribute album “No Stars Upon The Bridge” to late metal singer Aleah Starbridge, band member of “Trees of Eternity” and partner in life to Juha.
What I can tell that after a year that we lost Aleah to cancer, the pain and sorrow is still present in the metal scene. Hallatar, through this album, is playing into a much more darker and black tone that any of the members usually play in their respective bands. These bands are already playing some fine doom, already heavy in dark and despair. Imagine achieving the most concentrate black tone you can from sadness, sorrow and pain. This is what this album is basically giving us: a very painful, sad and heart wrenching requiem to Aleah, using her own poems put into lyrics and offering into a majestic album that distillate some of the best spirits of all three bands into a masterpiece of modern doom metal.
The album is a 9-track album, a 40 minutes requiem that will shake your from deep in it, reviving some of these painful souvenirs of the lost ones. I am warning you, this is not for the fainted of heart. It is very depressing but so liberating and cathartic.
We start with “Mirrors” with the vocals of Tomi and the signature guitar tones of Juha (that gives this trademark to Swallow and Trees). Slow, doom and gloom, damn good funeral doom introductory track.

The interlude comes from hearing Aleah’s voice reciting her poem “Raven’s Song” (Track 2) and followed by “Melt”. Straight into the playbook from Swallow the Sun, Tomi’s clean voices allows us to fully appreciate the lyrics, accompanying us into the processing funeral march. “My Mistake”, the fourth track song, features Heike Langhans (Draconian) as guest lyrics and keep on into our funeral processing march. “Pieces”, the following track, provides an interlude with its solitary piano with Aleah’s poem haunting us. “Severed Eyes”, is in my opinion this kind of track that is made to heal and remember our dearest love ones that we lost by playing on the dry guitars and the simplicity. “The Maze” is a damn good funeral doom track, an amazing track by its ability to wrench your inner mind and rediscover these dark corners that often get buried into our lives. “Spiral Gate” is the last interlude of Aleah, leaving us with her last goodbye poem and nicely transitioning to the last track “Dreams Burn Down”, the concluding track of the album. Majestic piece of work, like a last farewell to the casket before the burial with Aleah haunting voice. You realize that as the casket is brought down and the first pile of dirt covers it that this is over. That the nightmare is not a nightmare anymore, it is the reality of life and we cannot reverse anything to it. It is time to give our farewell do our dearest love and remember it into our hearts and mind.
What I can say is rarely such an album, fruit of a collaboration of some of the finest doom/gothic Suomi (Finnish) metal bands, can shake someone inner psyche and let it tears the emotion apart. Yes, it is sad and depressing. Yes, it is dark and heart wrenching. But it is also a cathartic album allowing us to anyone listening to it to make the last grievance and keep in our mind the loss one of the most beautiful feminine metal voice we lost in the person of Aleah Starbridge. Rest in peace nightingale :(.

[Metal/Doom] Paradise Lost – Medusa (90%)

If you have been a long time follower, you surely have heard of the “Unholy Trinity” of doom (named after the record label) metaphorized under the UK doom metal bands Anathema, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost. All three started very dark and heavy doom, only to evolve into their own artistic direction. As Anathema went more into the alternative scene, so did I drifted away from them. Paradise Lost, in my opinion more into death metal shores. They were bringing on the dark lyrics and blended in with the rage of death metal.
Then Paradise Lost came in with their 15th album “Medusa” last Friday. I don’t know if listening to the album alongside watching the very dark and pessismitic ending of “Twin Peaks: The Return”, it really left on me a very good impression by its heaviness and darkness, a sort of a return to their roots.
Lets go through the album, that is a 10-track (I guess this is the iTunes version) and lasting 52 minutes. We got into it with “Fearless Sky”, a majestic introduction sounding like the prologue of a funeral mass, with the growls and lyrics of Nick Holmes. Mind blown by it. Just read an excerpt of the lyrics:
Life’s contempt, a life of trial to unrest, vilified/I resent, morbid times so oppressed, soul divine/Lies torment, as I try to confess to a fearless sky“. The second track, “Gods Of Ancient” continues into the doom and gloom, is another gem of the album. The third track, “From The Gallows” brings up Greg Mackintosh melodics more upfront and damn I like Greg’s guitar composition. The fourth track, “The Longest Winter” is my opinion the track that brings up the influence of sludge reported by some reviewers but also showcasing the ease of Nick to sing both cleans and growls. Judge by yourself here.
https://youtu.be/ufs-kLZFyjU

“Medusa” welcomes us with a opening piano followed by the melodics on the guitar by Greg and by Nick Holmes vocals. Languishing and dark. “Passage for the Dead” is in my opinion the second track with a clear sludge tone to it. “Blood And Chaos” sounds more the modern Paradise Lost, this is also my least favorite one. No big deal, but yeah not really fond of. You can make your opinion on it since there is a official video on it:

“Until The Grave” continues into this more modern sound of Paradise Lost. Nice but not transcending either.

