Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2012) review

Nightwish – Imaginaerum (2012, Roadrunner Records)

  1. Taikatalvi
  2. Storytime
  3. Ghost River
  4. Slow, Love, Slow
  5. I Want My Tears Back
  6. Scaretale
  7. Arabesque (instrumental)
  8. Turn Loose The Mermaids
  9. Rest Calm
  10. The Crow, The Owl And The Dove
  11. Last Ride Of The Day
  12. Song Of Myself
        1 – From A Dusty Bookshelf
        2 – All That Great Heart Lying Still
        3 – Piano Black
        4 – Love
  13. Imaginaerum (instrumental)

Band Lineup (The Imagineers):
Anette Olzon – vocals
Tuomas Holopainen – keyboards, piano
Emppu Vuorinen – guitars
Marco Hietala – bass, vocals (tracks 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 )
Jukka Nevalainen – drums, percussion

Guest Musicians (Fellow Imagineers):
Troy Donockley – uilleann pipes (on track 5 & 13), tin whistle (on track 1, 8 & 10), vocals (on track 10 & 12), bodhran, bouzouki
Dermot Crehan – hardanger fiddle
Dirk Campbell – sorna
Guy Barker – solo trumpet
Paul Clarvis and Stephen Henderson – ethnic percussion
Pekka Kuusisto – violin
“The loved ones & the fellowship” are credited for reciting the stanzas in track 12.

Orchestra & Choir:
The Metro Voices (led by choir mistress Jenny O’Grady)
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, called “The Looking Glass Orchestra” (led by Thomas Bowes and conducted by James Shearman)
Pip Williams – director of orchestra & choir arrangements

Producer: Tuomas Holopainen

Country: Finland

Total Time = 1:14:50

Nightwish Facebook page
Roadrunner Records

(NOTE — This album was released worldwide in late 2011 but January 2012 for the U.S.)

Nightwish is a band that I never really got into until recently…..and by recently I mean since 2007’s DARK PASSION PLAY, the debut of Anette Olzon (formerly of Alyson Avenue) as frontwoman. Up until 2007, I only knew of Nightwish from the press the band received and the reviews I read online and, even though I enjoy female-fronted Metal of all kinds, I was completely unsure of former vocalist Tarja Turunen’s operatic style. The only Nightwish album I own from the Tarja era is WISHMASTER (2000) and I think I only bought it because I found it cheap in a used bin somewhere. DARK PASSION PLAY and Anette opened my ears to the excellent Symphonic Metal that Nightwish creates so I was pretty excited to hear that the band was releasing a new album, IMAGINAERUM, internationally in late 2011 and the U.S. in early January. Unfortunately, that excitement was slightly cancelled when I read that the new record would be a concept album with a movie based around the album.

Now I’m all for concept albums, if they are done right. Too many albums released today are deemed “concept albums” just because they have a running theme throughout. Nightwish, mainly composer/keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, have taken it to another extreme by developing a film of the same name and each member having minor roles as themselves in the film itself. That makes IMAGINAERUM the soundtrack to the film that is being made…..sounds a lot like the idea behind KISS’ concept album (MUSIC FROM) THE ELDER (1981). At least Nightwish are making the movie, KISS never got that far! So what is the concept? Holopainen’s story revolves around a dying composer who is reminiscing about memories from his youth while his adult memories slowly fade. Interesting but it sounds very Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The first song on the album is ‘Taikatalvi’, a song sung primarily in the band’s native Finnish by Marco Hietala and translated as “magic winter” in English. The song is very basic with minimal music accompaniment from Holopainen’s piano giving the song a children’s lullabye feel to it and it’s basically an intro to the actual album. I consider the track a throwaway and I skip it everytime I listen to the CD. The real opening song is ‘Storytime’ and it is everything that Nightwish is: bombastic and powerful full of orchestration and plenty of crunching guitars to go along with Anette’s vocals. This is the song that sets the album up for me and dashes any doubts as to the quality of the rest of the songs. Once I heard the huge symphonic sound of ‘Storytime’, I felt a little better about the whole concept, the film project and the rest of the record. Judge for yourself, here’s the video…..

‘Ghost River’ continues the bombastic Metal style but with a little more edge to it when Marco’s harsh vocals come in for the chorus. What I like here is that it’s not as “clean” a track as ‘Storytime’, there’s some added aggression in the vocals and guitar and it gives the band another dimension. There’s still plenty of orchestration and a children’s choir but there’s something haunting about this song and it gives off a sinister vibe at times. Just when I think that I know what the album is going to sound like, Nightwish throws in a curveball with the ballad ‘Slow, Love, Slow’ that sounds like it’s straight out of a Vegas lounge piano bar, it’s jazz vaudeville style reminds me of something Bette Midler might sing. The focus here is Anette’s voice and she is without a doubt one of the best singers in the genre…..the song segues right into ‘I Want My Tears Back’, a tried and true Power Metal feast that has a Celtic feel to it with bagpipes throughout. The guitar riff that opens ‘I Want My Tears Back’ is solid and the bagpipes kick in immeadiately on the main riff. There’s a beauty to Anette’s voice that has me in a trance at this point…..I could listen to her sing the telephone book to me (do they actually make those?). The only way I could describe the sound is like pure Power Metal meets the Renaissance sound of Blackmore’s Night…..Folk Metal maybe? It’s a great song and has plenty of power and the album has shown a lot of diversity so far and that’s obvious by the various styles on the uptempo metal nightmare that is ‘Scaretale’. The song is a nightmare scenario in the overall concept and it goes from all out Power Metal to an animated movie feel in the middle…..maybe something from my kids’ favorite A Nightmare Before Christmas? It’s a very diverse song and both Anette and Marco deliver very different vocal performances, Anette does a shrieky, scary vocal while Marco does a ring announcer/carnival barker vocal in the “animated movie” sequence. It’s an interesting track and keeps the listener guessing as to what they will hear next.

‘Scaretale’ moves directly into the instrumental ‘Arabesque’ which also has a movie soundtrack sound to it, I actually think of the old Conan movies when I hear it. Instrumentals don’t really grab me as they did back when I was younger so ‘Arabesque’ is more of a throwaway to me but it does tie the songs together and acts like a bridge to the ballad ‘Turn Loose The Mermaids’. If you want to hear what Blackmore’s Night sounds like, then this is the song! Anette does her best Candice Night impression and the band sounds just like Blackmore’s Night again with that Renaissance music sound. It’s actually a pretty good song and really focuses on Anette’s vocals, and let’s face it, she is the selling point of the band as Tarja was before.The band continues in the dramatic mid-tempo direction with ‘Rest Calm’ that has a solid main riff and good trade-off vocals from Marco & Anette while the song does from heavy to soft once the chorus kicks in. Reminds me of a Balance Of Power song from one of their records but with female vocals…..again, the beauty of the track is in the angelic voice of Anette Olzen. ‘The Crow, The Owl And The Dove’ is another slow ballad that builds dramatically while maintaining it’s calm pace with acoustic guitars, piano and subdued drums to go along with the vocals while ‘Last Ride Of The Day’ builds up immeadiately with choral vocals into a soft Anette purr as she builds up with the song, it kind of reminds me of ‘Storytime’ with it’s fast tempo and grand sound.

