Epica - Design Your Universe

Source: Mindview
By: Karel Govaert



- luistersessie 04/08/2009

'Design Your Universe'

Net als twee jaar geleden met 'The Divine Conspiracy' kreeg ondergetekende de kans om met een aantal perslui exclusief het nieuwe Epica-album in avant-première te mogen gaan beluisteren. In 2007 logen we naar het hoofdkwartier van Epica's broodheer Nuclear Blast in Duitsland, ditmaal gingen we op bezoek bij bandbaas en gitarist Mark Jansen thuis!


EPICAT

Honderdveertig kilometer van huis met onderweg een ferryovertocht leidde ons richting Nederlands Limburg. Met dertig graden en veel zonneschijn beloofde het alvast een stralende dag te worden rond de riante witte villa in Reuver waar de sympathieke bandleider Mark resideert en waarin hij tevens de oefenruimte voor z'n band Epica heeft ondergebracht. Bij aankomst werden we verwelkomd door Mark zelf, z'n vriendin, zijn ouders en kat Paco die al snel het hazenpad koos richting kelder.

Daarop volgde een rondleiding doorheen de villa. Deze wordt momenteel door de familie Jansen grondig opgekalefaterd met alvast een grote vernieuwing van het sanitair, getuige de badkuip die in de traphal staat te wachten op z'n definitieve stek in de badkamer. Wat vooral de aandacht trok waren de huisstudio en de kelderruimtes die dienst doen als repetitiehok maar daarnaast ook als opslagruimte voor de aanzienlijke hoeveelheid Epica-merchandise.

Daar vonden we ook Mark's kat Paco terug, neergevleid tussen eenstapel hooded 'The Divine Conspiracy'-sweaters. Het zwartwitte huisdier leek er ditmaal geen kwaad in te zien en verroerde geen vin. De koddige kater bleef ons wel de hele tijd verbaasd aangapen. Gered door de bel moet de arme stakker gedacht hebben, want daar kwam een nieuwe stoet metalpers de woning binnengewaaid. Na een glazen boterham of een frisdrankje met een stuk vlaai, mochten alle aanwezigen zich boven naar Mark's nieuwe huisstudio begeven en konden de oren gespitst worden voor de luistersessie.


OPUS MAGNUM

"Samadhi" waar de plaat mee aftrapt is een klassieke en typische Epica-prelude. De bombastische instrumentale opener omvat Latijnse gezangen van een mannenkoor die naar het einde toe inpikken op de eerste echte track "Resign To Surrender". Een dreigende gitaarriff in combinatie met zwaar dubbele basgebeuk van Ariën van Weesenbeek doen zelfs aan Dimmu Borgir (oude stijl) denken. Een terugkerend patroon ontspruit in de vorm van het koor die zangeres Simone Simons telkens na haar zangpartij interpelleert. Voor en na een knappe gitaarsolo volgt een stukje spoken word dat, gedragen op een vloeiende symfonische golf, naar het einde leidt. Het koor start fel op "Unleashed" met militaristisch getint gezang, opnieuw pompend drumwerk van Ariën om daarna wat gas terug te nemen wanneer Simone's zanglijnen invallen. De gemakkelijk te volgen structuur van couplet-bridge-chorus zal ervoor zorgen dat deze track live geheid een eerste-klas-prijsbeest wordt! Een zen-moment vervolgt het reguliere met even later bombastisch koorgezang begeleid door een strijkerorkest. Simone verhoogd haar zangtoon met een halve noot naar haar laatste zanglijnen toe, powerdrumwerk vlagt "Unleashed" definitief af. Met "Martyr Of The Free Word" trekt de band nu zeer stevig van leer! Een snelle, lompe, brute death metalpassage vloeit over in een groovende nu-metalriff waarin Mark z'n grunts volop laat woekeren. De tegenstelling is dan ook groot wanneer Simone erg "girlish" voor de dag komt in hààr stuk. Voor het refrein is opnieuw de hulp van het koor ingeroepen, zij het deze keer beperkt tot backings. Snel soleerwerk ontbreekt middenin deze song ook niet, "Martyr..." knipoogt naar 'The Phantom Agony', de debuut-cd van Epica. Een symfonisch intro naar een rustmoment introduceert "Our Destiny" waarop Simone zowat het hele nummer haar hoge vocale capaciteiten uit de kast trekt. De groep speelt een lekker in het gehoor liggend neutraal melodietje dat uitmondt in een makkelijk refrein.

Latere passages klinken wat wilder,er loert wederom een symfostukje om de hoek en het koor mag ook nog eens aan de bak. Deze midtempo metalmix eindigt in een piano-outro. "Kingdom Of Heaven" kan samengevat worden als het opus magnum van de plaat en deze zesde track is, zoals de titel laat vermoeden, effectief een majestueus nummer dat afklokt op dertien minuten en half! Een bezwerend oosters melodietje met percussiegerinkel gaat een soundtrackachtig symfonisch stuk vooraf waarna de muzikanten de metalbeuk erin zetten. Mark grunt er fel op los, het koor vervolgt een tijdlang tot Simone de draad verder oppikt. Dit model herhaalt zich enkele keren tot een pompend harder stuk waarop de gitaren groovend te werk gaan en Simone haar hoogste stembereik laat galmen. Het koor en strijkerkwartet afgewisseld met wat soleerwerk lijken het einde in te luiden, maar dat is enkel schijn. Een plotse wending ontwikkelt zich met fusion, akoestische gitaarpartijen met strijkers verlagen tot een midtempo vrolijk zomers wijsje waarop Simone vervalt in romantisch gezang. Het agressieve spoken word-stuk luidt weer een agressiever tempo in met een huilende gitaarsolo en Mark's grunts waarna Simone en het koor op de uitdovende muziek het laatste woord krijgen. Een intrigerend nummer dat wel heel veel luisterbeurten zal vergen om het volledig te vatten, maar ik dien te vermelden dat "Kingdom Of Heaven" ondanks haar tijdslengte genoeg diversiteit bezit om te blijven boeien tot het gaatje!


DEMONSTRATING MY STYLE

Een korte drinkpauze voor de aanwezigen blijkt noodzakelijk na een werkstuk als laatstgenoemde. Buiten dollen enkele perscollega's met Paco die zich de ster van de dag waant en na een kwartiertje kunnen we het vervolg aanvatten, het hoofd inmiddels terug fris om bij de zaak te blijven.

"The Price Of Freedom" is een interludium met spoken word dat na het piano-intro dreigender wordt (op het irritante af) om naadloos over te lopen in "Burn To A Cinder" dat met een stuwende gitaarpartij het vuur aan de lont steekt. Het nummer waar we enkel Simone in terughoren op zang kent een makkelijke opbouw en vooral het refrein blijft in het hoofd hangen. Deze track zal ook live wel wat kunnen betekenen. Symfonische bombast wisselt de bijna-stilte af om daarna met hakkende gitaarriffs het refrein aan te snijden. Een golvend zachte overgang dat ook een exotisch karakter vertoont als bevond je jezelf in een tropische bloementuin in Maleisië, beëindigt deze inmiddels achtste track. Ik vroeg me tussendoor al af: waar blijft die karakteristieke Epicaballad waar de groep patent op heeft? En ziedaar, met "Tides Of Time" zijn we erbij aanbeland. Zoals wel vaker het geval is met Epica begint de ballad met piano en algauw word ik geraakt door de zachte romantiek in dit liefdesnummer. Vrij laat treden drums en een gitaarsolo de klassieke vleugel bij om met zacht belgerinkel een einde te breien aan dit droomnummer. Epica ten top in het snelle "Deconstruct". In deze song is de rolverdeling tussen zangeres, grunter en koor opvallend in balans. Dat zorgt voor de nodige spanning als ik jullie er ineens bij vertel dat bombast en rustige passages eveneens met elkaar in strijd gaan, naar een hoogtepunt leiden en, wanneerje op het puntje van je stoel zit, gewoonweg te stoppen. Einde track! "Semblance Of Liberty" is er ook weer ééntje voor de ware metalfan die geen oogkleppen opheeft als het op stijlgenres aankomt.

