Stream Of Passion – The Flame Within (2009, Napalm Records)
- The Art Of Loss
- In The End
- Now Or Never
- When You Hurt Me The Most
- Run Away
- Games We Play
- This Endless Night
- My Leader
- Burn My Pain
- Let Me In
- Street Spirit
- A Part Of You
- All I Know
- Far And Apart (U.S. bonus track)
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
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.
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.
‘The Art Of Loss’, ‘In The End’, ‘Far And Apart’, ‘Games We Play’, ‘When You Hurt Me The Most’