Nightwish is a band that thrives on their grandiose style and their bombastic approach, the band uses different orchestrations, choruses, tempo changes and arrangements to build their overall sound. This is extremely evident on the 13+ minute ‘Song Of Myself’, which is technically broken up into four sub-songs. The problem with this song is that thew first half is a proper song that runs into the same vein as other uptempo numbers on the album but the second half is mostly spoken word narration. This is where the overall concept gets in the way, who cares about the movie, just make a good record! If you edit the spoken word narration and cut ‘Song Of Myself’ in half, then you’ve got a solid album track. I understand the point that this is a concept record and the spoken word part follows that direction but there’s a point where it goes to far and it becomes pointless. The title track is the last song and it’s another instrumental of parts of every song on the album. It’s a nice way to roll the crdits on the upcoming film but nothing to really get excited about as an album track.

Just on a side note…..IMAGINAERUM was released as a single CD or a special limited edition double disc that included a bonus CD of just the instrumental version of the album. I decided against buying the limited edition version because I already knew that I would never listen to just the instrumental version. Only the absolute diehard Nightwish fans will enjoy that, I’m a fan of the entire package and especially Anette Olzen, so I found it unnecessary.

Bottom Line:
I’ve been honestly listening to this album since it’s early January release in the U.S. and I have really enjoyed it. I listen to the record and I hear new sounds all the time so it’s an album that is very complex and epic. The musicianship is above top notch and the vocals of both singers are awesome, Nightwish continues to get better with every album. My only complaint is that the album follows the movie concept on some songs more than others and that hurts the overall flow of the album. The good news is that Nightwish are so talented as musicians that they are able to evolve further with every release. At this point, the band is hitting it’s creative stride and they are poised to become one of those bands we talk about 20 years down the line. IMAGINAERUM is a solid album and one that I recommend, it’s surely in my end of the year top albums list.

Favorite Songs:
‘Storytime’, ‘Ghost River’, ‘I Want My Tears Back’, ‘Scaretale’, ‘Turn Loose The Mermaids’

The Murder Of My Sweet – Divanity (2010)

The Murder Of My Sweet – Divanity (2010, Frontiers)

  1. No Evil
  2. Follow The Rain
  3. Bleed Me Dry
  4. Chemical Attraction
  5. Kiss Of Death
  6. One Bullet
  7. Tonight
  8. Storms Of The Sea
  9. Destiny
  10. Revolution
  11. Valerie
  12. Death Of A Movie Star

Band Lineup:
Angelica Rylin – Vocals
Daniel Palmqvist – Guitars
Johan Niemann – Bass
Andreas Lindahl – Keyboards
Daniel Flores – Drums

Producer: Daniel Flores

Country: Sweden

Total Time = 53:51

The Murder Of My Sweet
The Murder Of My Sweet official MySpace page
Frontiers Records

Named after the 1944 film Murder, My Sweet, female-fronted Swedish newcomers The Murder Of My Sweet have made a serious impact signing with Melodic Rock label Frontiers Records and releasing their debut album, DIVANITY. The amount of female-fronted bands in all genres of Metal grows every year and The Murder Of My Sweet join a crowded field in the Symphonic/Gothic Metal genre alongside bands like Lacuna Coil, Epica, Lana Lane and Evanescence. Just like their peers, the band’s music is driven by heavy guitars, soaring vocals and a generous use of keyboards and orchestration. What sets The Murder Of My Sweet apart from the rest is Rylin’s voice because it just sounds different compared to Simone Simons, Cristina Scabbia and Amy Lee, sometimes it takes a newcomer to raise the bar and Rylin joins good company. The songs on DIVANITY are all heavy but very melodic, dark and brooding but varied in their compsition. There are a lot of sounds to take in between Rylin’s prominent voice, the guitars, keyboards and orchestration…..maybe a little too much and that’s where the band fails to pull away from the pack. The first half of the album impressed me and had me rocking out with songs like ‘No Evil’, ‘Bleed Me Dry’ and ‘Kiss Of Death’ but by the second half I felt like I had heard it all before. That’s not to say that the songs are bad, quite the opposite, they are very good. It’s just that I think that the album gets repetitive and there is so much more room for growth, it wasn’t until the final song, ‘Death Of A Movie Star’, that I heard something completely different. There was a Queen influence to ‘Death Of A Movie Star’ that I found different and refreshing.

Bottom Line:
Overall, a solid debut. I enjoyed listening to the album but after repeated listens it starts to sound the same. There is huge talent in The Murder Of My Sweet and not just Angelica Rylin because the musicianship and songwriting is top notch, all the band needs to do now is to separate themselves by expanding their sound. The Murder Of My Sweet is an up and coming band, I’m definitely looking forward to their next album to see what they do. If you’re a fan of Symphonic/Gothic Metal then be sure to check this album out.

Favorite Songs:
‘No Evil’, ‘Bleed Me Dry’, ‘Kiss Of Death’, ‘Death of A Movie Star’

DesDemon – The Awakening (2010)

DesDemon – The Awakening (2010, independent release)

  1. Acquiescence Of Illusion
  2. A Soul In Exile
  3. Iago
  4. The Burning Martyr
  5. In The Abscence Of Light

Band Lineup:
Mistress Tina – Lead Vocals
Lord Metadox – Guitar
Ron “Pelagius” Porcelli – Bass
Dan Rhodus – Drums
Nicholas Gati – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Nicholas Main Henriksen – Keyboards

Producers: DesDemon

Country: New York, USA

Total Time = 37:21

DesDemon MySpace page

Straight from New York City, Symphonic Metal band DesDemon has released their first official E.P. titled THE AWAKENING. DesDemon was born of two New York area Metal bands, Tenebrae and Metadox, to unleash a Symphonic Metal assault that incorparates elements from Thrash, Progressive Metal, Power Metal, Black Metal and Doom to the sultry operatic vocals of Mistress Tina. There is plenty of guitar to go along with the orchestration and keyboards, that gives DesDemon a varied but heavy sound. THE AWAKENING is a 5 track concept… is the explanation from Mistress Tina in an interview with

“Basically it’s the story of a woman’s [Desdemon(a)] revenge for being murdered under false accusations. In her afterlife she becomes a demon queen and her followers are women and men who have endured the same fates. They torment their accusers, slowly killing them. Fate has other things in store for her. She was an innocent young woman who was simply angered but didn’t see what it was doing to her and it was turning her into something different.”

