Fully exploiting the band’s newfound strengths around singer Dianne van Giersbergen, Xandria delivers one of the best Symphonic/Gothic Metal albums of the last few months with “Theater of Dimensions”. Crafting over 74 minutes of lush and bombastic songs, the band reaches the levels of excellence of bands like Epica, Within Temptation and Nightwish with this killer release filled with epic melodies and mesmerizing arrangements.
Opening with the very dramatic and engaging “Where the Heart is Home”, we instantly get a superbly epic vibe thanks to the vocal arrangements and over the top orchestrations. The band quickly showcases their very diverse musical style while going through excellent songs like “Death to the Holy”, “Forsaken Love” and “Call of Destiny”, all of them showing influences from everything ranging from Power Metal to Folk Metal, but with the distinctive Xandria edge.
After a brilliant 2016 filled with Symphonic/Gothic Metal releases from bands like Epica and Delain, it is quite delightful to hear that 2017 will follow along the same lines, starting with Akoma’s debut full-length “Revangels”. Featuring nine tracks filled with bombastic arrangements, this release perfectly combines soaring vocals and catchy guitars to achieve very dramatic and engaging songs.
The release opens with the very dramatic “Enticing Desire”, a song that reminded us of some of the most recent Within Temptation’s releases. Akoma’s vocalist, Tanya Bell, perfectly balances combining operatic style vocals with more ‘natural’ singing, which in turn allows songs like the opener and “Change of Propensity” to be quite dynamic and engaging. The album’s second track features backing vocals by Liv Kristine, adding an extra dimension to the band’s sound.
As one of the most expected Symphonic/Gothic Metal releases of 2016, today we have Diabulus in Musica and their excellent fourth full-length release “Dirge for the Archons”. Slowly evolving into a beautiful butterfly, this Spanish band’s music has gotten more and more bombastic and explosive over time. Bringing comparisons with Epica, Xandria and After Forever, this release delivers over 60 minutes of captivating music that any fan of the genre will love.
After the traditional warm-up intro, “Earthly Illusions” delivers waves of guitar riffs and orchestral arrangements that are perfectly offset by Zuberoa Aznárez’s signature firm but sweet vocals. As “Marble Embrace” and “Invisible” arrive, we can’t help but notice a very evident similarity to Epica’s music, more than before for the band. This isn’t necessarily bad as there are enough differences in the choir arrangements and song structures to keep them far from being a copycat. And while similar, Gorka and company manage to craft highly memorable songs.
Hailing from Normandy, today we have newcomer Symphonic/Gothic Metal outfit Lost Opera and their sophomore release “Hidden Sides”. In a world filled with Female-led Symphonic Metal bands, it is quite surprising and even rare to hear a band rely mostly on male vocals in the genre. Delivering over 55 minutes of music, this release is quite engaging and fun, perfectly appealing to all fans of the genre that are looking for something a little different.
After the traditional intro, the album blows wide open with the pummeling riffs of “Today I Cry”. This track starts off quite heavy and is perfectly contrasted by engaging keyboards and a mixture of growls and clean vocals. The band’s vocalist Loïc Conti, does a pretty solid job in mixing growls with clean vocals, allowing the songs to be diverse and engaging as we can hear on “Follow the Signs” and “Rage”.
Taking the scene by surprise by changing lead singers, Sirenia manages to come out on top with the brilliant “Dim Days of Dolor”. Delivering over 55 minutes of signature Sirenia Symphonic/Gothic Metal, the band shows no signs of slowing down while unleashing their best release to date. If you are concerned on how Emmanuelle Zoldan fits with the band’s style, you are in for a treat as her vocals perfectly blend with the bombastic nature of the music.
Opening with the explosive “Goddess of the Sea”, the band instantly shows that their sound is still as bombastic as ever and that Emmanuelle’s seductive vocals seamlessly integrate with it. One of the things we love more about Sirenia is the lush and vibrant choir arrangements and this track instantly satisfied our cravings. The catchiest song on this release, and probably the band’s history, comes under the album title and delivers a brilliant chorus section and very digestible and engaging riffs. Once you hear this track, you will not be able to get it out of your head.