Een raggend, smerig gitaargeluid met hels drumwerk in een thrashy kader schudden je meteen wakker. Vocaalgewijs zwaait Mark hier de plak met zowel grunts, growls als screams en vervult Simone en het koor een bijrol. Een death metalgitaarduel tussen Mark en nieuwste bandlid Isaac Delahaye herinneren ons eraan dat Mark fan is van Chuck Schuldiner (de in 2001 overleden zanger/gitarist van Death) en Isaac een metalverleden heeft in God Dethroned, net als een enthousiast drummende Ariën. De titel van het voorlaatste nummer "White Waters" klinkt al even dromerig als "Tides Of Time" en het is het ook. Een zachte intro, ditmaal van gitaar en bas, gaan de strijkers vooraf. Oosterse klanken, wellicht ingespeeld door traditionele instrumenten, fietsen omheen het hele nummer en cleane mannelijke vocalen spelen een duet uit met Simone. Een elektrisch muzikaal stuk markeert de finale. Het sluitstuk en tevens de titeltrack van 'Design Your Universe' is een goed voorbeeld van het motto 'save the best for last'. Je kunt horen hoe Epica door de jaren heen gegroeid is en zich met elk album verder losrukt van een aantal genrebands die album na album hetzelfde kunstje opvoeren. Dat betekent dat je net als in "Martyr Of The Free Word" of "Semblance Of Liberty" niet aan hokjesmentaliteit mag doen want de diversiteit in stijlen is wederom troef. Net als in het vorige nummer trapt "Design Your Universe" af met een bijna filmische intro van gitaar en strijkorkest dat langzaam in extase groeit om er daarna een loeiharde moderne metalcore moshriff in te hakken. Hierna een rustpauze in een accoustische passage waar Simone weer eens haar kunnen als mezzo soprano toont. Mark mag ook z'n duit in het zakje doen met diepe grunts en dubbele basgedonder in een symfonisch kleedje die hetzelfde patroon voor een tweede keer voorafgaan. Het tempo versnelt wanneer het koor van zich laat horen en een lang uitgesponnen symfonisch muziekstuk volgt. Simone mag de laatste coupletten aanvatten en eindigt met zacht gefluister, nog enkel begeleid door piano tot 'Design Your Universe' langzaam wegebt.


EINDRAPPORT

Waar veel van hun concurrenten op veilig spelen of een knieval maken richting platte commercie, trekt Epica op hun vierde studioalbum alle registers open en het siert aldus de vijf heren en dame dat ze blijven zoeken naar vernieuwing in geluid en songstructuur. Het is dan ook prachtig om horen hoe in een aantal tracks experimenten niet worden geschuwd zonder daarbij hun identiteit te verliezen. Dit album klinkt nog altijd als "Epica pur sang"! Commercieel gezien denk ik dat de fans even zullen moeten wennen aan de nieuwe paden die de groep bewandelt, want 'Design Your Universe' is - nog meer dan z'n voorganger 'The Divine Conspiracy' - een typisch voorbeeld van een groeiplaat. Puur artistiek gezien zal je echter moeten bekennen dat Mark en de zijnen wederom een sterk staaltje vakmanschap hebben afgeleverd. Epica blijft een sensatie die nog niet aan het toppunt van hun kunnen is aanbeland en met 'Design Your Universe' leveren ze hun meest volwassen album tot op heden af. Uitkijken maar naar de releasedatum van 16 oktober waar zowel pers en fans het volledige pakket van muziek, artwork, foto's en teksten zullen kunnen bestuderen én beoordelen!


CODA

Na deze eerste kennismaking met de nieuwe muziek volgden fotoshoot en interviewsessies in de mooie bosrijke tuin. Mindview kreeg gesprektijd ingepland met keyboardspeler Coen Janssen. (waarvan je het verslag in een volgende Mindview-uitgave kan lezen) Hierna repten we ons met z'n allen naar een restaurant in het centrum van Reuver en werd het nog een gezellig avondje tafelen en keuvelen met collega's en band. Rest me verder niks dan Mark en de Nuclear Blast-crew hartelijk te bedanken voor de uitnodiging en het warme onthaal in Reuver.  

Karel Govaert

www.epica.nl - www.myspace.com/epica

EPICA is:
Simone Simons – zang
Mark Jansen - gitaar, grunts & screams
Isaac Delaye - gitaar
Coen Janssen - synths & piano
Yves Huts - bas
Ariën van Weesenbeek - drums

gh






Nightwish - Eva

Source: Encyclopedia Metallum

This sucks - 30%
Written by OverchargeddCat on February 19th, 2008

Nightwish has always been a band that I respect more than I actually like (the opposite of a band like Gorgoroth whom I have no fucking respect for at all but still make some pretty damn good black metal.) Anyway, Tarja Turunen had talent, there's no doubt about that, but she always struck me as being one of the most overrated vocalists in the metal world. She could sing but it was always her image that made her really popular. In my eyes she pales in comparison to other vocalists such as Matt Barlow, Hansi Kürsch, Jens Carlsson, Andi Deris, Michael Kiske, Messiah Marcolin, and well the list goes on and on. Anyway, enough of that, onto Eva. This song is basically trying to give the Nightwish fans a transition into the new singer. Anette Olzon isn't quite what Tajra was in my opinon, but she still isn't bad. No, the problem of this song isn't really with her. The problem with this song is that it is boring as fucking hell.

At no point in this entire track was I ever amazed, or even interested. Let's get one this out of the way here, this is not a metal track. It's more like a pop ballad. Now I don't have any problems with balads at all (I'm a huge fan of Iced Earth's Someting Wicked This Way Comes album) but this is just plain bad. This is something Evanescence fangirls will eat right up. (as many other reviews of recent Nightwish meterial have pointed out.) This song isn't even something you can enjoy for the "Opera" elements, because Anette Olzon can't sing in an operatic style. This means that all Nightwish has become in recent years is a band that is trying desperately to appeal to a mainstream audience of goths and scene kids.

Older Nightwish may not have been my style, but I still respected it for what I did for the genre. However, this is just marketed, mainstream crap.

Disappointing... - 60%
Written by NecroWraith on August 14th, 2007

I loved Tarja, and wasn't sure if Nightwish would ever find a suitable replacement. Finally, they announced they found her: Olzon. I had mixed hopes about their new sound. Was she gonna be as great and powerful a singer as Tarja? So far, I have to say... no.

Yes, this song is a ballad. Nothing against that personally; after all, in an interview, Nightwish said their new CD is gonna feature both heavy songs as well as ballads. At least they're not going all-ballad-ey, so I'm not complaining.

What I am complaining about, however, is Olzon's voice on this single. Eva is a boring song. Anyone has to admit that. I'd imagine Tarja's voice would have added a little bit more power to this song, but Olzon just doesn't cut it. Her voice is average and boring. I've heard millions of better singers than her, and I'm convinced her voice just does not fit in with Nightwish at all.

Imagine her singing some of the faster, heavier songs. Tarja made Nightwish seem interesting, dark, mysterious, enchanting... Olzon seems to do the opposite. In fact, I would go as far as to say I wouldn't be surprised if I heard a new Nightwish song on one of the pop radio stations.

Overall, yes, Olzon does have a nice voice, but I've heard better, and it definitely does not seem suitable for Nightwish's style. Sorry Nightwish.

Enough about her voice. How is the rest of the song? I'll have to admit, the rest is mediocre at best. Where are the riffs? Solos? Well, I guess I can't complain about that too much. It IS a ballad, afterall.

I'm just hoping Olzon will prove me wrong and add the same magic to Nighwish's music Tarja did. I honestly doubt it. But I'm still hoping...

-Marcin C.
Original but boring - 45%
Written by EpicaNightfall on June 2nd, 2007

For Tarja's replacement they couldn't have chosen someone much more different. Olzon is not an operatic singer, she has none of Tarja's bombastic power and cold majesty. Instead Nightwish have opted for a soft and warm pop/folk voice very reminiscent of Within Temptation. This change was to be expected as Tarja's vocal parts became less operatic and more pop as the band progressed and Olzon is far more suited to this new style. Olzon is a satisfactory singer, perfectly talented and capable, yet she has no real distinctive element to her voice and perhaps will not have the power to keep up with the faster and heavier songs.