Obviously this dark and powerful concept fits perfectly with the music and the operatic material. One of the latest trends that many female-fronted bands in the Gothic & Symphonic genres use is the over-the-top operatic style like Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish) but they take it to the ultimate degree. What I like most about DesDemon is that Mistress Tina doesn’t just go operatic, she sings in a straight up regular style and she adds some harsh extreme vocals as well like Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy). If you take a listen to ‘Iago’, you hear the extreme vocals and I had to go back and double check to see if it was Gossow guesting on the song… was all Mistress Tina. I like a diverse vocal and my new concentration on more extreme forms of Metal has made me appreciate these kind of vocals. The music here is perfectly done from the guitars to the rhythm section to the keyboards and orchestration. There is a constant change of styles and pace within each song and three of the songs clock in at 7 minutes and over so there is a definite progressive style added in as well. ‘Iago and ‘In The Abscence Of Light’ are the two epics on the album but the opening ‘Acquiescence Of Illusion’ is a shorter Symphonic Power Metal song and ‘The Burning Matyr’ is a quick Power Metal blast. I like ‘A Soul In Exile’ a lot because it reminds me a lot of The Gathering’s NIGHTTIME BIRDS (1997) musically, it’s more of a ballad with acoustics and piano that build to a climax on the bridge and chorus where the orchestration is fully developed. By the way, great album artwork!

Bottom Line:
Overall, I like THE AWAKENING but it took me more than a few close listens to really grasp hold of all the sounds. The Symphonic/Gothic Metal scene is a crowded one and you have to have that extra piece of the puzzle to standout or you just have to have excellent songs. Obviously, the catalyst here is Mistress Tina’s operatic vocals but it’s when she incorporates different vocal styles is when she truly shines. I thought the growling vocals on ‘Iago’ were genius and I was hoping for a lot more as THE AWAKENING progressed. The music is excellent, it’s a true wall of sound but every instrument is perfectly clear and fits well together…..again, a mixing of styles and genres to complete their ideas. I think DesDemon is a pretty good band and they definitely have a sound worth checking out if you like bands like Epica, Nightwish, The Gathering, and Within Temptation.

Favorite Songs:
Only five songs on the record, and I think they are all solid tracks, but I will limit my picks to two favorites: ‘Iago’ and ‘The Burning Martyr’


Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010)

Van Canto – Tribe Of Force (2010, Napalm Records)

  1. Lost Forever
  2. To Sing A Metal Song
  3. One To Ten (featuring Victor Smolski from Rage)
  4. I Am Human
  5. My Voice
  6. Rebellion (featuring Chris Boltendahl from Grave Digger)
  7. Last Night Of The Kings
  8. The Tribe Of Force
  9. Water Fire Heaven Earth
  10. Master Of Puppets
  11. Magic Taborea
  12. Hearted (featuring Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica)
  13. Frodo’s Dream

Band Lineup:
Inga Scharf – Lead Vocals
Philip Dennis “Sly” Schunke – Lead Vocals
Stefan Schmidt – Lower “Rakkatakka” Guitar Vocals, “Wahwah” Solo Guitar Vocals
Ross Thompson – Higher “Rakkatakka” Guitar Vocals
Ingo “Ike” Sterzinger – Lowest “Dandan” Voice Chords (Bass Vocals)
Bastian Emig – Drums

Producers: Stefan Schmidt & Charlie Bauerfeind

Country: Germany

Total Time = 55:13

Van Canto
Van Canto MySpace page
Napalm Records

Every once in a while something unique comes along and grabs my attention. A few weeks ago, I received a press release promoting Van Canto’s third album, TRIBE OF FORCE, and the band’s innovative style of A Capella Metal. A Capella music is group vocal music and/or singing without musical accompaniment from instruments…..the first thing that comes to mind is barber shop quartets, doo-wop groups and choirs. A Capella singing in Heavy Metal? No instruments? I was skeptical but I read the press release and saw that it included a link to a video of the band covering Manowar’s ‘Kings Of Metal’ (from their second record HERO). I was impressed with the cover, especially with how I forgot that the only instrument used was the drums!

Based on their ‘Kings Of Metal’ cover, and their cover of Metallica’s ‘Battery’, I decided to give TRIBE OF FORCE a try figuring that at least it would be a change of pace if the concept of vocalizing the guitars, bass and keyboards didn’t work. The first single from the new album is ‘Lost Forever’ and it is a perfect way to kick start the album with it’s Power Metal style and superb vocal harmonies. At first I wasn’t too sure because the harmonized vocal intro had me thinking that this was going to be a less aggressive project but, once the drums kicked in, Van Canto really go for it! Frist the lead vocal trade-off between Philip and Inga is excellent, both have great voices with plenty of range, and the male/female co-lead vocal adds an extra dimension. Inga’s operatic style easily puts her right up there with some other female vocal heavyweights in Metal like Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and Simone Simons (Epica). The cool thing is you can also hear some Medieval/Rennaissance style like Candice Night (Blackmore’s Night) in her delivery as well. What is most impressive is the guys doing the bass and guitars…..Stefan, Ross and Ingo do one hell of a job sounding like their instrument counterparts that you sometimes forget that it’s really just singing. Listen to the guitar solo, that’s Stefan singing the solo, not a guitar!

Needless to say, I was impressed. Van Canto continues in the same Gothic/Power Metal direction with ‘To Sing A Metal Song’, ‘One To Ten’ (featuring Victor Smolski of Rage), and ‘I Am Human’. The vocals are excellent and the vocal instrumentation is excellent but it’s at ‘My Voice’ where I start to get that “I’ve heard it before” feeling. ‘My Voice’ is a good original song with plenty of layers and tempo changes but I get the point and I am now listening for the guitars. Track six is a cover of Grave Digger’s ‘Rebellion’ (from 1996’s TUNES OF WAR) and features Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl on lead vocals. Normally I don’t welcome covers but this is a nice way to break the album up, especially with Boltendahl guesting. If you compare this version to the original, it’s a pretty good rendition and it is amazing to hear the band vocalize the instruments. Listen again for the guitar solo by Stefan! The second single and video is ‘Last Night Of The Kings’ and it is a ballad with a Medieval/Rennaissance sound. This song could easily fit on the first two Blackmore’s Night albums and the a capella singing fits perfectly.

