With the world lurching from one crisis to another on an almost hourly basis, it’s a relief to know that music can still offer some form of escapism. If you’re exhausted by politics or worried about global pandemics, then you could do a lot worse than embarking on a magical quest with symphonic metal act Dark Sarah. Continue reading
In 2016 Tarja Turunen set off on yet another epic touring adventure that would last for eighteen months, taking in forty countries and seeing the chanteuse perform to over a million people, fully cementing her status as a solo artist of some solo. To celebrate this monumental achievement, as she had done in 2012 with Act I, Tarja is releasing a multi-DVD / 2 CD documentation of a couple of the highlights of the tour; an intimate London show at the Metropolis Studios to a handful of fans recorded prior to the release of The Shadow Self, and a full concert experience from the Teatro della Luna, Milan, titled Act II (all earMUSIC). Continue reading
The Ghost Cult album round-up is back in town, for your vulgar delectation… Continue reading
Gobsmacking is the word I’d use to describe Crystal Fairy’s newest, self-titled album (Ipecac Recordings). This aural stunner that is the Crystal Fairy album is brought to you by the good people of Teri Gender Bender from Le Butcherettes, Buzz and Dale from The Melvins, and Omar from At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. Continue reading
Haven (Napalm), American Power Metal band Kamelot’s eleventh studio album and second since the departure of Roy Khan, is an album that sounds like a musical at heart, like it was fastidiously crafted to be performed on Broadway. Its stylings and symphonic groundings and Tommy Karevik’s leading man performance all point to it, and so effective is their dramatic voice, perhaps taking their work to the theatrical stage is the next step they need to take to fully realize a legacy that has been consolidated by consistency.
Historically, the Floridians have always been walked on safe, and not the wild, side. A touch of fantasy, a host of symphonics, with soaring, immaculate vocals on top, they have always delivered and always sounded utmost in their professionalism and musicianship, but never truly excited; a band that, while most definitely best in class (though perhaps by default), are at times too slick and lack the insanity/genius of a great.
The heady mix of Savatage, Dream Theater and Queensrÿche coupled with effective symphonics and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical theatrics is near-perfected in opening duo ‘Fallen Star’ and ‘Insomnia’, up there with the best tracks of the bands’ career, but it is with ‘Under Grey Skies’ and the addition of Charlotte Wessels’ (Delain) dreamy vocals and Troy Donockley (Nightwish)’s tin whistle that matters bloom and the full epic musical scale of the vision for the album begins to be realized. It sails close to the Eurovision ballad wind, but it’s a beautiful song fully suited to a soundtrack or a musical. Elsewhere, downtuned staccato rhythms underpin grandiose unveilings and Karevik dispels any notions that the band can’t succeed without Khan with an assured performance; actor, narrator, singer, frontman and further proof that the line between Kamelot’s albums and musical theatre is a thin one.
All the previous criticisms can apply: this is a slick, professional band, but on Haven Kamelot have once again verified they are best in class, and have found an emotional connection. No longer cold to the touch, they are bringing to life their vision most effectively and with genuine zest. While retaining all the expected hallmarks, it is most definitely meticulously put together (if the devil is in the detail, then Haven is positively Satanic) but there is something more to it; something exuberant bubbling through. You would expect a band entering their third decade to have the requisite chops, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be injecting such vitality and vigour into the mix.
It would be fair to say Amberian Dawn is not necessarily the first, or possibly even the fifth or sixth name, you’d think of when throwing the term “Symphonic Power Metal” about (or powerful, melodic metal with classical female vocals, as the band prefer to be described). Their career has flown well and truly under the radar, releasing to date a solid if unspectacular back catalogue with former singer Heidi Parviainen, and the Finnish troupe have yet to have that breakthrough album, or step up in class. A shuffling of the pack has seen the band reunite with several of its former line-up, and bring in the classically trained Päivi “Capri” Virkkunen take over the vocals and lyric writing, and both moves have strengthened their hand significantly.
Magic Forest (Napalm) combines up-tempo guitar-driven melodic metal, a stage-musical bent with sweet, catchy, cherry-on-top choruses. Pulling out an unusual trio of Andrew Lloyd-Webber, particularly ‘Memorial’ replete with guest male opera vocals from Markus Nieminen, ABBA (‘Warning’ and ‘Cherish My Memory’) and Nightwish as core sounds, Amberian Dawn also combine classic Helloween and Metallica tinged riffs with a dramatic fantasy narrative feel to their songs.
Capri carries a strong, saccharine voice, reminiscent of Anette Olzen, and due to the Doctor Parnassus feel of some of their songs, the Nightwish comparisons that have plagued Amberian Dawn over the years are reinforced at times, both in excellent ‘Son of Rainbow’, and the title track with its dancing Labyrinth (the film) texture. Alongside this ‘Dance of Life’, with its memorable keyboard and guitar patterns, recalls Within Temptation.
Magic Forest in and of itself won’t catapult Amberian Dawn to stardom, but it should move them several rungs up the ladder to being a band worth paying some attention to what happens next. Now they’ve found a sound that combines Disney, Phantom of the Opera and symphonic power metal, they are finally finding their niche and developing the playful enchanted touches that give them a more distinctive and interesting sound. Push and develop their cinematic side and it might not be too late for Amberian Dawn to make a name for themselves.