Nightwish again prove themselves one of the most original and evolving bands in metal (by this I don't mean weird time signatures and obscure ambient sections pseudo-evolution) by releasing something totaly unlike any other metal band has done. They released what sounds like a ballad from a Disney or Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. This is not a metal ballad, it lacks the clear distinct melodies and hyperbolic emotion that is typical to metal ballads. Instead it is a subtle, rather warm affair, symphonic but in no way epic. There is no hint of the trademark overlfow of emotions in Nightwish's previous ballads. Thankfully there are absolutely no unnecessary power chords plastered over the song as I expected and there is a nice solo, yet fails to compare to Emppu's more emotive slow solos (Swanheart, Nemo etc).

The problem with this single is that it is simply not catchy, at all memorable or containing any particular emotion or atmosphere. It remains simply passable, listenable, yet entirely uninteresting. The artwork is poor; coldly computerised and there are no bonus tracks included which make it as a release even less interesting. If you're a big fan of musicals, Disney or Within Temptation ballads you might be interested in this but it will unlikely remain a classic. For most people it is undeniably something unexpected yet fails to live up to its potential.
A Change For The Better - 80%
Written by corviderrant on June 2nd, 2007

To be honest, my exposure to Nightwish has been limited. But what I've heard of the band with Tarja Turunen, well...she is a wonderful vocalist, don't get me wrong, but her style didn't always seem to mesh with the music. Keep in mind that she wasn't at all into metal when she joined the band, and it showed in that her vocals often seemed out of place. Especially with the more mainstream direction Nightwish have been going in the last few years. I am not at all putting her down by stating that Annette Blyckert (Olzon) is a more apropos replacement for her.

I say this because Annette feels like a much better fit in the band's sound. Her vocal patterns feel more natural and her voice actually suits this song well--though I do agree with another reviewer in that I'd like to hear her really cut loose on something like "End Of All Hope". Her soft and soothing approach at the song's beginning give way to a more emotive wailing by the end and it flows very naturally. The chorus is indeed very catchy and the backing vocals at the end nearly brought a tear to my eye. Her voice and accent are entirely different from Tarja's, since she's Swedish, but it adds an extra level of charm and style. Can she hang? If this song is any indicator, yes, so far so good.

The song itself is a very pretty ballad, something I'm known to be a sucker for--but only if it's well-written and not formulaic. And Nightwish did a very nice job on this song, with Tuomas' keyboards leading the way and Emppu dealing out a very melodic solo. The rhythm section does its job, all you can ask for in a song like this, and does it well. And Marco kept his mouth shut on this one, a good move. Good vocal melodies on the chorus in particular as well as good vocal layering in general; Annette lays down sweet harmonies that sound right on and as I said, her more emotional cries at the end in the background are beautiful.

Overall, this is an auspicious debut for Miss Olzon, now let's see what else the woman can do, I say. And I bet it will be good too. Let's give her a chance to show off what she can do and judge fairly, I say.
The same Nightwish, new singer - 95%
Written by evildude on May 29th, 2007

I was surprised when I saw this song is a ballad. Not because Nightwish dosen't have any ballads, because it does and some are great, but because it's their new single. On Wikipedia it states clearly:
"Lead band member Tuomas Holopainen has in an interview said that the album will have a lot in common with the last album (Once). For example, the band will keep the new kind of harder songs (such as "Nemo", "Wish I Had an Angel" and "Planet Hell"), but there will as well be softer ballads."
"There will as well be softer ballads" means that a few ballads will appear on the album, but most of the song will be harder, so I don't understand why emphatise on a ballad. The reason could be that they wanted to present Olzon's voice, but, then again, there are many who can sing a ballad. I was more curious as to how she sings a harder song like "End of all hope".

These things aside, the song is a very good one. "Angels fall first" is one of the things I dislike from Nightwish because I feel like Tarja's voice is piercing my brain. It's nice to see a change like this one. I would rather prefer a less operatic, more symphonic, heavier Nightwish. In "Eva", Olzon's voice is in harmony with the instrumental part. It's low and melancholic in the first half, raising in the second half where the instrumental gets a little harder and more complex.

To be honest, I never understood why Nightwish are considered power metal. The atmosphere is closer to folkgothic and the instruments closer to a symphonicheavy. Even they state their genre is "melodic heavy metal with a female vocalist".

In conclusion, I find this song to be very good one. It's simply Nightwish. The same Nightwish and a new singer.
There is also a short solo in the song, a solo that reminded me of the one from "Nemo".
Not up to Nightwish standards - 60%  Written by TommyA on May 29th, 2007

I don't usually review singles but "Eva" is an exception since we get to hear a new singer and, apparently, a completely different Nightwish. Even though the song doesn't show a very radical change in Nightwish's style, it's still clear that it's a new era for them.

However, this change isn't so great. "Eva" is a ballad, and not exactly the best one they've ever released. Nightwish ballads are usually amazing and beautiful (like "Angels Fall First" or "Two for Tragedy"). "Eva" doesn't seem to reach that same level. Don't get me wrong, it's a very powerful track with a catchy chorus and a memorable ending, yet it's just not up to the Nightwish standard.

This change, however, isn't as drastic in the music as it is in the vocals. As you probably know, Tarja Turunen was fired after the "End of and Era" concert. Instead of her, we have Anette Olzon. She's a good singer, yet doesn't have the same vocal range as Tarja. Her voice is undeniably beautiful, yet I consider Nightwish to be an operatic metal band (like most of the fans do). Anette's voice is far from operatic, which is why I feel that Nightwish made a big mistake in hiring her.

If "Eva" is the best song on the upcoming album, Nightwish have a big problem. I also feel that, although Anette voice was heard in this ballad, it will be drowned by the music because it's just not powerful enough. Anyway, it's a decent song, but it's just unsatisfactory.

Nightwish - Oceanborn

Source: Rainbowflame's Metal Domain
Rating: 9.3
By: Torgeir Krokfjord

From the deepest core of the Finnish woods comes the quintet Nightwish who, after the releases of 1997s "Angel Fall First", this album, and last year's "Wishmaster" in addition to some heavy touring with Rage and Valley's Eve plus Sinergy and Eternal Tears of Sorrow, has jumped right to the top of the European Metal scene. This may very well be due to their ability to reach out to very many different sorts of fans - power metallers dig their crunchy riffing and catchy melodies, prog rockers dig their haunting synth layers, black- /dark-/goth metallers might dig their cryptic lyrics and dark moods, and Tarja Turunen's operatic vocals makes the casual music lovers stand the heaviness of the music. This has led to several appearances at the Finnish and German album/single charts and in shows at Finnish national TV, and a very successful gig at last year's Wacken Open Air festival. The press has also been raving quite a lot, especially about their latest opus, "Wishmaster", but to some extent I tend to this agree, as I personally find "Oceanborn" to be their best release. It is definitely the most technical of the three, and IMO it has a sense of spontaneity and joy for which there may be a lack of both in "Wishmaster", which I find to be less inventive/creative and in "Angels Fall First", which, although a nice album, suffers from the usual "debut album defect" - too experimental and nervous. My thoughts on these two albums will be published (oh yes, of course it is the publishing phase that delays my reviews, duh) in a very short (or very long) while. But in the meantime, don't get me wrong, all three Nightwish efforts are absolutely highly enjoyable albums. "Wishmaster" even made it into my top 10 list of last year - tatatatataaaaa!

