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
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
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…..here is the explanation from Mistress Tina in an interview with RisingForceUSA.com

“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…..it 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’

 

Stream Of Passion – The Flame Within (2009)

streamofpassion_flame

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’

Hollenthon – Opus Magnum (2008)

Hollenthon – Opus Magnum (2008, Napalm Records)

  1. On The Wings Of A Dove
  2. To Fabled Lands
  3. Son Of Perdition
  4. Ars Moriendi
  5. Once We Were Kings
  6. Of Splendid Worlds
  7. Dying Embers
  8. Misterium Babel

Band Lineup:
Martin Schirenc – Vocals, Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Martin Arzberger – Guitars
Gregor “El Gore” Marboe – Bass & Backing Vocals
Mike Gröger – Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Elena Schirenc – Vocals

Total Time = 46:17

Hollenthon official website
Hollenthon MySpace page
Napalm Records

OPUS MAGNUM is my first introduction to Austrian symphonic death metallers Hollenthon but the band has been around since 1999. Hollenthon is the brainchild of Pungent Stench mainman Martin Schirenc and the band has released two albums: DOMUS MUNDI (1999) and WITH VILEST OF WORMS TO DWELL (2001). The band has been on somewhat of a hiatus while Schirenc has concentrated on Pungent Stench but, now that they have broken up, Schirenc has focused his attention toward OPUS MAGNUM.

There is a blend of styles here aside from typical Death Metal, some call it Melodic Death Metal, but I hear more orchestration and folk in the music while retaining a pure heaviness. ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’ is a perfect example. The song opens the album with a heavy guitar riff and manic double bass drums but with an accompanying orchestration that includes choir vocals, keyboards, and strings (that probably come from the keys). When you add the harsh vocals of Schirenc then heaviness of the music stands out. Being a new fan of this type of Metal, ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’ is the type of song that gives me the general idea of the direction the band is going with the blending of many different sounds. The old saying is “you only have one chance to make an impression” and Hollenthon has made a favorable impression right away. ‘To Fabled Lands’ slows down a little bit compared to the opener but it is still heavy due to the double bass and crashing cymbals. There are more prominent choir vocals that remind me of some of Hammerfall’s output from their first two albums. I really dig ‘Son Of Perdition’, it has this hook between the guitar and keyboards that gets the fist pumping. The keys are a little more prominent at times but that main riff sticks right in my head. There are some more solid background vocals but it’s the gruffness of the main vocal that stands out to me. The song slows in the middle for some clean female vocals (a Symphonic Metal staple) and then they are incorporated in to contrast and compliment the main vocal towards the end. It’s a little different compared to the rest of the album, ‘Sons OF Perdition’ has more of a Power Metal vibe to it.

‘Ars Moriendi’ starts with a heavy orchestration and some serious soprano highs from Elena Schirenc that are kind of like Tarja (ex-Nightwish). After the beginning, ‘Ars Moriendi’ is a guitar feast with Schirenc and Martin Arzberger shredding all over the place, including a really good solo, until the orchestration kicks back in towards the end of the song. The tempo slows a little on ‘Once We Were Kings’ and incorporates the keyboards into the main vocal and also includes the choir like backgrounds and clean female vocals. This is one of my favorite songs on the album and it displays the myriad of sound that Hollenthon is using just like the album opener, ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’. ‘Of Splendid Worlds’ is more of the same Death Metal heaviness mixed with a Nightwish type orchestration at the beginning and then the symphonic elements kick out for the verses revealing the harshness. Towards the middle of the song a cool piano comes in to accompany the guitar. ‘Dying Embers’ starts out a little slow, a little quiet, with a clean vocal but everything picks up again with the blazing guitars and bass pounding.

The surprise of the album is the 8 minute ‘Misterium Babel’, a song that experiments with a Middle Eastern/Indian style along with the harsher elements. The contrast between the softer, cleaner side versus the harsher, Death side really makes the song. There is a perfect blend of sound between the heaviness of the riffs and drums to the subdued percussion and almost trance chanted vocals. The orchestration and female soprano weaves in and out almost mysteriously as does a flute! I was surprised to hear a flute pop in around the 6:40 mark of the song but it is there and done within the confines of the Middle Eastern flavor. Absolutely the best, and most different, song on the album!

Bottom Line:
I have only begun to explore the more extreme sides of Metal, my normal genres of choice being Traditional/Power Metal and Hard Rock. During the last year, I have started to listen to more Death and Black Metal and all of the spin-off styles that accompany them: Symphonic, Folk, Melodic Death, etc. So, while I’m not an expert, I do know what I hear and what I hear on OPUS MAGNUM is really good. There are plenty of guitar riffs that totally crush and some serious double bass pounding to go with the gruff vocals but what sets this band/album apart is the will to experiment. The orchestration is not overbearing, it’s blended into the heaviness. The female vocals soar and provide a good contrast to the death growls. One of the things that usually turns me off to Death Metal is that I can’t understand what is being sung, the good thing is that Schirenc is understandable under all the layers of vocal aggression…..to me, a big plus. The production is really great: everything is crystal clear, blended together well, and not overdone. It’s hard to understand how a band like Hollenthon has slipped under my radar but I can assure you that I enjoyed OPUS MAGNUM enough to give me the kick to go find the band’s first two albums.