As a iTunes special edition, we have two extra tracks. “Shrines” is also a very nice song also harboring this heavy sludge metal influence in it. “Symbolic Virtue” concludes this album by bringing on the old and the heavy doom.

As the band slowly reaches the 30th anniversary of their formation, Paradise Lost show us that pain, sorrow and sadness never heal. That like Sisyphus, we are set fate to perpetually keep the sorrow of those who we have lost, of those we have broke our hearts on. Having a band that can maintain and reconnect to its roots while in the same explore new avenues (like sludge in this one) is in both times soothing and exciting. Brace myself, September is coming with a damn fine selection of great albums.

[Music/Gothic Metal] Seven Spires – Solveig (80%)

Fresh from the press, a band that came out of nowhere in my disc library: Seven Spires, a FFM band from Boston, Massachusetts. Their first album “Solveig” was released this Friday and of course it ends up being reviewed by me. I have been listening several times, interrupted by the livestream of “Wacken Open Air 2017” (thats very nice from the organizers to have a livestream of the main line-up).
This is a 15-track album, lasting 75 minutes. iTunes classified it as death metal/black metal and fairly I disagree with it. Because this album does not fit in one category. It is definitely metal but explores different facets with some gothic, some symphonic, some even sounding like some black symphonic a la “Dimmu Borgir”. So yes, it is a very schizophrenic album but it also a kind of a good showcase for Adrienne Cowan, allowing her to hear her vocal range from clean to growls.
We get into “The Siren” an introduction that really sounds like a Danny Elfman track, you know something like straight from a gothic ambience of a “Nightmare Before Christmas”. It seamlessly brings to “Encounter” blending this Elfman tunes with heavy riffs. Good stuff, really gives you a good grip on the ride. Some fresh air, it has a been a while we did not hear a good gothic metal band and Seven Spires is kind of baiting with that appeal. Then we move to “The Siren (Reprise)” that rather sounds like a revisited opening sequence for “Encounter”. I found it odd to have right in the third track, I would have put as a bonus track. The fourth “Cabaret of Dreams”, sounds a bit more rock giving this kind of abruptness in the ride. Certainly not my favorite. “Choices” sets the train back on its track, brining on some symphonic elements with a heavier tone. A very engaging song that should have been in my opinion right after “Encounter”. “Closure” continues into this very enjoying emotional riding experience, with a slower tone supported by orchestral arrangements and maybe an annoying presence of the bass guitar. Thats one thing I noted, the presence of the bass was too much accentuated in this album. I know the bass player has bad rep but the bass is part of the background unless you are Iron Maiden or Lemmy Kilmister. “100 days” is this nice melodic ballad giving a nice interlude in the album, right in the middle of the album. “Stay” brings us a power melodic tone that is very engaging, a good one. “The Paradox” brings us for the first time Adrienne on the growls into this track that brings on the excitement of a symphonic black metal straight out of a good “Dimmu Borgir” album. You know this kind of track that put your auditive and limbic cortices into fritz, with this rush of dopamine that wants to mosh into your living room by this brutal riffs blended with awesome melodics. Oh yeah! Thats my favorite! This is kind of a title that tells you this band with the right direction that breaks some charts. “Serenity” is falling into more conventional genres, even sounding like metal core. “Depths” brings us back to calmer tracks, a nice one, something similar to the chords of Alissa or Vicky style encountered in “The Agonist”. “Distant Lights” brings on the melodic power metal. Nice but nothing that impressed me. “Burn”, brings on back this “Dimmu Borgir” feels with a good spoon of power metal, sending again into a rollercoaster ride from Hell.  “Ashes” brings on this what I call “anime metal”. Dont ask me why, but this is the kind of metal that would match very well with a opening sequence of an anime. Nice! “Reflections” brings back the orchestral sounding like a ending sequence.
The overall album is good, pretty good. But it kind of misses the overall excitement that some other albums have sparked in the previous months. Maybe it is this mix of different styles and some questionable tracks. Sometimes, lesser is better.
However, this album is a great showcase of Adrienne’s vocal range and ability to sing both in clean and growls. The band also have shown its comfort in playing in different styles with ease. But lets be honest, Seven Spires enters a market highly competitive, especially if they think to take the Symphonic metal direction. Right now, melodic death and power metal are very good niches for entering FFMs. Really, their black symphonic metal composition of “The Paradox” and “Burn” really felt taking a rollercoaster from Hell, giving the thrills and chills of an adrenaline rush only to kick in the endorphins at the end of the ride, sending you in this musical euphoria.