Although they do not try to hide the fact that they have been sneak-peaking quite a lot of Stratovarius tablatures when composing guitar riffs, Nightwish has managed to create a quite original sound - massive use of keys, crunchy (Strato-like...) six-string riffs and the most heavenly vocals to top it (do not confuse with the vocals of Heavenly, which I find quite dull). Keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, who composes all the music (and also makes for one fifth of the line-up, the rest being vocalist Tarja Turunen, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, bassist Sami Vänskä and drummer Jukka Nevalainen does also possess an ability of finding "The Good Melody" that very many other songwriters in today's Metal scene lack. (For the theoretically oriented of you, our 47,31 daily viewers, this is often caused by, in for example G minor, incorporating also the G# major chord (thus making it G phrygian, but only for a bar) and moving to this when the vocals sing a C - the major third of the chord. This would be OK if featured during the entire song, or even the entire passage, but as a "passing chord" - in "Stargazers", for example, the rest of the intro/verse is in straight G minor, before modulating to C minor for the chorus) this would be considered "illegal" among theoreticians. Another example on how revolutionary, society-crushing and downright evil Heavy Metal is.)

But that's enough alphabetical widdling for now, let's put those dictionaries away (no, let's not put it away, why not duplicate them in about eight zillion copies and send them to the Italian government so they can hand them out to the country's Power Metal bands along with a Dostojevskij or Steinbeck novel to give them examples of good storylines...). And after that, it's time to move on to the musical contents of our object of analysis - the songs of Nightwish' "Oceanborn".
1. Stargazers -
This is the first Nightwish song I heard (as it is the opening track on my first-bought album of theirs that comes quite naturally, as I am not infected by a quite common fetish that is the "begin playing albums from the last track and forward - especially recommended when dealing with concept albums). It is also one of the best, as it captures everything I felt maybe was missing on the other albums - the mature freshness and enjoyment in playing. The melodylines are among Tuomas' most haunting, and the way the track excels - from the bombastic intro through the mystical verses (chord progression - Gm, G# (!!!), Gm, Eb, Bb, F), the brilliant chorus and ingeniously arranged solo-section, where the themes build up between guitar and keys in a way that most other bands can only dream of. The lyrics are very intricate and "difficult", but they are very well written nonetheless. "Floating upon the quiet hydrogen lakes/In this ambrosial merry-go-round they will gaze/Ephemeral life touched by a billion-year-show/Separating the poet from the woe"

2. Gethsemane -
During the first listens to the album I though this song was among the worst on the disc. This has now changed. Although the opening section is nothing special, a Malmsteen-bridge on a dull half-speed, the rest is much better. The verses are symphonic, mid-paced, and very beautiful, and the part beginning at about 0:54 is pure genius! Atmospheric dream-like vocals and simply gorgeous arrangements definitely makes for good music. The guitar-riff at about 2:18 is nothing special, but the galloping keys/guitar section before has more drive than my 1:18 scale Batmobile. The same goes for the solo-section at about 4:54, and the part beginning at about 4:20. Once again the poetry (I choose to call it that, Tuomas is more of a poet than a mere lyricist) is excellently written. "Forgive me, for I don't know what I gain/Alone in this garden of pain/Enchantment has but one truth/I weep to have what I fear to lose".

3. Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean -
This is maybe Nightwish' hardest moment, and on this track Tarja has to share the vocal duties with some guy called Wilska (who I'm quite sure sings in some semi-famous Finnish Dark/Death Metal band which name I do not remember) who adds a dark-pitched male voice to some parts. This is not in any way like the clean vocals Tuomas himself sang on "Angels Fall First", but a much darker style. It is not by any means "growling", though - give me Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) or Chris Barnes (Six Feet Under) anytime and I'll show you Death Metal singing the way it should be. The song itself is quite complex, featuring quite aggressive riffing/drumming (both guitarist Emppu and drummer Jukka really get to strut their stuff here), at times kind of "morbid" sounding keys, calmer parts, the most amazing vocal melodies (sung by Tarja, of course) and a tempo and punch to die for. A very diverse song, and when everything's done in the same excellent way, this makes for a true gem. This is also the song on which the cover painting is based, by the way.

4. Sacrament of Wilderness -
After three marvellous songs you'd probably expect a lame one now, right? Well, then you'll have to look somewhere else. "Sacrament of Wilderness" (damned good title, eh?) follows excellently up in the same tradition as it predecessors, although it is maybe a tag more straight-ahead than for example "Devil...". Most of the riffs are pretty standard Heavy Metal rhythm-wise (but nice anyway, and have all of the typical crunchiness found in Mikko Karmila's productions), but some Stratos meets Children of Bodom keyboard parts spice up the soundscape a bit. The chorus-melody, for example, is magnificent, and the German PM-influences here are quite obvious. Lyrically, though, there's not much Gamma Ray in here (read: they do not mention someone who wants to be free), and quotes like: "Dulcet elvenharps from a dryad forest/Accompany all charming tunes/of a sacrament by a campfire/A promise between the tameless/and the one with a tool/Tonight the journey from the cave begins" is Nordic Metal (not the Danish distribution company) at it's best. The song ends with a modulating of the thrilling chorus, and the sparkling of another diamond is fading away.

5. Passion and the Opera... -
...is I guess what Nightwish' music is all about, and it's all to be found in this beauty. Because a beauty it is, and in the ending section (the "bluesy" (kinda) riffing and mid-paced verses before it is not bad either) of this piece Mrs. Turunen really gets to show what she's worth. Accompanied by heavy guitars and drums this is namely nothing but an excerpt from one of the all-time music masterpieces - "The Magic Flute" by W. A. Mozart, which sound nothing but godly, other-worldly, heavenly (see above for disclaimer) etc. etc. (This excerpt is by the way from the aria "Queen of the Night" - which, I just have to make this clear, NOT is a track from the 44th version of the "Absolute Italian Power Metal"-compilation "The Mighty Battle between the f*cking Warriors of the Freezing North and the Bloody f*cking Dregons (note the accent) of the Desert of Immortal Bloodshed". Please note the new and fresh influence from 80s German Thrash Metal in the way the word "f*cking" is used.) "An Aphrodite for mortal souls/Playing hide and seek in lecherous roles/Their erotic hour, my tearless weep/Their satisfaction, my infinite sleep". Need I say more?

6. Swanheart -
This is a ballad, and once again, this is nothing but top-notch. Once again Tarja shines, the light in this twinkling star never seems to fade. The melodies are pure brilliance, and I sometimes catch myself thinking why Tuomas (and Nightwish) really are playing Metal at all. The ballads, no, not only the ballads but I guess all the melodies these/this guy(s) come(s) up with are so tremendously beautiful, that I'm sure they could have reached world stardom and beyond by turning pop. Who needs Celine Dion, Sarah Brightman, and Andrew Lloyd Webber when we have Tarja and Tuomas? But this is NOT a complaint, only a uttering of the outmost fear by a to-the-bone Metal fan who's brutally afraid that one of the genre's top voices shall disappear. If you not agree, why don't you listen to the part from 0:29 to 01:06 on "Swanheart". If you still don't agree after having done that, I'll send you to hell (I guess Piet Sielck from Iron Saviour can show me the way, he's been there, he says.)

7. Moondance -
But every album (at least 99% - "Imaginations..." by BG and "Divine Wings..." by SyX may be the exceptions that determine the law) has it's bad(der) moments, and I'm afraid this also goes for "Oceanborn". This instrumental and it's follow-up "The Riddler" are namely far from as tremendous as the rest of the album. But let's take the first things first and don't be too pessimistic for the future of mankind, because there are definitely some good bits here too (in the end - "bad" for bands like Nightwish does not mean "bad" in terms of "Dawn of Victory" kinda "bad" or something). The intro, for example, is nice. Some gently synth opens the ball, playing a soft melody which is very "Northern" sounding. This theme is then repeated accompanied by guitars and drums, but in that way the gentle melody loses some of its magic. Another beautiful flute/keys part follows, and once again it sounds marvellous. But (without repeating myself), this nice melodywork is ruined when the band enters (no offense, please...). The very "German" sounding (think Bellmann meets Rhapsody meets too much beer) guitars and drums sounds quite out of place here. In tracks like "Black Dragon" of Luca Turilli's solo album it works well, but not after such gentle tones.

8. The Riddler -
This is the most simplistic song on the album, and also the dullest one, in my opinion (Tuomas doesn't like either). The entire piece dwells in a comfortable mid-tempo, with an exception of some quicker double-bass parts towards the end. There are some nice themes and motifs in here, the verses for example, are not bad. "Make me guess if the Earth is flat or round/Set a quessing if fantasies are unbound/If tales aren't just for children to see/That it's peace if sleep walks with me." The lyrics, though are excellent as usual, and they are the definite highlight of the track. "(...) I wish to be touched/Not by the hands of where's and why's/But by the Ocean's minds."