Favorite songs: ‘Misterium Babel’, ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’, ‘Sons Of Perdition’, ‘Once We Were Kings’

Lana Lane – Red Planet Boulevard (2007)

Lana Lane – Red Planet Boulevard (2007, Think Tank Media)

  1. Into The Fire
  2. The Frozen Sea
  3. Capture The Sun
  4. Jessica
  5. Stepford, USA
  6. Shine
  7. Lazy Summer Day
  8. No Tears Left
  9. Save The World
  10. Angels and Magicians
  11. The Sheltering Sorrow
  12. Red Planet Boulevard

Band Lineup:
Lana Lane – Vocals
Erik Norlander – Keyboards & Bass
Peer Verschuren – Guitars
Ernst Van Ee – Drums

Producer: Erik Norlander

Total Time = 1:08:57

Lana Lane official website
Lana Lane MySpace page
Erik Norlander official website
Think Tank Media

Lana Lane has been churning out album after album of Symphonic  Melodic Hard Rock since 1995 and RED PLANET BOULEVARD is her first album of original material since 2005’s concept album LADY MACBETH. With a collection of covers in 2006 sandwiched in between the two (titled GEMINI), it’s clear that Lana and her band have continued to consistently release superb material. Along with her husband/producer Erik Norlander, and long time band members Peer Verschuren and Ernst Vann De, Lana Lane explores the same grand soundscapes she has on previous efforts with intelligent writing, beautiful vocals, and solid musicianship.

The album kicks off with the melodic rocker ‘Into The Fire’. The main riff is heavy and the vocals soar with Norlander’s keyboards providing a lush backing. A quiet acoustic guitar opens ‘The Frozen Sea’ until another heavy Verschuren riff kicks in and the song moves ahead with a melodic sensibility. It’s almost a little deceiving because Lana’s voice is so beautiful, the melodies and hooks are perfectly aligned, and the first two songs are uptempo and are both metallic and progressive. Continuing the heaviness is ‘Capture The Sun’, a song that could be termed as Progressive Power Metal, almost Dream Theater like.

Lana Lane is a talented singer, channelling the likes of Ann Wilson (Heart), Pat Benetar, and Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), and her talent is beautifully displayed on the album’s first ballad ‘Jessica’. I especially like trade off between the guitar and the keys/organ at the solo. ‘Stepford USA’ is another uptempo rocker with a catchy chorus that tells the story that is the movie. ‘Shine’ is another uptempo song with soaring vocals and excellent riffs, and do I hear a talk box in the background? The music on ‘Shine’ weaves from subtle and almost ballady to an immeadiate heavy riff that maintains the Hard Rock tone of the whole album.

‘Lazy Summer Day’ is the album’s second ballad and sounds like an early 1960s slow dance from the high school dance until the chorus kicks in and the guitar does as well. Come solo time, the main riff picks up and Peer Verschuren plays a tight clean solo. It’s a definitely different than the rest of the album and shows some different influences. ‘No Tears Left’ is a mid-tempo rocker that continues to feature Lana’s voice against a superb musical backdrop while ‘Save The World’ continues the mid-tempo flow with a heavy guitar, marching drums, and intertwining keyboard melodies. There’s a subtle backing track on the chorus that gives it almost a “spooky” effect, very cool. The proceedings pick up again with ‘Angels And Magicians’ with a solid clean riff during the chorus that cuts out for the acoustic while Lana beautifully sings the verses. I could do without the “na na na’s” Lana employs but the acoustic guitar solo that easily moves to electric more than makes up for it.

‘The Sheltering Sorrow’ is another beautiful ballad that reminds me of Lana Lane’s earlier work and could easily fit on her BALLAD COLLECTION albums. It’s another prime example of Lana’s vocal talent as she easily sings with emotion and subtlety amid another lush musical landscape. The title track is last and I’m glad it is. It’s an instrumental that incorporates major elements of each song on the album, almost like a reprise for the entire record. It’s a nice listen but seems unnecessary, I’d rather have another proper song with vocals.

Bottom Line:
I wasn’t too keen with the last few albums, the last album I really enjoyed was 2002’s PROJECT SHANGRI-LA. The last few releases, aside from LADY MACBETH, were either live records or basically covers. I prefer original studio material and Lana and company surely delivery another superb album. The vocals are as powerful as they are beautiful while the music is grand, sweeping, and technically sound. The guitar solos by Peer Verschuren are superb and they weave in and out with Norlander’s keyboards perfectly as the two bond together to give each song a rich full sound. The drums are heavy when they have to be and are expertly done by Van Ee while Norlander handles the bass. Each song has excellent songwriting with soaring melodies, catchy hooks, and a lush full sound. Favorite songs here: ‘Into The Fire’, ‘Jessica’, ‘Lazy Summer Day’, ‘The Frozen Sea’…..actually, I think every song on the record is excellent and I would only change the ending instrumental to a song with lyrics.