It seems spring means “frock-metal” releases, and this year is no exception. It’s all quite satisfying and there is something for everyone.
Leave’s Eyes: Meredead
The prettier and female side of Viking metal has unleashed yet another slab of folk symphonic metal. They continue on their merry way, sounding as much like Blackmore’s Night as they do of Within Temptation depending on the track. Their formula has not changed. It is merely evolving with each release. While this album might not have one song that jumps out at you like the awesome “Elegy”, patience is rewarded with a rich collection of songs that suck you in and lead you to places cold and windy. Or “To France” in that song’s case, although according to the lyrics you never get there.
Liv Kristine has clearly surpassed anything she has done with Theater of Tragedy. Her vocal trade-offs with her husband/guitarist Alex Krull are excellent as usual, their voices mix well. The title track has a great intro of choral singing before continuing on its merry way. The track that follows is quite fun as well, with Krull trading vocals with his wife to maximum affect. This is a sold release of female led symphonic metal with a touch of folk. While not everyone enjoys this genre as much as I do, it would be hard to convince anyone this is a bad example of the genre.
As you might have gathered the name of the band means Midnight Sun in Norwegian. What you might not know is in fact the lead singer of this band, Carmen Elise Espenæs is in fact the sister of Liv Kristine of Theater of Tragedy and Leave’s Eyes fame. In fact Liv’s husband, the awesome named Krull produced this band’s first record, which was nice of him. To have one daughter in the family that can sing as well as Liv is impressive, to have two in the family is amazing. The two ladies have distinctive singing styles for sure, Carmen’s being a bit more gothy and spoken word than her sister. This band prefer to refer to their music as melodic folk metal, but to most ears it will sound similar to Leave’s Eyes. Now that is not a bad thing at all and there is enough of a difference to make it interesting.
You could call this more epic in scope with its soaring melodies. New guitarist Alex Kautz has brought a new sense of vigor to the band. Songs have that sense of urgency that so often pervades Scandinavian metal. Overall, this album is probably less accessible and needs more time to truly sink in. Like a fine wine it needs a bit of time to breath before being truly appreciated. This is a worthy addition to the melodic symphonic folk metal genre. If you have never heard of this lot, be sure to check them out.
Theatre of Tragedy: Last Curtain Call
This is a two-disc set (as there is a DVD too, naturally) putting a live ending on the career of Theatre of Tragedy. Prolonging the pain for fans or one last shot to remind them what they will be missing depending on your point of view. This live CD chronicles the post Liv Kristine tenure of the band. Yes, that’s right Liv shows up in three of the five reviews this week. The band started out doomy then went to the electronically tinged danceable goth metal and the returned to more doomy material. This means that some of this material is catchy as stink. There is plenty of subtle (and not so) innuendo hidden in the lyrics. It’s great stuff all around.
I have seen this lot live and they were a damn good band. I was first turned on to them by my Norwegian mate Birger. He made it clear I had to check them out to understand the root of the Scandinavian female-led goth metal explosion that has occurred. There are some who claim ToT created the genre and ex-members certainly play a large part in the “frock-metal” scene. Whether you view this release as a metal anthropological exercise or just the end to a gothy love affair, it’s worth picking this up.
Within Temptation: The Unforgiving
The couple at the head of this band have a new baby and a new album all at the same time. Not only that but decided rather bravely to go for a concept album with this release. All aspects that could have been speed-bumps to the quality of this release. We needn’t have worried and in fact this release is far more impressive than their previous effort. There are no guests to show up and faff about. It’s all the band. “Shot in the Dark” has all the qualities you expect from this genre. It’s catchy as stink, huge chorus and danceable in its epic-ness. One has to wonder why this wasn’t released as the first single instead of the decent, but not as good, “Faster,” a track that is aimed at every metal dance-floor worldwide. That said, there really are no duff tracks on here, and if you get the expanded digital edition, the bonus tracks are damn good as well. It seems that the time it has taken to construct this album has been rather well spent.
While Nightwish wallows in their post-Tarja phase, this bunch have found their route to greatness. Within Temptation albums are always a treat, with a few damn good tracks. But this is their most solid release to date. I suspect they studied Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime for tips on how to make the songs stand on their own despite being part of an overall concept. In fact, it could be argued that every song on this album could be released as a single if they wished. As is the tradition, they wrap everything up with a goose-bump inducing “Stairway to the Skies”. And for soaring symphonic metal, check out “Fire and Ice”, over the top and epic just the way we like it.
If the last Within Temptation album left you a bit unsatisfied, you need not worry. The band are back on form and have taken themselves to the next level. Move over Nightwish. Your crown has been well and truly taken from you.
Lyriel: Paranoid Circus
I know very little about this lot except for the fact they are very talented. Their intro reminds me of Cabaret with its multi-language introduction. It’s clear this album is at least in part a weird concept album. The lead singer sounds a dead ringer for Candice Night of Blackmore’s Night. In fact, much of this album, especially in its more mellow parts, reminds one of Blackmore’s medieval marauding mandolin-toting musos, no more so than on “Lullaby”. This bunch are German, which is no surprise considering BK’s popularity there, and take the whole genre to a new level.
Some may scoff as the folk medieval metal scene, but when done well it can be great fun. This is melodic female-sung rock at its best. With this release, the band can squarely be seen as contemporaries to some of the above reviewed bands. Even the singing on this release is less elfin and more gruff. Unlike some of these bands, the lead singer has realized that variety in her voice is always a good thing.
The album is noot necessarily one full of tracks that leap out at you on first listen. But as with Midnattsol, after a few listens, you will be hooked.
Well that is your leather and lace music for this spring. As always, keep it safe and rocking.