9. The Pharaoh Sails to Orion -
Yes he does, and he couldn't have found himself a better piece of music in which to do it. The diverse influences at display (classical and especially Arabian/Eastern music, for example), show why Nightwish is not your A4 power/speed band and the mystical atmospheres (where Mr. Wilska once again contributes darker vocals) adds even further to this impression. The godsend bombasticisms at 0:49 and brutally ingenious chorus (4:52 and onwards) are among 1999s biggest musical moments, and all in all this is another Nihilisticly (non-existing word, but great for the alliteration) Nightwish Number, and among their best compositions ever. It is this kinda compositions (this is more than a mere song) that makes me feel proud of being a Metalhead (the Word dictionary wanted to change "Metalhead" to "Meathead" but by the strength of the Sword I chose the right one of the two...).

10. Walking In the Air -
I'm not sure whether this is to count as a bonus-track or not (I believe it's not, because I've seen "Oceanborn" with another bonus-track - the unbelievably godlike ballad "Sleeping Sun" in addition to "Walking...") but it's definitely worth owning. What makes this track different from the others is that it's not originally composed by Tuomas. It is namely based on the soundtrack to the Finnish Christmas cartoon "The Snowman", and originally created by an Englishman called Howard Blake. He is obviously an excellent composer, as the theme is very beautiful. The arrangement (done by the entire band, I think) is also very good, as it does only strengthen the already existing melody. This is what I feel may be lacking in "Moondance". It is not instrumental, as one maybe could expect, but in Nightwish' case this is never a bad thing. Tarja's throat makes a sound as beautiful as any pan flute or kazoo (...) in this world, and although the lyrics to this one is not printed in my booklet (it may be in one of the other versions - as I said, I hate one record company licensing their records to a million - or two - other labels) but anyway I just lean back into a state of total pleasure. (This goes only until I realise that I forgot to hit the "repeat all"-button on my CD player...)

Now, this has been a very positive review. (By the way, the reason that almost all my reviews - or all, they're really way too few. I'm lazy. - are almost never negative is basically that I quite seldom buy crappy albums. (OK, I confess, I am the proud owner of one Axel Rudi Pell album.) This is namely a very positive album, too. The songs (maybe with one or two exceptions) are overall very, very strong. The musicians are highly skilled - although especially the guitars get even better on "Wishmaster". The production, courtesy of Mr. Mikko Karmila (suitably entitled "Sound God" in the Stratos' "Infinite Visions" video) is 100% flawless. In other words, this is Metal Heaven.

But to hell with that German drumming...

Ratings and Wrap Up: 9.3
Songs - 9.2,
Performance - 8.9,
Production - 9.8,
Lyrics - 9.4

Hot Spots: "Stargazers", "Swanheart"

"We shall come to set the dolphins free,
We shall wash the darkened bloodred sea
Our songs will echo over the mountains and seas
The eternity will begin once again in peace"


Nightwish - Once

Source: Metal Express Radio

by: FRODE JOHNSRUD

Finland has their Nokia and they have their Finlandia, but apart from those products, Nightwish must be their biggest export article these days ... and a listen to their new and fifth studio effort, Once, leaves no wonder why... although you might be inclined to ask yourself a few questions once you start out with it. Probably the most anticipated release of 2004, the boys (and the girl) refuse to go commercial and kiss everyone's asses. In refusing to do so, they sure don't make it easy - neither for themselves nor for the fans.

Once sees Nightwish expand their sound to the fullest and richest so far. This CD is somehow a logical step for the band (because there is indeed no intention to "sell out" although Once will sell massively), and can easily be described as "more of everything." But, that's just half the truth, because "more of everything" will make you believe that the "White Russian (vodka, coffee liqueur and milk) promoters" have stranded themselves in their own formula. Yes, you can recognize Nightwish once you pop in Once, but this sounds like no other Nightwish record. There's more bombast, there's more orchestration, and there are more guitars as composer Toumas Holopainen obviously wrote more with six strings this time around. There are bigger choirs, and while Rhapsody is in the studio creating their new genre, "Film Score Metal" (and I don't doubt that they have a masterpiece coming...), I am very tempted to say that Nightwish has won by a horseneck, and has already turned to "Film Score Metal" when I hear "Ghost Love Score."

The opener, "Dark Chest Of Wonders," is for sure one of the best songs you'll hear this year; guitars in your face, a huge cosmic sound topped by orchestration and backed by a moving rhythm, and Tarja Turunen enters with a crystal-clear, but somehow fragile, voice that fits and works well for Nightwish. The middle part is thrashy and heavy, and the chorus is pure brilliance. I repeat: pure fucking brilliance!

Next is "Wish I Had An Angel," with a slight techno beat to start, along with more crunchy guitars. Tarja sings the verse, while Marco Hietala breaks rather brutally into choirs - at least brutally compared to the angelic Turunen. This song is indeed a hit, and is believed to be the next single off Once.

The first single however, is "Nemo," the cartoonish chart-climber most of you have heard by now. "Nemo" IS already a hit, with its beautiful piano part, heavy and crunchy guitars (again), bottomed by a bass sound fatter than the Nutty Professor. Tarja's "Oh how I wish..." combined with Toumas' keyboards set you in a dream mode, likely a needed mode in today's world, and the song has a beautiful orchestration part, and a nice and melodic guitar solo by Emppu Vuorinen. Sometimes less is more, and a simple guitar solo sticking to the melody can be just as good - if not better - than the one with lots of showing off. And Emppu flavors the song with just the kind of solo "Nemo" needs.

"Planet Hell," a very bombastic number, shows more of the beauty vs. beast concept, as Marco and Tarja duet the verse, while they both sing the chorus together. Again, hearing Toumas' synth work, there's a cosmic feel to it all.

Now those were the first four tracks on Once, possibly the most "in-ear" songs, though the melody structures demand that you work a little with the CD. You see, from here on, Nightwish becomes even more challenging, and if you dare to say that the band repeats itself, you must be deaf, dumb, or blind - or all of the above. "Creek Mary's Blood" has Native American influences, as none other than the multitalented John Two-Hawks -- a singer, flutist, drummer, guitarist, you name it ... he does it -- was flown in from the Arkansas mountains to Helsinki to perform. He talks Indian (I bet he plays the flute and acoustic drums) and gives a tribe-like feel to one of Nightwish's most ambitious songs to date. The rest of the song, vocally performed by Tarja, is simply a stunning ballad in true Nightwish tradition. Melody-wise, something that could have been featured on the last album, Century Child (how about putting the medicine man on your tour bus in the US?).

"Siren," a true description of Tarja (if you know the legend), is a piece with lots of orchestration. Once has 11 tracks, and if these tracks were balloons in the air, this is one I'm unable to catch and bring down. It's still a little "up there" and drifting, though it has an aura of beauty because of Tarja's singing. Maybe it demands a lot from the listener, or maybe I am demanding too much from the band, but this is one of the songs I have a hard time remembering after playing the CD.

"Dead Gardens" is a rockier composition, and its guitars and attitude kind of set you in the mode for a Marco vocal attack, but it is Tarja who breaks in with a very mellow voice, perhaps more fragile than ever. A little weird, I think, and though there are a few very good vocal lines, this song is another reason why Once doesn't get a full score (and isn't, in my always very humble opinion, Nightwish's best CD this far). The song ends with Emppu going a little nuts, and then fades out ...

A little strange, but "Romanticide" simply follows right from the point were "Dead Gardens" fades out. It has the same guitar sound and vibe, and since Emppu just overdosed on riffing, the opening of "Romanticide" gets a little dull and annoying. The rest of the song, though, is an up. Tarja sings a little stronger (always strong performing-wise, but I don't think it is right to call her singing "powerful" as that term in a way means "with aggression"), and the song has a very operatic approach. Halfway through, the whole track changes radically, much like "Slaying The Dreamer," and Marco and the boys thrash out the last part (thrash, as in "Thrash Metal").