The title track sounds a little more laid back, more commercial but ‘Water Fire Heaven Earth’ stands out with Inga’s operatic vocals. It’s more of a Gothic Metal mid-tempo song and it’s very good due to the beauty of the lead vocal, Inga rivals her peers and is definitely a superb operatic vocalist. I wouldn’t mind hearing more of a spotlight on Inga in the future, although Philip has a great voice too and the vocal trade-off is a perfect match. The second cover on TRIBE OF FORCE is Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’…’s not a bad cover and I actually like Van Canto’s interpretation, I prefer the original but it’s a fun comparison piece. ‘Magic Taborea’ starts off kind of slow and subdued but, as the song progresses, the tempo picks up and it has an epic sound to it. What impresses me here is the quick keyboard vocalizations, they are like the guitar solos, very impressive. Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica guests on the faster ‘Hearted’ and I like Van Canto’s addition of some harsh vocals to the arrangement to make things more interesting. Last song is ‘Frodo’s Dream’ and it’s another epic sounding song but I’m just not getting into this one at all.

Bottom Line:
I have to admit that I was skeptical that Van Canto could pull off an A Capella album of heavy Metal songs but they are all talented vocalists and they do a superb job on each and every song. Let me add that drummer Bastiam Emig puts in a stellar performance over the entire record and really drives the songs. Being the only person playing an instrument, his performance needed to be great and it was. Overall, I liked the album, even the cover songs but, after multiple listens, I started to lose some interest. I have played TRIBE OF FORCE to death so I could really focus on those layers of vocals and the vocal instrumentation but I found that I was looking for the real thing after a while so I needed to give myself a break and come back to it with fresh ears. That doesn’t diminish the talent and solid performances because there is a lot of quality work on this album and Van Canto isn’t the novelty act that people might mistake them to be. These musicians are all extremely gifted and they do a great job creating interesting and enjoyable songs. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this somewhere in my year’s best list for 2010 and I am definitely going to check out the band’s first two records.

Favorite Songs:
‘Lost Forever’, ‘To Sing A Metal Song’, ‘Rebellion’, ‘Last Night Of The Kings’, ‘Water Fire Heaven Earth’

The 69 Eyes – Back In Blood (2009)

69 eyes - back in blood (2009)

The 69 Eyes – Back In Blood (2009, The End Records)

  1. Back In Blood
  2. We Own the Night
  3. Dead ‘N Gone
  4. The Good, The Bad & The Undead
  5. Kiss Me Undead
  6. Lips Of Blood
  7. Dead Girls Are Easy
  8. Night Watch
  9. Some Kind Of Magick
  10. Hunger
  11. Susperia Snow White
  12. Eternal

Band Lineup:
Jyrki 69 – Vocals
Jussi 69 – Drums
Bazie – Guitar
Timo-Timo – Guitar
Archzie – Bass

Producer: Matt Hyde

Country: Finland

Total Time = 48:38

The 69 Eyes
The 69 Eyes MySpace page
The End Records

BACK IN BLOOD marks the tenth album from Finnish goth metallers The 69 Eyes…..with all the latest vampire trends in music movies and television lately it’s actaully refreshing to know that the band isn’t jumping on the latest trends. The 69 Eyes have been around since 1989, and released their first album in 1992, playing their brand of Gothic Metal mixed with Hard Rock bombast. I’ve read about the band and seen the new albums fly off my favorite record store’s shelves over the years but I never really bothered to check out the music…..the whole vampire/goth thing just hadn’t been my thing. Obviously image doesn’t make the music so I figure that even the band probably doesn’t take the whole Goth thing too seriously. I’ve read a few reviews saying how good the album is, almost like party Hard Rock, so I figured I’d finally give The 69 Eyes a chance.

After listening to BACK IN BLOOD a few times I drew the comparisons immeadiately to The Cult, Type O Negative, H.I.M. and latter day Tiamat. The music is your basic Hard Rock like Motley Crue mixed with an industrial/dance element and that spooky goth thing…..maybe like Rob Zombie solo? I know it sounds like a weird combination but it actually blends together well to form a catchy, driving rhythm. It’s haunting party Rock. Lead singer Jyrki 69 has a deep voice that reminds me of Brad Roberts from the Canadian Rock band Crash Test Dummies mixed with Peter Steele of Type O Negative. The vocals bring everything together because Jyrki 69’s deep voice lends that haunting “undead” sound to the music. The opening title track is upbeat and hard charging like an early Crue song from the SHOUT-era and it immeadiately caught my attention. The vocals aren’t completely deep and dark but more like Ian Astbury from The Cult and there is some excellent guitar work here both with the riffs and the solos. ‘We Own The Night’ is very influenced by The Cult, especially with the guitars, and the “dance” element starts to creep in. I can honestly see where this kind of music is popular among the teenagers that frequent Hot Topic stores in malls across the U.S. It’s not that the song is bad, or that the danceable rhythms are so overt, it’s just a little too much for your seasoned Metalhead like myself. ‘Dead ‘N Gone’ moves into the same category as the song before but it has an even more Pop/AOR/Melodic Rock sense. The singing and rhythm is tailor made for mainstream audiences in the U.S., how The 69 Eyes haven’t crossed over into the mainstream is beyond me! ‘Dead And Gone’ is very catchy, very rhythmic, but I like the lyrics are what sets it apart. ‘The Good, The Bad, The Undead’ has a touch of AC/DC to it, or maybe Airbourne for the younger metallers out there, and is definitely one of those anthemic, sing-a-long tracks that go over well live.

The opening of ‘Kiss The Undead’ sounds very heavy and very ’80s Hard Rock but it moves into a melodic danceable groove come the chorus and all I can think about is all those New Wave/Goth/Alternative bands like The Cure and this is where I know the album is losing me. Third song in a row with “dead” in the title, second song with “undead” in the title… kind of get the picture of where the record’s direction is going. ‘Lips Of Blood’ has a late ’90s Tiamat sound, when Tiamat went into Doom/Goth Metal and left Death Metal way behind. ‘Dead Girls Are Easy’ brings back the fire of the opening track with a more straightforward Hard Rock approach but ‘Night Watch’ and ‘Some Kind Of Magick’ move back into the dancing Goth style, although I like the faster pace of the latter. ‘Hunger’ is the closest thing to a ballad on BACK IN BLOOD and I like the piano that starts the song off and weaves it’s way in and out of the song. The chorus is melodic and it sounds pretty much like the rest of the songs. ‘Susperia Snow White’ is more of a driving Hard Rock song but it sounds similar to the others and ‘Eternal’ is acoustic guitar based with atmospheric keyboards but it just doesn’t stick with me. This is the second ballad of the album and it has a grand feel to it but I feel like it’s all been done before.