Hailing from Finland, today we have Heidi Parviainen’s Dark Sarah and their sophomore full-length release titled “The Puzzle”. Delivering ten bombastic songs of very dramatic and theatrical Symphonic/Gothic Metal, Heidi continues to come out the shadows of her ex band Amberian Dawn and establish her-self (and the new band) as one of the most dynamic and engaging bands in the genre. If you like bands like Nightwish, Epica, Cornoatus, etc. this is one release you don’t want to miss.
After the opening intro, “Island in the Mist” opens up with heavy riffs and magical keyboards. With this approach the track feels quite engaging and very bombastic as Hedi’s vocals appear adding to the magic. With Erkka Korhonen (Northern Kings) and Sami Salonen handling the guitar duties, tracks like “Little Men” and “Ash Grove” are both heavy and playful, changing tempos perfectly and allowing the music to be as dynamic and explosive as possible.
Hands down the most emotionally draining album of 2016 has to be Trees of Eternity’s debut full-length release “Hour of the Nightingale”. Filled with lush Atmospheric/Gothic Doom songs, this release is nearly as emotional as its back story. After a few years in limbo and a bit too late for some, released under Svart records, this release will definitely crawl up under your skin and fill you with melancholy.
Opening with Swallow the Sun-esque heavy riffs, “My Requiem” sets the listener into an emotional journey for over 62 minutes of unparalleled melancholy. As the band’s singer Aleah Stanbridge first showcases her vocal talents, the music quickly becomes even darker and more emotive. Unluckily for the world, Aleah’s talents will no longer be present as she passed before the release of this album. However, her presence in this release at least shines light of her talents and dedication to the band.
Six years after their brilliant sophomore release “Falling Mist”, today we have Heaven Grey’s latest opus “Manuscriptum”. As one of the hidden Baltic gems of Gothic/Doom Metal bands (Frailty is another one), the band delivers nine excellent tracks of melancholic music which show the band’s musical evolution over the years.
Opening with the dramatic atmospheric intro of “Insomnia”, the band nicely settles with some melancholic riffs and very well crafted tempo changes. This track perfectly sets a very mellow and depressive mood that is nicely enhanced by the excellent clean vocals of the band’s new singer Artūrs Fishers. Mixing clean and harsh vocal styles, tracks like “Drown in My Shade” and “Sirds Balss” showcase a perfect balance and great complementarity between the styles.
As one of the most unexpected returns of 2016, today we have Gothic Metal band Darkwell with their third full-length release “Moloch”. With a separation of 12 years between releases, the band comes back to life with an exciting release in the vein of their debut “Suspiria”. Combining elements from Gothic Metal bands from the late 90’s like Dreams of Sanity and Trail of Tears, this release presents us with eleven tracks filled with heavy riffs and lush atmospheric elements.
Opening with the album title track, the band quickly sets the mood with catchy riffs and tight drums. Alexandra Pittracher returns on vocals and her signature style instantly brings back memories of the band’s debut release and our favorite track in that album “Realm of Darkness”. While the music structure has remained very similar, the keyboards, courtesy of Raphael Lepuschitz, feel more dynamic and edgier with some electronic elements to be found as you can notice on songs like “In Nomine Serpentis”, “Save My Sight” and “Yoshiwara”.
Hailing from Finland, today we have a very strange and totally awesome release from Kuolemanlaakso. Departing away from their typical Death/Doom influences, this release is Markus Laakso’s brainchild, allowing it to be weirder and less straightforward. While not the typical release for this band, this release delivers eight very unique tracks that showcase a different creative side from some of the band members.
Opening with the gloomy “Children of the Night”, we instantly hear the difference when it comes to tempo and atmosphere. Laakso’s vocals are quite good for the genre, making the tracks quite mysterious while having the authentic deep Gothic Rock/Metal sound. With the catchy and somewhat “Rolls the Dice with the Devil” and “Where the River Runs Red” following up next, the band manages to sound like a mixture of bands like The Vision Bleak, Type O Negative and even some hints of H.I.M… all in a very good way.