So far, I have raved about the five first songs, but I took a step back for the next three. "Ghost Love Score," a very soundtrack sounding number (like I mentioned), the ten minute epic track of the CD, is again very, very impressive. It shows every beauty aspect of Nightwish; the angelic and operatic singing, the guitar work, the massive choruses, the dramatic and bombastic parts, and the huge orchestration. This is a composition like no other, something only Nightwish (Mister Holopainen) is capable of delivering. I'll have a White Russian to this one!

"Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" (no, my keyboard is not infected by a virus), sees Tarja sing in her native language - a mellow piece with a huge string arrangement. Not as diverse and rich as the other epic tracks on Once, and this one needs to be received with an open mind. If not, it will cause your mind to be opened anyway ...

Last is "Higher Than Hope," a song that begins nicely with an acoustic guitar before Tarja and the orchestra enter the picture. The choruses are perhaps the biggest on Once; well at least Tarja does her best effort to make them sound huge. Again, you will hear those beautiful vocal lines, and there is, by the way, a speech by a friend of the band, who recently lost the battle against cancer.

Though a little hard to get into at first, you will see this CD run up the charts like Sonic the Hedgehog. Hats off for screwing commercialism, hats off for challenging the youngsters to listen to richer and more orchestrated Metal music ... and hats off for teaching people how milk can best can be enjoyed (sorry for the sidetracking).

2004 belongs to Nightwish - like it or not. To quote a Finnish interview-shy blonde bass player (no, not Marco) -- when asked about his new record, intuitively replied: "I like it!"


Tarja - My Winter Storm

Source: Soundshock

There are certainly signs that Tarja hasn't completely left her experiences with her former band behind, as the gothic undertones of ‘Lost Northern Star' quickly make clear. However, there is a shortage of guitar work throughout the album, with songs such as ‘The Reign' and ‘Our Great Divide' being completely keyboard-driven. Where the real difference lies between this work and that of Nightwish however, is the even larger sense of operatic pompousness that lies at the heart of the record. This is by no means a criticism; it gives the album the aura of musical theatre, with the brief instrumental tracks scattered throughout serving as intervals between each ‘act'.


Aside from a bizarre cover of Alice Cooper's ‘Poison' that you have to replay a few times to make completely sure that you weren't imagining it, the album manages to enthral without offering any huge surprises, as the ‘epic factor' is cranked up to 11 throughout. Many will find this album difficult to enjoy, some will probably hail it as the most bombastic album to be released this year. In the grand scheme of things though, it is an interesting effort from a woman who has a lot more work to do if she is to fully rid herself of her overbearing past.


Review by Merlin Alderslade


Delain - April Rain

Source: DPRP

Tracklist: April Rain (4:37), Stay Forever (4:27), Invidia (3:49), Control The Storm (4:14), On The Other Side (4:11), Virtue And Vice (3:56), Go Away (3:38), Start Swimming (5:21), Lost (3:24), I'll Reach You (3:30), Nothing Left (4:39)


Delain
, a Dutch female fronted progressive metal outfit with a ‘Gothic' touch, have their second album out. The band is led by ex-Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt (yes, the brother of Robert). Because of his illness a few years ago (Pfeiffer's disease) he had to be replaced in Within Temptation but after a full recovery he formed his own band, originally started as a project. Singer Charlotte Wessel's evidently learned a lot and is really making her way to the top of the genre. Their debut album Lucidity was well received (Edwin Roosjen scored it an 8-) and this album is a worthy successor.


All songs are pop-orientated rock with the emphasis on being catchy and ready to get a lot of airplay. Not so much progressive nor original I must add, and all eleven songs are within the 5:21 minutes limit. Listening to the album, my first impression was: this is the album Nightwish should have made instead of Dark Passion Play but the originality, refinement and ground breaking albums of that Finnish outfit places Nightwish in a higher league. The overall feel of April Rain is comparable to Nightwish's Oceanborn album, but recorded anew and sung by Anette instead of Tarja. The participation of Marko Hietala in tracks 4 and 11 makes the Nightwish influences even more obvious. Guest on the album is cellist Maria Ahn; she is featured in the track On The Other Side (not a cover of the song by Kansas!). The production duties were performed by Oliver Phillips (Everon) and he surely knows how to produce a bombastic album like this. Tracks like April Rain, Go Away and Lost definitely have the Nightwish touch, the other songs are more in the vein of Within Temptation and perhaps a bit similar to the more mellow songs by After Forever.


My personal favourites are the songs with Marko and the highlight for me is Start Swimming, an absolutely fabulous chorus and the most progressive track of all. Though it's not genuine ‘progressive rock' as such, this band should be checked out live and although Delain are playing safe again, April Rain is a real solid album and providing three quarters of an hour of high quality melodic female fronted metal. The special edition (RR 78795) features an exclusive bonus track. Maybe some of the riffs and choruses are predictable, but there is lot on this record you should be able to enjoy as much I did and will do for quite some time!


Conclusion: 8 out of 10


MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK


Delain - Lucidity

Source: DPRP

Tracklist: Sever (4:53), Frozen (4:43), Silhouette Of A Dancer (5:24), No Compliance (5:09), See Me In Shadows (4:40), Shattered (4:19), The Gathering (3:34), Daylight Lucidity (4:35), Sleepwalkers Dream (4:27), A Day For Ghosts (3:37), Pristine (4:31), Deep Frozen [bonus track](4:44)


Back in 2001 things were looking good for the Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation. The release of the second single Ice Queen, from the album Mother Earth, was their big breakthrough and the world lay at their feet. At that moment in time keyboard player Martijn Westerholt was diagnosed with Pfeiffer's disease and was not able to handle the busy schedule of the band. However immediately after his illness he started writing songs as a way to pass the time and the desire to make music on a professional level got stronger everyday and he finally decided to personally contact some talented musicians from well known bands to create his project Delain. The name Delain is inspired by Stephen King's book The Eyes of the Dragon.


Famous names helped recording this album among whom Marco Hietala (Nightwish), Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation), Ad Sluijter (Epica) and Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes). But the real star of the album is 19-year old Charlotte Wessels. Martijn met her as she lived down the street from the house of Martijn's parents. She contributed to the lyrics and has a pleasant natural way of singing in contrary to the operatic style common to the symphonic metal genre. Starting out as a project Delain is currently a busy live band. Besides Martijn and Charlotte, Delain is completed by bass player Rob van der Loo (Sun Caged), guitar player and vocalist Ronald Landa and drummer Sander Zoer. Guitar player Ray van Lente recently left the band for personal reasons but will not be replaced.


Delain's sound is a mixture of Within Temptation (of course) and Epica. Especially the dark atmospheric keyboards from main song-writer Martijn define the sound of this album. Despite the high quality of this recording it's all very on the safe side. Absolutely no risks were taken and a few songs can easily be categorised as commercial material, with most of the songs around four and a half minutes and the song-structures are very predictable.


The opening song Sever immediately shows what to expect on this album. Heavy guitar parts drenched in keyboard are varied by slow parts with Charlotte singing beautifully. Frozen is the first single (released 21 May 2007) and is a very accessible song. Silhouette Of A Dancer is a slower and more atmospheric song with the chorus spiced up by grunts form George Oosthoek (Orphanage). No Compliance is the only song sung by Sharon den Adel and it's also the low point of the album in my opinion. The song lacks direction, it's not a ballad and it never starts rocking. The vocal parts of Sharon and Marc never really appeal to me.


The second single See Me In Shadows (release 23 July 2007) is a ballad of sheer beauty and marks the first highlight of the album. It's a duet between Charlotte and Liv Kristine and on this song Martijn rules the show with beautiful piano parts and atmospheric keyboards. Shattered is a straight forward song that holds nothing really interesting besides the fact that it's the bridge to the absolute highlight of the album. The Gathering is a rock song that blew me away the first time I heard it and after several spins it still does. It starts with a sing-a-long chorus followed by a powerful riff. After a vocal part and a bridge to the sing-a-long chorus we start all over again. After doing this twice the song steps up a tone and ends with the powerful riff drenched in keyboard. This is the most predictable song on this album but the bottom line: IT ROCKS.