Bottom Line:
For never hearing the The 69 Eyes, I’d say that BACK IN BLOOD is a pretty good album with a different sound than what I’m used to. The problem I had with the songs was that once you’ve heard the first four or five then you’ve heard them all. I really didn’t hear anything specific to distinguish some of the tracks on the second half of the album to the tracks on the first half. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the songs are bad, just repetitive. Once you’ve heard the first four songs, you know where the album is going. There was enough here to make me check out some other 69 Eyes’ albums but in due time. If you like Gothic Metal mixed with Doom and Melodic Rock then you might get into this. If you are part of the teenage Goth culture then this is definitely for you.

Standout Songs:
‘Back In Blood’, ‘The Good, The Bad, The Undead’, ‘Dead Girls Are Easy’, ‘Lips Of Blood’

Stream Of Passion – The Flame Within (2009)


Stream Of Passion – The Flame Within (2009, Napalm Records)

  1. The Art Of Loss
  2. In The End
  3. Now Or Never
  4. When You Hurt Me The Most
  5. Run Away
  6. Games We Play
  7. This Endless Night
  8. My Leader
  9. Burn My Pain
  10. Let Me In
  11. Street Spirit
  12. A Part Of You
  13. All I Know
  14. Far And Apart (U.S. bonus track)

Stream of Passion 2009

Band Lineup:
Marcela Bovio – Vocals, Violins
Eric Hazebroek – Guitars
Stephan Schultz – Guitars
Johan van Stratum – Bass
Jeffrey Revet – Keyboards, Piano
Davy Mickers – Drums

Producers: Jochem Jacobs, Joost Van Den Broek, Stream Of Passion

Country: The Netherlands

Total Time = 59:19

Stream Of Passion
Stream Of Passion MySpace page
Napalm Records

I discovered Stream Of Passion back in 2007 when I read a quick newsbit that co-founder and Ayreon mastermind Arjen Lucassen had left the band. Being a fan of Ayreon and of Gothic/Symphonic Metal I decided that Stream Of Passion was a band I had to check out. Earlier this year, the band released THE FLAME WITHIN, their second studio album, and I had previewed some of the tracks online. I heard a similar sound to the late-’90s era of The Gathering so picking up this album the day it came out was a no-brainer.

So what is the Stream Of Passion sound? Think of some the different female fronted bands of this genre and you can get a quick idea, Stream Of Passion fits in perfectly with similar bands like Lacuna Coil, Leaves’ Eyes, Nightwish, The Gathering, Epica. What I like about the band’s overall sound is that they are able to use the beauty of Marcela Bovio’s voice along with their progressive and symphonic sound and still retain some heaviness and keep the most of the songs uptempo. The other key element is keeping the songs from running too long and sounding the same. The band has retained a Progressive Metal element to their music but the songs all range in duration from 4 to 5 minutes, a lot of times this type of music has longer songs but the extra minute or two can sometimes mean the difference between a good song and boredom.

The opening track, ‘The Art Of Loss’, starts out with a piano intro but kicks into an uptempo guitar heavy song. Right away I can hear the similarities between former The Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen and Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia…..pretty good company. There is a very good blend between the keyboards, orchestration and guitars on ‘The Art Of Loss’ and that translates into the rest of the album. ‘In the End’ is a lush mid-tempo song that spotlights Bovio’s voice and the beauty of the musical arrangement. ‘Now Or Never’ kicks back into a heavier guitar with the accompanying keyboards offering a perfect mix, I also like the multi-tracked background vocals Marcela laid down for the chorus. There is a piano & vocal interlude that build into the main chorus and it keeps the song soft and romantic as well as Metal. ‘When You Hurt Me The Most’ is a proper ballad that sounds very sad and emotional and is really only the vocal and piano with the rest of the band very subdued until the solo section where the music gains some power especially the guitar solo. The pattern repeats itself with ‘Run Away’, another true ballad that features only the vocal, piano and violin until the solo section towards the end when the rest of the band kicks back into gear.

‘Games We Play’ is another uptempo song that has a very heavy base with a great guitar and drum sound and some diverse vocal harmonies. I think Stream Of Passion is at their best when the songs are heavier and faster because there are more elements to the overall sound. More uptempo songs like ‘This Endless Night’ and ‘My Leader’ follow this same structure and are some of my favorites of the album. The band just sounds stronger on the heavier tracks! ‘Burn My Pain’ is mid-tempo with buzzing guitars and a thumping bassline that keeps the song going along and ‘Let Me In’ continues the melodic lush sound at various speeds. The first problem arises with Stream Of Passion’s decision to include ‘Street Spirit’, a Radiohead cover. I’m not going to go into my dislike of cover songs on studio albums but why not make this song the bonus track instead of ‘Far And Apart’? So far THE FLAME WITHIN has 10 solid songs and then we get a cover song, it breaks things up for me because I’m not a big Radiohead guy, I think they are extremely overrated and overhyped.

The band gets back down to business with another heavy mid-tempo track ‘A Part Of You’ that has one of the hardest riffs on the album but I’m not sold on the vocals, they sound all over the place with no focus. Another piano intro opens the beautiful ballad ‘All I Know’. This is something like the 4th or 5th song that starts with a piano/vocal opening but it doesn’t build like the others do, ‘All I Know’ stays set as a proper ballad with only the violin and some strings being added in…..this is also the shortest song on the record clocking in at just over 2 minutes. The final song is the previously mentioned bonus track ‘Far And Apart’. If you were lucky enough to by the U.S. digipak pressing then you got this song as a nice extra as well as slightly different cover art (pull out the booklet and compare). ‘Far And Apart’ is heavy on the keyboards and orchestration but that symphonic sound fits in easily with the rest of the original material on the album. I still don’t understand why this is left off the proper record instead of the cover song but it’s a small complaint. If you have the choice, pick up the U.S. digipak, the song is worth it.

Bottom Line:
With other major releases in the same genre from Lacuna Coil and The Gathering, Stream Of Passion has a lot of competition for a spot in my rotation. The good news for the band is that they have definitely released the better album and have come out of the shadow of the Arjen Lucassen shadow. The major difference between THE FLAME WITHIN and the other albums released in this genre this year is that Stream Of Passion makes a serious effort to stay heavy and keep the songs from sounding the same. The Lacuna Coil album sounded the same to me and the latest from The Gathering is extremely mellow, both album quickly dropped off my playlist…..points to Stream Of Passion for keeping the Metal in Symphonic Metal.

