Thursday, 22 March 2012

Guest Post: A Spectacular Symphonic Selection

Doozr from The Mix Eclectic has kindly agreed to share occasional posts if they are relevant to Femetalism. Today he has written a short round-up of this year's female-fronted symphonic metal releases. Enjoy!

Fans of female fronted symphonic metal are going to find it hard to be disappointed with 2012. Only three short months in, and already three albums released by some of the genre's finest. Most recently, Epica have released Requiem For The Indifferent, their follow up to 2009's Design Your Universe. Xandria have produced Neverworld's End, their first album in 5 years and first with singer Manuela Kraller.  Finally, Pythia, featuring Emily Ovenden of Mediaeval Babes, have released The Serpent's Curse, their second album after 2009's Beneath The Veiled Embrace.

One name conspicuous in its absence from this list is Delain, whose new album We Are The Others seems stuck in record label purgatory. Some hoo-hah to do with label buyouts has meant that the band are having a tough time getting the album actually produced and on the shelves. Hopefully it'll be sorted by the time they tour in May!

Pythia - The Serpent's Curse

The Serpent's Curse, Pythia's second album, is an unrelenting torrent of power metal to batter your ears into submission. Unlike other symphonic metal bands, Pythia never seem to go the way of the ballad. Instead, they have mostly power metal verses with the occasional operatic chorus. While often being compared (as all female fronted bands are) to Nightwish, their sound is much more like Blind Guardian meets Dragonforce. It can get a bit much sometimes; in parts it can feel that the music could be replaced with any loud, repetitive noise because the vocals carry the melody and the mood. The music is just there for volume. It has its moments, though, and if you like your power metal fast, loud and with operatic bits, then you couldn't really ask for more. One odd thing about it is a nagging feeling of déjà vu. I'm sure I've heard half the songs on this album before, but can't quiet put my finger on it. I'm wondering if it's just a little too similar to music I've heard in the past, but not similar enough to make that connection.

Xandria - Neverworld's End

When a band gets a new singer with a dramatically different vocal style, the music often has to change to accomodate it. That's exactly what Xandria have done, to great effect. However, I'm going to go against my previous statement about Nightwish comparisons and make one myself. The new Xandria line up sound uncannily like Nightwish circa 2004. If you liked Once, you'll like this.  And given that Nightwish themselves don't sound like themselves (a bad thing, according to many), Xandria look to be well placed to step up and fill the void in the market. I've struggled to find details of Manuela Kraller's musical abilities beyond "soprano", so I don't know if she can match Tarja's 3 octave lyric soprano, but for the purposes of symphonic metal she does a bloody good job of it.

Epica - Requiem For The Indifferent

Requiem For The Indifferent is classic Epica in most respects, but with some nice progressions from earlier works. It's the only album of these three to use the "beauty and the beast" vocal styles, and the beastly growls seem to have stepped up a notch. As a result the album feels nicely heavy and gothic, with choral elements and excellent orchestration building the whole. In fact, the whole band seems to have stepped up a notch, from more varied vocal delivery from both vocalists to a complex intermixing of styles to make Epica sound even (sorry, had to do it). This is a well balanced album, possibly more restrained than Design Your Universe with its growl and bombast. On the whole it leans toward a softer, more introspective feel. The beautiful Delirium showcases the band's softer side wonderfully and is as emotionally wrenching as it is perfectly delivered. A fine addition to an already accomplished repertoire.