Hapfairy chooses five albums that are new and/or interesting in the world of symphonic metal (and similar genres)
I was excited to have a listen to this album from the moment I saw the title and cover art - it seemed to promise something epic. However, I'm not sure it really delivers. The instrumentals are gems - dark metal pieces with Apocalyptica's melancholy cello sound flowing over them - but the tracks with singing parts leave quite a lot to be desired. In part, I think this is down to the band's choice of guest vocalists. People like Gavin Rossdale (featuring on lead single 'End of Me' ) are much more suited to singing for rock music than for metal. The only exception he
re is Gojira's Joe Duplantier, who does a great job of adding a harder edge to the song 'Bring Them To Light'.
Overall, I'd say 7th Symphony is worth a listen, but it's unlikely to blow you away.
My favourite tracks: At The Gates of Manala, Beautiful, Bring Them To Light
You might also like: Sonata Arctica, Nightwish, Metallica
2. Rubicon - Tristania (2010)
Tristania lost their lead singer, the lovely Vibeke Stene, in 2007 amid rumours that she had quit in order to become a singing teacher. Although the band has gone through several lineup changes among their instrument players (Morten Veland famously left to form Sirenia), after 10 years and 5 albums, Vibeke's departure signalled a big change in the band's sound akin to that of Nightwish post-Tarja.
New vocalist Mariangela Demurtas will doubtless be under heavy scrutiny from fans. Her voice is good enough, certainly, but I'm not entirely sure whether it fits the music. The band's distinctive gothic metal sound was born out of death and doom metal influences, and Mariangela's vocals just don't have the same melancholy beauty as Vibeke's. However, on tracks like Amnesia and the epic Illumination, it is clear that her voice does have an interesting sound of its own.
Musically, the album is typical Tristania stuff - dark metal with some haunting violins and piano. Fans will most likely enjoy what's on offer here, but I feel that with a little more time, Mariangela and the band may well provide us with something even more special.
My favourite tracks: Year of the Rat (check out the awesome fire juggling in the video!), Patriot Games, Illumination, Amnesia
You might also like: Sirenia, Trail of Tears, Therion
3. What Lies Beneath - Tarja (2010)
This new offering from Tarja Turunen left me feeling pleasantly surprised. I found the opening track, Anteroom of Death, to be a strange piece of almost Phantom of the Opera-style weirdness - but I guess it's probably a grower, and the Van Canto cameo is genius. Beyond that, Tarja demonstrates some truly beautiful singing, and there are a few areas in which the album gets quite heavy, although much of it demonstrates more classical and rock influences. Some good musicians have obviously been employed here, including guitar maestro Joe Satriani on the single Falling Awake.
There definitely seems to be a higher level of production on this album, and Tarja's songwriting skill shows some promising progress. Although there are fewer tracks then on her previous album (My Winter Storm - the special edition has a massive 19 songs with a bonus CD containing a further 13) they seem more polished, and a little more inspiring.
Overall, What Lies Beneath will definitely be well-received by Tarja fans, and could even bring her some new ones. I still don't feel that it's up to Nightwish standards, but forgetting that; on its own, it's a very good record.
My favourite tracks: Until My Last Breath, Underneath, Dark Star, Falling Awake
You might also like: Nightwish (obviously :P), Epica, classical singers
4. Everything Remains (As It Never Was) - Eluveitie (2010)
In this album, Swiss folk-metallers Eluveitie have taken a slightly different direction from their previous efforts. Although in some respects they have stuck to their roots - they still use a range of folk instruments including flutes, violins and bagpipes - the album is noticeably less heavy than some of their others. They also use a little more English than before: one of their previous albums was entirely in the ancient Gaulish dialect.
Personally, I find the mixture of death growls and folk music to be a little strange, but I can see why many enjoy the combination. Even though there are some great songs here, including title track Everything Remains As It Never Was, I think I prefer it when the band takes a more melodic, instrumental approach. Luckily for me, the band are said to be planning on recording a follow up acoustic album to their last effort, Evocation I (it will be called Evocation II, unsurprisingly!). So if you are more interested in the folk side of Eluveitie's music, it might be worth waiting for that one.
My favourite tracks: Everything Remains As It Never Was, Quoth The Raven, The Liminal Passage
You might also like: Ensiferum, Midnattsol, Korpiklaani
5. An Elixir for Existence - Sirenia (2004)
Okay, this is an old one, but I only discovered it recently! (Although, last time I checked, this and At Sixes and Sevens had been removed from Spotify for reasons unknown... Luckily, I had already bought Elixir on CD.)
This is quite an excellent example of what I would call Gothic Metal. Morten Veland (ex-Tristania) plays all the instruments on the album, and his death growl vocals contrast nicely with Henriette Bordvik's soft voice. The resulting balance is something quite special, and it seems a shame that Sirenia later did away with it in favour of female-led vocals. Normally I wouldn't consider that a bad thing at all, but, well - they haven't really had a singer that can pull it off.
There are some great tracks on here, bu
t the one that stood out for me most was the instrumental, Seven Sirens and a Silver Tear. It's a beautiful piece of piano music with a sad melody... it almost seemed to reverberate around my brain for hours...
My favourite tracks: Lithium and a Lover, A Mental Symphony, Seven Sirens and a Silver Tear
You might also like: Tristania, Xandria, Lunatica (wow, these bands sure do like the letter 'A' :P)
All the above albums are available on Spotify.
Album titles link to Amazon UK, apologies to those from other countries!
A few other random albums I have enjoyed recently include:
Leaves' Eyes - Vinland Saga
Midnattsol - Nordlys
Opeth - My Arms Your Hearse
Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
Everything in my blog is my opinion, if you disagree, feel free to set me straight! Just remember a little politeness goes a long way ^_^