Daylight Lucidity
and Sleepwalkers Dream are straightforward songs that never reach the level of The Gathering. On A Day For Ghosts it's clear that Ad plays the guitar and this song could easily be on a Epica record whilst Pristine is a heavy ending to the album with lot's of grunts from George Oosthoek. The bonus track Deep Frozen is simply the song Frozen with a different chorus.


Delain has produced a very good debut-album that provides high quality music, however if you are looking for ground breaking music then this album is not the place to find it. The songs follow a predictable pattern and all is very much on the safe side. For fans of symphonic metal, especially Within Temptation and Epica, this album must be present in your collection.
 

Conclusion: 8- out of 10

EDWIN ROOSJEN


Tristania - Ashes

Source: Battlehelm

Tristania
Ashes
(SPV)


Norway's Tristania have no less than THREE vocalists - a baritone male and death growl male + the quite exquisite operatic wailings of Vibeke. Ok, we've had Flowing Tears and The Gathering (and yes, sexy female vocals do rule) but in the case of Tristania, the vocals are so prominent and play off each other they successfully turn each of the 7 songs on ‘Ashes' into mini concertos that mesmerise the listener. Added to this are the uber cool guitar licks of Anders Hidle and you've got one helluva suave classical goth rock band. ‘Ashes' is Tristania's 4th album and I see nothing but success for this talented band. I certainly hope there's a stage big enough to hold all 7 of the band - cos they're worth it (and they're Norwegian!).

by Shan Siva

Tristania - Illumination

Source: Battlehelm

Tristania
"Illumination"
(SPV)

Produced by Waldemar Sorychta, the good news for fans of this Norwegian female co-fronted gothic 7 piece is that Tristania's fifth album captures all the successful elements of its predecessor ‘Ashes'. Putting aside the novelty value that the band have an attractive female co-vocalist is that despite what other reviewers say, Tristania are not black metal but actually play very melodic rock with tinges of metal. As such this should make them more appealing to a pure gothic market (rather than a metal one) as the style is more eloquent and atmospheric, with each track blending seamlessly into the next one courtesy of Vibeke Stene's highly soulful voice which is somewhat different to the sorta operatic or vampiric vocals that one might expect. The interplay between the two vocalists (Osten Bergoy being her male counterpart) works successfully as he adds the right counterbalance without it becoming a vocal battle of the sexes! Tristania would be more at home In an art gallery than in their local cemetery if ya get my meaning and thats reflective in their music such that "Illumination" is one to play for those sensitive moments when soothing, yet suave music is needed to calm those nerves after a feeding frenzy.

by Shan Siva

My Dying Bride - Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light

Source: Battlehelm

by Anders Ekdahl
MY DYING BRIDE
"Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light"
(Peaceville)


There are two groups whose new albums I always welcomed with great anticipation. Since I wasn't too impressed by Morbid Angel's new album "Heretic" it was all up to My Dying Bride to blow my mind with their new album "Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light". At first the album seemed like a weaker album than its predecessor "The Dreadful Hours", a step away from the return to the "good old times" that the previous two been. But as with any other My Dying Bride album you have to give it time to grow on you. "Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light" is like an anthology of everything My Dying Bride has done so far. You got the soft voiced songs, the really gloomy doom songs and that ever present mid English melancholia that is synonymous with My Dying Bride. Once embraced by the universe that is My Dying Bride there's only one way to go; total surrender.


The Gathering - Home

Source: Kogaionon

Rating: 0.88/1


THE GATHERING (HOL) - "Home" CD'06
(13 tracks, 60. 25 min)
(THE END)


Another band with a mighty return, as the new album, even if it's more experimental, has appeal and shows some extremely elegant sonorities! Even if Anneke's voice is unique and purely fantastic on this new material, the album doesn't seem to hold any link to Metal and this makes me keep the details to myself. Probably the "Mandylion" era has burned up for good, not to mention their splendid "...always" debut. I only care to say that the Alternative Trip Experimental Rock, touching Ethereal/Goth and Psyhedelic shades, with plenty of Dark marks, performed by the Dutch is a very inspired and original one; still, the feminine voice lasts as the key element. Starting with The Cranberries and voyaging to Kate Bush, in an extremely commercial form, THE GATHERING presents us through "Home", a relaxing music, better and more mystical than the one on the previous albums... unfortunately, there is no Metal scent!


Tiamat - The Church Of Tiamat DVD

Source: Kogaionon

Rating: 0.89/1


TIAMAT - "The Church Of Tiamat" DVD'06 (METAL MIND)


I truly enjoyed this DVD! I felt exactly as if I would have been live at John Edlung's concert, held on January 2005 in Poland! The sound is ok, the imagery is perfect, the crowd is tremendous, everything seems faultless! It's a collection piece, especially for the fact that all the classical videos are included, among which "Gaia" is by far from another planet!


Leave's Eyes - Lovelorn

Source: Kogaionon
Rating: 0.85/1

LEAVES'EYES (GER)- "Lovelorn" CD'04
(10 tracks, 41. 53 min)
(NAPALM)


Liv Kristine Espenaes Krull, known for her activity besides THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, comes back in forth with a new musical project, very digestible and commercial, full of a certain beauty and optimism. Many things have happened lately in her personal life such as marrying Alex (ATROCITY), giving birth to a boy and moving out in Germany for good. Such events have inspired Liv and she succeeded to release a Rock album, with roots in Kate Bush but still having some shades of what THEATRE OF TRAGEDY used to be (especially voice's inflexions!). Conceptually, the outcome is basically structured on three elements: nature, Romanticism and love. Having ATROCITY's members, including Alex' brutal vocals from time to time, LEAVES'EYES insists on the fragile melancholic dimension outlined by a superb female voice while the background mixture of Rock, Metal and Gothic simply discharge dynamism, rhythm and huge energy. The CD presents a multimedia presentation and a video clip, which proves their desire to be professional and up to date. If you're willing to admit each of you might have sometimes a positive sentimental romantic part, then you can try this album! Otherwise, the material has no magic! Maybe this mixture of Gothic Metal with Rock has met, during these last years, all kinds of shapes and dimensions so that without an excellent voice or a steady strong personality not correlated with the rest of the instruments...it might get hard to be noticed. Well, in this very case, Liv benefits of consistent marketing/promotional support!

www.leaveseyes.com | http://www.livkristine.de/

Elis - God's Silence, Devil's Temptation

Source: Kogaionon
Rating: 0.80/1

ELIS (LI) -"God's Silence, Devil's Temptation" CD'03
(11 tracks, 47. 43 min)
(NAPALM)


Sabine Dunser is known especially from her presence in ERBEN DER SCHOPFUNG, beside the famous Oliver Falk (WELTENBRAND). This time she has her own band but following the same line and, naturally, the female voice is the main feature of ELIS sound. Based on a commercial and digestible Gothic Metal, ELIS insists on electronic elements but using an entertaining and pretty Heavy Metal background. It is a nice album almost danceable and with many Pop trends and from time to time it almost reminds us it has some roots in extreme Metal, especially because of aggressive male vocals (luckily seldom featured in the tracks) that tend to "provoke anger" to those listeners who enjoy melodiousness. I think there is about much of tom-tom, bombastic sound, an exceptional presentation, a satisfactory result but definitely not a great one! Since it is both in English and German, ELIS might reach two different kinds of listeners but it might as well to touch none!

www.elis.li


Charon - The Dying Daylights

Source: Kogaionon
Rating: 0.79/1

CHARON (FIN) -"The Dying Daylights'03
(11 tracks, 44. 32 min)
(SPINEFARM)


The fourth album of the Finns simply goes on with a Melodic Heavy Metal line but this time enclosing as well plenty of Gothic shadows, which is a very inspired experiment. We can hear clear clean vocals, pretty peaceful ones and everything sounds natural without any artificial obtrusions or fashionable fakes. It seems like CHARON preferred to follow their own musical line and for such courage they do deserve our respect. Recordings and mixing are really super and I think this proves they are professional and committed to what they do; therefore we can enjoy a brilliant sound. On the other side, I think there is also pretty obvious that they do belong to that specific melodic line pretty characteristic to Finnish scene.