Favorite Songs:
‘The Art Of Loss’, ‘In The End’, ‘Far And Apart’, ‘Games We Play’, ‘When You Hurt Me The Most’

The Gathering – The West Pole (2009)

the gathering - the west pole

The Gathering – The West Pole (2009, Season Of Mist/Psychonaut Records)

  1. When Trust Becomes Sound
  2. Treasure
  3. All You Are
  4. The West Pole
  5. No Bird Call
  6. Capitol Of Nowhere
  7. You Promised Me A Symphony
  8. Pale Traces
  9. No One Spoke
  10. A Constant Run

Band Lineup:
Silje Wergeland  – Vocals & Piano
René Rutten – Guitars
Marjolein Kooijman – Bass
Hans Rutten – Drums
Frank Boeijen – Keyboards & Piano

Producer: René Rutten

Country: The Netherlands

Total Time = 54:17

The Gathering
The Gathering MySpace page
Psychonaut Records
Season Of Mist Records

Sometime in early 1998 I discovered The Gathering through a Century Media CD sampler. the song was ‘In Motion #1’ from the band’s 1995 record MANDYLION. I fell in love with the heavy and melodic music and the beautiful singing of Anneke van Giersbergen, it was a new style of Metal for me. Turns out that female fronted Metal bands would start forming all over the world and now we have bands like Lacuna Coil, Stream Of Passion and Epica carrying on where The Gathering began. Then again, The Gathering had two previous album that were more Death/Doom Metal with a male singer so I was completely confused. I got online shortly after I got the sampler and I found out about the band’s then current album NIGHTTIME BIRDS (1997) and I was hooked on The Gathering. I have followed the band ever since but I have been disappointed with the band’s output for over a decade… the band continued to release new material, the music became more ambient, more progressive, more Pink Floyd-ish and the core Metal sound took a backseat. I’ll be honest, I got so fed up by the band’s evolving Floydian sound that I actually stopped buying their albums after 2000’s if_then_else.

What made me come back to The Gathering was the change at the vocal position: Anneke van Giersbergen has left the band to pursue a solo career and former Octavia Sperati singer Silje Wergeland has taken over. Sometimes a change in vocalists is good for giving the music a fresh start and I decided to give the band a fresh listen. When I put THE WEST POLE in the stereo the first track, ‘When Truth Becomes Sound’, turned out to be heavy (compared later to the rest of the album) and an almost 4 minute instrumental. I figured this was a great start and when I heard Wergeland’s vocals on ‘Treasure’ I knew that the band had picked a solid replacement for the popular Giersbergen. As THE WEST POLE continued, the problem for me was that the songs basically took the same route: slow or mid-tempo pace, an atmospheric/progressive/trippy sound and plenty of beautiful vocals…..they all sounded the same! It wasn’t until the 9th song, ‘No One Spoke’, that the pace quickened and the guitars got a little heavier but there were subdued parts of this song as well. I liked the uptempo ‘A Constant Run’ also because it harkened back to the band’s mid to late ’90s sound the most.

Bottom Line:
Obviously The Gathering has found their niche in the crowded Gothic Metal scene by continuing to push their unique atmospheric, Pink Floyd influenced music. I decided that I would give the band a fresh listen in the hopes that there was something heavy contained within THE WEST POLE but I am still disappointed because I was hoping for a little more uptempo and Metal. Most of the album is slow and and mid-tempo with the band concentrating on the “quieter” side of Gothic Metal. The songs are really good, well-written and performed beautifully, but they all seem to sound the same after a while. The good news is that The Gathering have definitely found themselves a high quality singer in Silje Wergeland, she can easily handle any Giersbergen-era song because she has an extremely similar voice. There were times that I noticed no difference at all between the two. I’ve given this a lot of spins over the last few weeks and there really isn’t much that will bring me back in the future save for maybe a couple of songs.

Favorite Songs:
The standout tracks for me coincidentally are the last three songs on the album: ‘Pale Traces’, ‘No One Spoke’, ‘A Constant Run’. Too bad the band saved them for last because I think they might have helped break up the monotony in the middle of the album.

Lacuna Coil – Shallow Life (2009)


Lacuna Coil – Shallow Life (2009, Century Media)

  1. Survive
  2. I Won’t Tell You
  3. Not Enough
  4. I’m Not Afraid
  5. I Like It
  6. Underdog
  7. The Pain
  8. Spellbound
  9. Wide Awake
  10. The Maze
  11. Unchained
  12. Shallow Life

Band Lineup:
Cristina Scabbia – vocals
Andrea Ferro – vocals
Cristiano “Pizza” Migliore – guitar
Marco “Maus” Biazzi – guitar
Marco Coti Zelati – bass, keyboards
Cristiano “Criz” Mozzati – drums, percussion

Producer: Don Gilmore

Country: Italy

Total Time = 44:05

Lacuna Coil
Lacuna Coil MySpace page
Century Media Records

Lacuna Coil took the lead in the Gothic Metal genre when they released 2002’s COMALIES, an album that fused Cristina Scabbia’s beautiful melodic vocals with heavy guitars and double bass drumming to create a new standard. The follow-up, KARMACODE (2006), offered more of the same but added a Middle Eastern flavor to the music, making the overall album unique. Now we are in 2009 and female fronted Gothic Metal bands are popping up all over the globe. Some of these bands are not as polished as Lacuna Coil, and some are just not as good, but it’s safe to say that there is plenty of competition from bands like Leaves’ Eyes, Epica, Sirenia, Temujin and Nightwish. So has Lacuna Coil offered us anything new?

The focus again falls solely at the beautiful voice of Scabbia, tha band’s main assest. Her vocals are melodic and beautiful with plenty of range and she is also serves as the band’s main image in the press. There is no problem with her as she is one of the premier female vocalists in Metal. What I do find troubling is that the band basically gave us more of the same, kind of like a COMALIES Part 2. There really isn’t anything to set SHALLOW LIFE apart from previous albums like there was on KARMACODE. That doesn’t mean SHALLOW LIFE is a bad album, on the contrary, it’s very good…’s just boring…..I’ve heard it all before. Most of the songs sound basically the same: the same tempo, the same effects, the vocal trade-offs with male lead Andrea Ferro, the same guitar tone. There really isn’t anything to set this apart from their more popular mainstream counterparts Evanescence.

Bottom Line:
I’ve been a fan of Lacuna Coil’s since they released their self-titled E.P. back in 1998 and the thing I’ve liked the most is that they have stayed ahead of their contemporaries/peers by enhancing their sound with every release. Their progression as a band has followed hand in hand with their success and they have the reputation of being better than their mainstream rivals. Unfortunately, I think the band has regressed on this new album. There really isn’t anything that sets the new music apart from previous efforts and the songs start to sound the same after a while. SHALLOW LIFE is still a good album but I consider it a disappoinment when I listen back to KARMACODE, there is no progression and no new twists and turns to the overall sound. I don’t consider this to be a bad album, more of a disappointment, the sound is too commercial and uninventive. With other bands in the genre experimenting with their sound, Lacuna Coil is in danger of becoming middle of the pack.

