Whyzdom – Symphony For A Hopeless God


On their third album Symphony For A Hopeless God (Scarlet) Whyzdom (and for the record, that really is a terrible name) offer to the masses their unique brand of “Philharmonic Metal”. OK, points for that; that’s a new one on me and certainly piqued the interest in terms of how Philharmonic metal differs from symphonic metal. It would appear, not by much… and not for the better.

A clusterfuck of kitchen sink Symphonic Power Metal, it would appear the raison d’etre for Whyzdom is to layer as much orchestration, often seemingly random in what the orchestration is actually attempting to do, as possible to hide the generic and stock metal that exists underneath. For a band with seemingly such a grandiose vision and sound, the actual music is surprisingly meagre in the ideas department, reduced to nary a variant and many a stock staccato chug under the crazy swells chugs and stabs the like of which are often prevalent in Power Metal, hidden under lashings of keyboards.

For all their promises of a massive orchestra, in reality this is covered by the admittedly impressive keyboard skills of Marc Ruhlmann, though between him and mainman Vince Leff (guitars and orchestration) they’ve still to figure out how to write a dynamic line, instead stacking up noise upon noise to near-headache inducing levels. On top of this, we have the tuneless warbling of Marie Rouyer, who while clearly capable of hitting all the notes isn’t encouraged or allowed to shape them into any semblance of melody.

Unlike Epica’s The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast), perhaps Whyzdom’s closest musical cousins, which separates out into a series of powerful, strong songs, repeated listens to Symphony For A Hopeless God reinforces that technical proficiency and a penchant for overkill in orchestration does not an enjoyable or enticing prospect, or good album make. Things are particularly tough going as this is a release that clocks in at over an hour of overbearing heavy-handedness and an insistence of trying to bombard the senses seeming purely for the sake of utilizing the Motorhead remit of “Everything Louder Than Everything Else” all at the expense of actual songwriting.


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Epica – The Quantum Enigma


Epica - The Quantum Enigma


Once The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast) has had time to work its way into your brain, it’s a highly impressive album. Due to the fact there’s a lot to it, it does require a few listens for it all to separate out, even though the song arrangements have been simplified compared to previous albums’ over-elaborations.


Streamlining serves Epica well, as they no longer get lost in an endless seam of parts. Instead, everyone knows their role and performs it excellently; the guitars are happy to act as a chugging metalcore foil to Simone Simons’ exemplary soprano vocals, or to dial it a down and sit under keyboards or softer chords for the more sugary moments, such as the earworm chorus of ‘The Second Stone’. Equally, with their roaring thick sound, they can step up and drive a song, such as the rhythmic pounding of ‘Victims Of Contingency’.


The whole symphonic metal shebang is nicely spiced up by a full chamber choir and live string ensemble both of whom embellish most tracks, but none so more than ‘Chemical Insomnia’, a mid-album track that starts with a dark riff, picks up pace with strings swirling over the double-bass drumming, a thrashy riff, into a staccato verse, a symphonic, orchestral pre-chorus and a sweet, softer poppy chorus.


There are two minor gripes. Firstly, the 12 minute closing epic is a touch underwhelming and doesn’t reach the standards of the rest of the album – an ‘Of Michael The Archangel and Lucifer’s Fall’ it ain’t… Secondly, at 70 minutes, no matter how well it’s delivered, Quantum is pushing its’ luck a little.


The above may all sound a bit kitchen sink, but the thought, effort and craft bear fruit as The Quantum Enigma is both an excellent album and a collection of great songs and it is churlish to pick when presented with such an expertly put together symphonic metal album. Expertly produced, and in a year when the poppier Delain and the slick machine Within Temptation have released strong albums Epica are more than holding their own with an album that stands alongside Design Your Universe as the best the band have released to date.




8.0 / 10

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