http://www.charon.cjb.net/

Sirenia - An Elixir For Existence

Source: Kogaionon
Rating: 0.90/1

SIRENIA (NOR)-"An Elixir For Existence" CD'04
(9 tracks, 53. 51 min)
(NAPALM)


I have waited for this album (belonging to Morten Veland's band -ex-TRISTANIA-) with great impatience and interest and I must say I really am pretty confused! Why so? Because I waited for much more of imagination and for some new elements! Unfortunately, the new tracks are pretty close to be identical with the ones featured on the debut and solely the vocal interchange plus contrasting concepts (melody versus aggressiveness, romantic/explosive) might be considered fundamental points for this sound! Even worse... for this time we miss Peter's magnificent violin and those passages with clear clean vocals... and those vocals used to get in resonance with the rest of instruments and actually managed to create a kind of stylistic equilibrium! There are some remains of violin from time to time but rather too faded and in lack of any charm! The album is based on a common effort of four musicians who are entertained by the usual choir mastered by synth. It would be a huge mistake to say it is not a good album! On the contrary, I listen to it with great pleasure and I really like it. Nevertheless, as far as I thought I knew Morten, I expected him to come with a real artistic "bomb"...both as music and concept "in se"... assuming he released the debut in a big haste...! Henrietta Bordvik's voice is rather too fragile and while listening to it... you might have the impression there is innocence itself down on earth! But here comes Morten in a very dynamic and aggressive manner with a voice in lack of any inflections but trying to impose a dark angry note to the sound. It is interesting to notice that the conceptual structure is still based on Gothic and many passages remind me of FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, but more likely as a Metallic cover version. I'd say that choirs remained a key element in SIRENIA's sound and I realize that Morten follows the same line he originated with TRISTANIA. "Star-Crossed" seems to be a great track and here... the male choirs simply mesmerize and give a thrilling note to an Atmospheric sound in Norwegian version! Otherwise... we have Metallic guitars, rhythmic battery, melodic explosive tunes and a bombastic keyboard! This is just another sample of first class Norwegian Black Gothic Metal, which keeps catching up with today's fashion!

www.sirenia.no


My Dying Bride - Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light

Source: Kogaionon
Rating: 0.93/1

MY DYING BRIDE ( UK )-"Songs Of Darkness, Words Of Light" CD'04
(8 tracks, 61. 06 min)
(PEACEVILLE)


What could be left for one to say when holding a new album of these British! It is their eighth chapter! Conservatism seems to be a fundamental feature for this small continent and this is perfectly reflected in music as well. Aaron brings up now a first rate Dark Doom Death Metal album, pretty darkened and full of mystery! Although the sound is rather old, in the manner of the first album, MDB succeeds to amaze today with the most depressive album in their history! Perhaps my statement might sound a little hazarded but I only ask you to take in account one single aspect: when everybody is chasing for Atmospheric or Gothic frames, full of melody and modern rhythmic and commercial elements, MDB reveals a genuine Dark bomb defying any trend or influence of The New Wave by insisting on simple elements guided by guitars and battery and led by an extraordinary voice -able to feature all kinds of inflections! I do admit, from time to time, a distant keyboard can be heard but it rather sounds like a pipe organ than a bombastic instrument and it harmoniously meets a sound already frozen... already full of feelings of solitude and isolation and retreat! Here there are all kinds of passages, from the most sinister and introverted ones to melodic and accessible frames developing a warm friendly communication lane! In other words, this is an album to strike all faithful MDB fans and perhaps it shall make an impression on the new ones as well! I must confess, this very release both shocked and fascinated me despite the fact I actually heard nothing new... Perhaps it is about memories... about a return in time, I wouldn't know for sure but listening to this sound again "threw" me into an exclusive mood! Well, the artistic aspect was accomplished by the one who used to shock us 10 years ago, Andy Green... It is an exceptional imagery! So, this is a new "Like Gods Of The Sun" album but in a version up to the III-rd Millennium! A must is "The Blue Lotus" track!!

www.mydyingbride.org


The Gathering - Souvenirs

Source: Kogaionon
Rating: 0.81/1

THE GATHERING (HOL)-"Souvenirs" CD'03
(8 tracks, 49. 51 min)
(THE END)


Is there anyone not to know about this band? During the time, the Dutch musicians had changed the sound, direction and look over and over again so that I find at least difficult to say if they ever played Metal tunes. What they come to point out now it is called Alternative Rock/Triprock, a strange mixture of both organic and electronic sounds with serious hues of psychedelic echoes, perhaps a Trip-Hop with Space-Rock influences. Anneke's voice is as strong and passionate as ever and I must confess that the experience of collaboration with Trickster G (ULVER) in the last track is at least inedited. People say this must be the best album of the five musicians. Well, for a pub music and atmosphere, the new tracks seem just perfect, no objection about that! The shy shadows of Dark seem to hardly face the new tendency and, once again, THE GATHERING makes the proof the band has quitted that peculiar underground spirit, the one which made them famous. There might be a subjective nostalgia that keeps me immune to new alternative sonorities but I wouldn't know for sure! What I know is that the music didn't disturb anyone around me while playing but again... it didn't strike either!


Theatres des Vampires - Suicide Vampire

Source: Kogaionon
Rating: 0.90/1

THEATRES DES VAMPIRES (ITA)- "Suicide Vampire" CD'02
(42. 06 min, 10 tracks)
(BLACKEND)


Sick diabolic minds...! The new material, more symphonic, Gothic Atmospheric and orchestral than the up mentioned one with two female voices strongly supported by clear imposing male vocals as well as by the presence of amazing choirs and outstanding non-Metal instruments!
Black Gothic Horror Epic Symphonic Metal fusion is actually impressing and sounds avant-garde awards the sound with a proper unique dimension. Well, I'd give anything to see and listen to them live! One small detail: between the two albums they released "Iubilaeum Anno Dracula 2001", a diabolic material but I tend to see it more like a show than like a conceptual one.

http://www.theatres-des-vampires.com/

Nightwish - Century Child

Source: Kogaionon
Rating: 0.81/1

NIGHTWISH (FIN)-"Century Child" CD'02
(50. 25 min, 10 tracks)
(SPINEFARM)


Well, well...quite some blaze...some praises, superlatives only to describe this last album of the Finns! Even the most enraged Blackers seem to be attracted to NIGHTWISH! Subsequent to my unenthusiastic review for "Wishmaster" album, I really thought the new sequences would kick me even harder! Fortunately, it didn't happen so! If you ask what it is about this music... I can tell you: nothing new, just inciting rhythms for shaking hairs, a super monotonous battery and guitars embracing a tiresome Heavy Power Progressive easily to imitate for anyone. Tarja's voice features no new sounds and neither spectacular modulation, the bombastic keyboard seems to be in lack of inspiration while the male voice performed by the bass player desperately tries to change something in the faded NIGHTWISH look but with no luck. But if we gaze into a different perspective, well, no doubt, it is about a well-executed album, a quality recording, live choirs and the participation of a professional percussion orchestra... and we can go back to "Wishmaster". Well, we are talking about NIGHTWISH and all five musicians are indeed professional! "Oceanborn" was the band's start and there from NIGHTWISH only ran for success while the inspiration/innovation chapter seems to have closed. Sami Vanska (SINERGY, TAROT) participated on "Oceanborn" as well and I guess the bass was much more present and clearer, which is a valid feature for the entire musical message, not like on this very album having so many en vogue atmospheric details that, after all, turn out to be boring. When I hear that German tops are "intoxicated" with NIGHTWISH...I realize I shall never have place for praising what can make money ignoring the creative side-which is, up to my opinion, the most important element as far as music is concerned. Well, it is a pity! Perhaps most of you disapprove my sayings...this is it! I only intended to suggest opening your eyes before buying this sample of Operatic Gothic Metal Rock. Surely, those who adore the sound of previous albums probably shall taste as well, this dose of NIGHTWISH.

www.nightwish.com


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