Favorite Songs:
Everything really sounds the same here but if I had to pick a couple I’d say ‘Survive’, ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Shallow Life’.

Siren’s Gate – Haunt Me E.P. (2008)


Siren’s Gate – Haunt Me E.P. (2008)

  1. Borrowed Eyes
  2. Only An Angel
  3. Haunt Me
  4. Chains Of Pain
  5. The Garden Of Night


Band Lineup:
Alicia Taylor – Vocals
Casey Brew Curec – Guitar
Dave Hudson – Lead Guitar
Matt Camm – Bass
Winston Chamberlain – Drums

Produced by: Siren’s Gate

Country: Australia

Total Time = 21:19

Siren’s Gate MySpace page

One of the sub-genres of Metal that I never get sick of is Gothic Metal, specifically when fronted my a talented female lead singer. I’ve been listening to The Gathering, Lana Lane, Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation for a few years now but there seems to be a neverending stream of new bands starting up and releasing solid material. Add Melbourne, Australia’s Siren’s Gate to the mix. Not officially signed to a label, HAUNT ME is Siren’s Gate first independent release and the 5 song E.P. can be considered a demo. The good news is that the production is very good so it’s a very well done demo, maybe a little knob-tweaking is needed to push the vocals a little more to the front but it’s a small criticism. Otherwise the music is well done and I enjoyed a lot of the guitar work and rhythms.

‘Borrowed Eyes’ starts the E.P. off with a very heavy main riff and some solid drumming but Alicia Taylor’s vocals sound a little too far back in the mix, that can be corrected next time around. Alicia puts in a solid vocal all over the CD but sometimes I was waiting for her to get a little more aggressive. Her vocals are operatic and beautiful (haunting maybe?) but it sounded like she needed to really let loose with some extra power. Like I said, could be the mix but I enjoyed her performance overall. ‘Only An Angel’ follows the heaviness of ‘Borrowed Eyes’ but with a slight Iron Maiden style. The title track is a soft ballad that builds up with the guitars, a sign of what Siren’s Gate can do and do very well. My favorite of the five songs has to be ‘Chains Of Pain’ with it’s overt Maiden-isms. Honestly, this sounds like a Maiden song music wise, just put Bruce Dickinson in for Alicia and we have a new Maiden track! You can easily hear the influence but Siren’s Gate does make it their own towards the middle once they change pace. The band changes things up and adds a bit of Thrash to ‘The Garden Of Night’. It’s a heavy song with some really great drumming to go along with the buzzsaw riffs but it’s the atmospheric vocals that contrast the music that make it all come together.

Bottom Line:
Overall I liked it and I will be watching Siren’s Gate and seeing what they come up with next. The band is able to go from Metal to a ballad to Thrash and still retain power and beauty. Sometimes a lot of these gothic Metal bands try and stay in the ballad area, or their heavier songs border on Hard Rock, Siren’s Gate keeps it heavy with good guitars and solid drums. I also like the Iron Maiden influences. My only complaint is the vocals are a little far back in the mix but I can’t fault the band on that because there is only so much money out there when you’re putting music out on your own. Keep an eye on Siren’s Gate…..

Favorite Songs:
I liked all the songs but the two standouts are ‘Haunt Me’ and ‘Chains Of Pain’.

By Blood Alone – Seas Of Blood (2008)

By Blood Alone – Seas Of Blood (2007, Jericho Records)

  1. Serpentarius
  2. Wants Me Dead
  3. Undead Friend
  4. Nidhogg
  5. Lovely Lies
  6. Seas Of Blood
  7. Deny Yourself
  8. Little Lady Lillit

Band Lineup:
Cruella – Vocals
John Graveside – Guitars
Jack Doran – Bass
Runtt – Drums
Jenny Williamson – Keyboards

Producer: Steve La Cerra

Total Time = 50:21

By Blood Alone official website
By Blood Alone MySpace page
By Blood Alone – Seas Of Blood available at CD Baby

Nothing is better than reviewing an album by a New England area Metal band! By Blood Alone comes from Portland, Maine and SEAS OF BLOOD is the band’s first full-length album that follows up their recording debut, the four song E.P., ETERNALLY (2005). With a name like By Blood Alone, you would expect the band to be a brutal and vicious Heavy Metal band but that is not the case. By Blood Alone is a female-fronted Gothic/Progressive Metal band, in the same style as After Forever, Lacuna Coil, Nightwish and Temujin, with an emphasis on atmospheric keyboards, a driving guitar and haunting vocals.

The Progressive side of the band is their lengthy “jamming” sound that takes most of the songs past the 7 minute mark and provides each member a way to stretch out on their given instrument. There are lengthy solos and instrumental section in the longer songs that help provide a wider soundscape for the band to explore. There are plenty of time and tempo changes to keep the songs sounding fresh and interesting. The Gothic side of the band is clear with the excellent keystrokes of Jenny Williamson and the vocals of lead singer Cruella. I would say that there is a fair bit of Celtic/Renaissance influence to the music also, I can hear a touch of Blackmore’s Night on some of the songs. The sound isn’t really heavy and I think that is due to John Graveside’s guitar being too low in the mix while the keys and vocals are way out front. That’s a production issue that could easily be fixed. Vocally, Cruella is very good, she has a very beautiful voice. The problem I had is that I was waiting for her to go for it! To let go, hit some serious highs and belt these songs out with some power…..but she doesn’t, Cruella stays on an even keel and I guess it fits haunting style the band captures. That is the difference between By Blood Alone and the other female-fronted bands out there…..power. If there was more power in the vocals, more aggression, then I think the songs would stand out more.

‘Serpentarius’ clocks in at 7:30 and starts out sounding like a true Metal song with an opening guitar intro followed by galloping drums & bass and layered keyboards. Very uptempo at first but the middle section slows down into an extended instrumental break. Cruella shows off some power here but is stuck too low in the mix. Same thing with ‘Wants Me Dead’, it starts off with a galloping rhythm and guitar but slows down a little once the vocals and keys kick in. There’s a solo break after the first chorus that gives off a Blackmore’s Night feel to the song but I don’t hear woodwinds or a mandolin so I think I like this a little better! I like this song, it has me wanting a more uptempo pace because the band does it well. ‘Undead Friend’ is haunting track that starts out with this basic piano melody and Cruella’s singing. As the song progresses, the rest of the instruments join in, along with some extra keyboards. Very atmospheric, you get a chilling sense of beauty.

