This week I am focusing on the latest batch of “pretty frock metal” releases filling the shelves of your local good metal store. It’s a bit of a change; one band sounding like a better version of previous fallen one, while another band has released a CD that sounds like a sequel to that last band’s epic release. Confused? Well you won’t be, Just hang on as I guide you through the changes in genre.
Nightwish: Dark Passion Play
Tarja, their previous frontwoman, was unceremoniously fired after their triumphant end of the tour in their homeland (found on End of an Era). She is now a solo artist with a new album coming out this winter. The woman with the task of taking over is Anette Olsen, who was last scene fronting an Abba tribute band… oh dear. What is instantly recognizable is the fact Olsen does not have the power or range of her predecessor. At least on this CD, she also seems to lack the passion of her predecessors. At times she almost sounds like she barely knows the songs.
The musical side of it has not changed; it has the same passion, power and musicality we have come to expect from Nightwish. The combination of Anette and Nightwish first made me think of Evanescence; if all the instruments were actually played and not programmed. Anette has a better voice than Ms Lee as well.
There are probably some who welcome the lack of operatic histrionics on this release. I prefer it quite frankly to the pop-like Abba meets goth metal of some of the tracks. Why they included “Meadows of Heaven” on here is beyond me, as its dire in extremis. The singles “Eva” and “Amaranth” are typical of the fare on here. There are some interesting side-turns including them doing Jethro Tull on “The Islander”. It’s probably the most interesting song on the whole album, with Marco (bass) taking lead vocals.
That said this is not a bad album by any means at all. It’s just not the Nightwish we have gotten used to. They have moved even closer to the pop world. Considering how many countries they are number 1 or near number 1 in; probably not a bad idea financially. I just miss Tarja’s abject vocal power. It will be interesting to hear what Olsen sounds like live. She certainly uses a hell of a lot of help on CD.
Visions of Atlantis: Trinity
This lot seem to have taken up the gauntlet of Nightwish losing Tarja and are runnig with it. Think light Therion mixed with Nightwish of old. Melissa has the operatic pipes to deliver the power and passion needed for this sort of music. There is a great interplay with the male vocalist Mario as well. A great deal of effort is made to meld the two voices to great effect. As in keeping with the genre, the musicianship here is excellent. Just check out the soaring solo on “Passing Dead End”. This is just what you expect from this sort of music.
“Poem” is just a great emotional tour de force with vocals and music matching perfectly. Yeah, it’s a power ballad but it’s done right. This could be a huge bloody single. Must be absolutely amazing live. VoA have released an easy accessible symphonic metal tour de force.
Epica: The Divine Prophecy
This is a concept album broken into individual parts with the epic 13 minute stormer title track. Unlike most concept albums, this is not a trudge to get to the end. That said they obviously took the Queensryche lesson to hand and some of the parts stand brilliantly on their own. For instance, there’s the Evanescence-like “Never Enough” that does all that band’s good stuff without the rap. Instead, you have some excellent grunt vocals in the background providing a great deal of menace.
Epica, despite its epic storyline is probably more poppy than some of the output in this genre. Check out “Santa Terra” for oodles of epic heaviness, a wonderful mix of chugging guitar, strings, and soaring voices. There are grunty male vocals there but they are way back in the midst. Front and definitely center are the tender female vocals. Musically this lot are no slouch either. They are well aware one needs to have the chops to make the grade.
After Forever: s/t
The hardest of the recent batch of goth metal releases, this lot go for a huge sound that just fills you speakers with their efforts. She made be called Floor and wear chaps, but she can certainly blow you head off with her silk smooth but power vocals. While maybe not as operatic as others, there is more than enough power and passion to make up for it. You want passion; check out “Energize Me” with its soaring vocal lines and heartfelt delivery. And even the title “Cry with a Smile” tells it all. It ain’t called symphonic goth metal for nothing. You want huge wall of sound then “De-energized” will work wonders for you. Heavy vocals let you know that you are in for it.
My copy is the special edition and contains the excellent bonus track “Lonely” with its stunning piano intro. Yeah, like she is ever lonely. On the bonus DVD you get videos for three tracks on the CD as well as the normal photo gallery. Nuclear Blast has found a great band. This lot sure blast, but from within a silken glove.
If you haven’t guessed by now I am a big fan of this genre. Epic female or female co-lead vocals backed by uber-symphonic metal has always got me in the right bits. All four of these bands have something to offer fans of the genre. They come from different angles granted but they all get it right in their own special ways.
Ignore those who like trashing the genre for whatever reason. There is enough variety that you are bound to find something you like.
I shall be back later this week with another column. The reason I am doing them so close together is I am heading off to have an operation for colon cancer a week from this Monday. I am not sure when I will be able to write at a desk after the operation. Rest assured however I will be listening to the pile of review music and getting ready for my next column.
As always, stay safe and check out live music as often as possible. Oh yes and one more thing… if you are over 35 get a regular colonoscopy. I can tell that it probably saved a hell of a lot of pain, suffering, worry, and maybe even death.