[Music/Metal] Happy 4th of July!

As living in the US, it is for me now part of the tradition to celebrate the 4th of July. Happy 4th of July! Time for me to share my favorite US metal bands that are in my disc library. This is my very personal list, so please don’t comment asking why I have not have a certain band in my list. There are likely two reasons: either they went under my radar or they simply did not click with me in terms of my musical taste. I have been running this redundant post for two years now, so I will spare you the blabla and let you jump to the list :). Here we go, sorted by alphabetical list:
* Aria Flame (ex-Dendura, MI) – Gothic Metal: https://www.facebook.com/ariaflameworld/
* Beyond Forgiveness (CO) – Gothic/Folk Metal. If you are looking for a US minstrels and troubadours having the vibes of medieval folk metal (something like a Blind Guardian or Haggard), this is your inn to stop on your journey: https://www.facebook.com/beyondforgivenessmetal/
* Destiny Beard (MI, PA) – Gothic Metal:https://www.facebook.com/Destinibeardmusic/
* The Ditch & The Delta (UT) – Sludge Metal: https://www.facebook.com/theditchandthedeltaslc/
* Evanescence (AR) – Gothic Rock: https://www.facebook.com/Evanescence/
* Exalt The Throne (TX) – Melodic Death, they are having their final gig on July 29th, I gonna miss them :(. https://www.facebook.com/exaltthethroneofficial/
* Faytree (GA, OH) – Melodic Death: https://www.facebook.com/faytreeband/
* In This Moment (CA) – Metalcore. Check their old stuff (first three albums), that was some promising band that unfortunately lost their vibe for few years now: https://www.facebook.com/officialinthismoment/
* Kamelot (FL) – Power Melodic Metal. Come on, should I introduce Kamelot? https://www.facebook.com/kamelotofficial/
* Mercy Isle (MI) – Gothic Metal. A very interesting US-Dutch collaboration, making them a sort of spinning free electron: https://www.facebook.com/MercyIsle/
* Metallica (CA) – Thrash Metal. Because who does not have a Metallica album in their disc library. 35 years and still running! https://www.facebook.com/Metallica/
* Midnight Eternal (NY) – Power Melodic Metal. What if Dragonforce and Nightwish had a child? Midnight Eternal would be its name: https://www.facebook.com/MidnightEternal/
* Red Beard Wall (TX) Sludge Metal. Ever wondered how doom metal would sound with a flavor of Southern music, with elements of punk and death metal? It has a name: sludge metal and my first exposure was through Red Beard Wall. It came out of nowhere like a meteor and crashed into the local metal scene in Yellow City. If you are living in the High Plains or South Plains, check them out: https://www.facebook.com/redbeardwall/
* Rozamov (MA) Sludge/Doom Metal. That was some of the best surprise this spring, allowing me to discover this sub-genre of doom metal blended with Southern tunes, punk and death metal. https://www.facebook.com/Rozamov/
* Santa Marta (UT) – Gothic Metal. The next project of Mary Zimmer (ex-Ottoman Empire/Luna Mortis, ex-The White Empress). Check it out and keep eye on it. https://www.facebook.com/SantaMartaBand/
* Scarlet Canary (CO) – Metal/Rock: https://www.facebook.com/ScarletCanary/
* Seven Kingdoms (FL) – Melodic Power Metal. There is something running in Florida water but it makes their Melodic Power Metal
* Slayer (CA) – Thrash Metal. Slayer still slaying, not even an ounce of their brutal tempo was left over the years. This is where I had to disagree on Floor Jansen, nothing beats a mosh pit or an album from Slayer as a catharsis vector. If you don’t know what to expect from Slayer, go attend one of their gigs with Lamb of God and Behemoth. Not for the choir singer though: https://www.facebook.com/slayer/
* Thyshade (CO) – Symphonic Metal. One of my discovery last winter and one of the best US soprano vocals: https://www.facebook.com/thyshadeofficial/