Another 7+ minute song arrives in the form of ‘Nidhogg’ that is right out of the Blackmore’s Night playbook. Again, no hurdy gurdies or flutes, the keyboards set the sounds and there is another lengthy instrumental section in the middle that lets each member stretch out a bit. It’s at this time, halfway through the album, that I realize that Cruella’s vocal performance is kind of the same as Anneke Van Giersbergen’s on The Gathering’s 1999 album HOW TO MEASURE A PLANET: a very even delivery within a very defined sound. Almost too even actually. The trend continues on ‘Lovely Lies’ although the music is a little more aggressive and the guitars weave in and out with the keyboards. The drums are mixed a little high but that’s OK because they give the song a little kick. ‘Lovely Lies’ is the band longest song on the album at just over 8 minutes but it is also the best in providing an overall picture of the band and the album. The title track is another long song and follows the same formula as ‘Serpentarius’ and ‘Nidhogg’ but there seems to be some life in the production here! The mix sounds a little better with everything sounding equal, one insturment not being drowned out from another. Best vocal performance of the album by Cruella and she is not mixed too low either!

A half minute instrumental opens ‘Deny Yourself’ and gives the sense that By Blood Alone is going to gallop along again like on ‘Wants Me Dead’. There are some quick breaks where one gets the sense that the music slows a little but, for the most part, ‘Deny Yourself’ is uptempo with some interesting drum fills. Of course, halfway though the song, the band slows the pace down to a crawl and provide another haunting mood. Things pick up again with the instrumental solo section but, by this point, I’ve heard them do this on almost every song! ‘Little Lady Lillit’ is all vocals and piano and it almost sounds like a child’s nursery rhyme! It’s interesting, especially when you hear the lyrics.

Bottom Line:
Overall, I liked the album. I’m a big fan of female-fronted Gothic styled bands and By Blood Alone fits that category. The band has songs and they are talented musicians but what they desperately need is a new producer. I haven’t heard any other albums produced by Steve La Cerra but I have enough albums of this genre in my collection to know what works and what doesn’t. SEAS OF BLOOD is begging for a remix! The keyboards are way up front in the mix most of the time and the vocals are either too high or too low. There are guitars here but Graveside is usually too low and under the keyboards. Same goes with the bass, mixed way too low. I adjusted my equalizer to bring in more bass and you can definitely hear Jack Doran. Now just because the mix is a mess doesn’t mean that the musicians are bad, they are all actually very good, especially keyboardist Jenny Williamson. If ambient/Gothic music is what you are going to do, then you need a great keyboardist…..Williamson is the real deal! If Cruella put a little more thunder in her vocals and John Graveside got his guitar equal time with the keys, By Blood Alone would be a heavier band. I like what I hear and I want to hear more…..I bet the band goes over really well live. Definitely a band I will be watching closely in the future.

Favorite Songs: ‘Serpentarius’, ‘Wants Me Dead’, ‘Lovely Lies’, ‘Seas of Blood’

Temujin – 1000 Tears (2008)

Temujin – 1000 Tears (2008, Renaisance Records)

  1. Find Me
  2. 1000 Tears
  3. So Near
  4. Let You Go
  5. Spiral
  6. Down
  7. Blue Jay
  8. Taken
  9. Sheltered
  10. Haunted
  11. All Of You
  12. Throwing Stones
  13. Heart And Soul

Band Lineup:
Kelly – Vocals & Keyboards
Karl Lean- Guitars, Bass, Drums

Additional Musicians:
Buddy Snape – guest Lead Guitar on ‘Find Me’, ‘Taken’, & ‘Sheltered’
Sham Hughes – guest Lead Guitar on ‘So Near’

Produced by: Temujin

Total Time = 55:51

Temujin official website
Temujin MySpace page
Renaissance Records

Temujin is from Australia and began in 2005 when guitarist Karl Lean started writing new music in a different style than the Thrash Metal he made with Nothing Sacred. That new style turned out to be Gothic Metal that is guitar driven and not as operatic or orchestrated. Mainly collaborating with the talented and beautiful Kelly, the duo has created 1000 TEARS, an album that is influenced from the late ’90s Gothic/Ambient Metal moverment that included bands like The Gathering and Lacuna Coil.

First thing you notice when listening to Temujin is Kelly’s haunting voice. I was immeadiately drawn to her melodic soaring singing and I thought of The Gathering’s Anneke Van Giersbergen on albums like MANDYLION (1997) and NIGHTTIME BIRDS (1998). The singing is not operatic and over the top like some of today’s contemporaries are doing, it’s darker and sets a certain mood. Obviously, Kelly has a beautiful voice but she also maintains a calm control during each song as well as retaining the melody. Kelly also lends her keyboard talents to the record and that is an integral part of the overall ambient sound. Keyboards in this kind of Metal can be overbearing but on 1000 TEARS they compliment the overall sound structured around Karl’s guitar.

You might recognize Karl Lean from the Australian Metal band Nothing Sacred. After being in the band for over 10 years, Karl moved on to studio session work with other Australian bands. This experience in the studio is one of the reasons why he plays the rest of the instruments on the album except for some lead guitar parts on a few of the tracks. Karl is a multi-talented musician and it’s obvious by the perfect precision there is between the guitar, bass, and drums in each song. The songs are all guitar based with the keyboards coming in to compliment the sound. The guitar sounds really thick overall and the rhythm section keeps the songs on track without being a distraction. The majority of the songs are mid-paced and keep in line with Kelly’s range and beauty…..these tracks are not quiet ballads, they are still layered in heaviness.

The only minor complaint I have is that the production is a little weak when it comes to mixing Kelly’s voice and the guitars. It sounds like she is in the background on some songs and then she’s right up front on the next. Take a listen to ‘Sheltered’, it’s a great song but I sometimes feel like Kelly’s vocal gets pushed back by the main riff. Then you listen to ‘Haunted’ right after and she sounds like she’s right up front. No problem though, it’s all in the mix and I’ll bet that in concert there is a better difference. I was also waiting for Kelly to really let go and wail but that’s not the style she uses. I’m a little too used to hearing all the vocal histrionics that happen sometimes in this genre so the controlled power Kelly displays is fresh and gives an added element to explore.

Bottom Line:
I had never heard of Temujin until I received the CD…..this is how Gothic Metal should be played. The fact that the music sounds similar to The Gathering in the late ’90s is a major plus for me because that music is the basis of what bands like Evanescence (who are terrible!) are doing with success on the U.S. charts. I’ve always said that Evanescence was a sham and that band’s like The Gathering, Lacuna Coil, and After Forever do not get the credit they deserve. Add Temujin to that list because they are definitely a really good new band in a crowded scene. I think they choice to go with less operatic vocals, subtle keyboards and more focus on the guitars will set them apart from the other female fronted bands in the future. A great debut!

Favorite songs: ‘Find Me’, ‘So Near’, ‘Sheltered’, ‘Haunted’, ‘Throwing Stones’