Trillium - Tectonic

Genre: Power Metal, Symphonic Metal

Amanda Somerville is a versatile vocalist, able to fit into a wide variety of styles, as evident from her stints in Avantasia and other groupings with bigger names above hers on the roster. Her own project, titled Amanda Somerville’s Trillium (because we’re not talking about Aina) released their first album in 2011, not exactly to rave reviews, and has been quiet since while Somerville has been plenty busy elsewhere. The follow up, Tectonic, was a long time coming, and finally hit in mid 2018. And it’s supposed to be her time to shine, and show she doesn’t need no Sammet or Kiske to deliver the goods. But what always seems to have been sort of glossed over is the fairly ill fit, musically, that is Somerville and husband Sander Gommans. The man has a background in decidedly more extreme styles of metal, as evident from HDK, whereas Somerville’s very Simone Simmons like vocal style goes much better with a loftier hard rock kind of guitar style, like that of Magnus Karlsson in the surprisingly well fitting Kiske/Somerville project, or the more grandiose symphonic style of Avantasia. 

Trillium - Tectonic

While far from a perfect album, Alloy still did lots of stuff right, including the right personnel in Sascha Paeth, Michael Rodenberg and Simon Oberender. From there, the songwriting style felt like a complementing mix of power metal, symphonic and gothic elements. Not so much on Tectonic, which tries to be grittier and more hard-edged than is needed. Gommans is a fine guitarist - in fact, he’s darn good, and he puts out some hella sweet solos and some high quality riffs strewn like sprinkles on the Trillium icing - but the gritty mindset does Somerville few favors, and Erik van Ittersum’s keyboards should need a higher place in the mix as well as a more prominent role in defining the melodic output, rather than playing background and adding the token symphonic backdrop to Gommans’ guitars. Gommans handles the bass as well on the album, and here there are some liberties taken which certainly do work; tiny little twists and turns in the bass lines that elevate them beyond just following the guitars add a quirky touch that works well.

Problem is, every song here sounds the same. They just plod along doing the same things over and over. Gritty riffs to start off, quickly followed by Somerville entering the state in a high, symphonic flair, but then quickly devolving into the more standardized power metal cruiser that just do things by the numbers. Opening track Time To Shine is likely the best track on here, perhaps because the rest of the album just seems like variations of the same. (Damn, they should have brought back Jørn Lande for a follow up to Scream It.) You’d expect a track named Nocturna to give a dark impression of the night, or Cliché Freak Show to try and stick out in terms of oddity or quirkiness, but nope, they’re more or less the same. Other than that, you’ve got song titles like Stand Up, Hit Me and Fighting Fate; just your every day inoffensive power metal. Not bad, but in no way deserving of more than a single play through, and not the comeback that Trillium would have deserved. Damn, Somerville can do so much better.

 

Standout tracks: Time To Shine, Shards

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Trillium - Shards

Crownless - Confines Of Silence

Genre: Power Metal, Symphonic Metal

Gathering musicians from various death, black and thrash metal bands (the most eye catching being the colorfully named Anal Vomit), Crownless ventures into a wholly different territory. At first glance Crownless would appear to be Italian by judging from the sound, but from a time when Italian metal still had a certain freshness about it. Instead, these guys come from the Peruvian capital, and with their debut album Confines Of Silence, they bring a sweet exploration into the realms of the symphonic. It is a fresh blend of Nightwish and old school Rhapsody, sprinkled with touches of the old Dark Moor and the likes. Folksier notes are brought about in Legions Of Him while dramatic The Unloved go all out on theatrics. The album is ambitious, but not prone to grandstanding, showcasing a stripped down sound less reliant on big choirs and massive symphonic backdrops - though they are present of course - and more on beautiful, soaring melodies and musicianship, which works in Crownless’s favor.

Crownless - Confines Of Silence

Vocalist MariVe Iglesias brings just that right amount of over the top operatics while mostly sticking to a light and airy mid range. The contrasts therein make those Turunen inspired moments all the more powerful, unlike on their 2015 EP Sigillum, where they were used less sparingly and it just didn’t sound that good (though to be fair the production and mix on that EP was miles below what’s shown here). The vocal melodies are catchy and cheesy in the right amount, and Iglesias brings about a majestic sound in the high notes and emotional tinges when needed. The production suffers slightly due to a lack of dynamics; the bass is virtually absent, and only makes slight forays to make itself heard. Guitarist Pedro ‘Nekrogore’ Bernales lays down a few toxic solos and lead guitar parts to battle the keys which also would deserve to sit a little higher in the mix to show off the skills. The battling between the two in tracks like Sailing The Dark is phenomenal, and the song itself a high mark on the album, sounding like something Nightwish could have put out a few years back.

It won’t be revolutionizing symphonic metal by any means, but the album and the band’s style and direction is just so uplifting that it’s hard not be drawn along for the ride. The songs are rather short affairs, most clocking in around the four minute stretch, leaving the total runtime at slightly under 40 minutes, a few of which are filler material that doesn’t reach the standards of the higher points; so Confines Of Silence is by no means the perfect debut album, let alone a perfect album. Perhaps instead of Standing On - the blandest track on here - they could have redone another track from Sigillum (Sailing The Dark is the one they did), but as it is, the tracklist is decent at least, and in most senses outshines the aforementioned EP. It has its slight flaws and misses, but it leaves lots of taste for what else this Peruvian outfit might come up with in the years to come, and it does so while delivering plenty of substance in a relatively short time and with heaps of passion for the trade. And on the whole Confines Of Silence is a highly enjoyable little love affair with a sound that was thought foregone.

 

Standout tracks: Feathers In Flames, Contestatory, Sailing The Dark

 

    

 

Lyrikvideo: Crownless - Feathers In Flames

Chrysilia - Et in Arcadia Ego

Genre: Folk Metal, Symphonic Metal

Maybe it’s just me, but some tunes just seem to be made for the made for a rainy, dreary autumn afternoon; rain beating on the windows, sky grey and darkening. Chrysilia and their debut album Et in Arcadia Ego certainly fits this category, though in no negative sense of the word “dreary”. The Greek outfit blends symphonic metal with folk themes and a mythological dreamscape, brought to life by vocalist Chryso’s powerful voice and presence. Straight out of opening track By the Gates of Ypsus there seems to be no stopping the immersion brought about by the talented musicianship and thoughtful songwriting that focus not so much on the heavy side of metal, but on the sweeping melodics of classical music and the emotive performance by Chryso. If you are not incredibly picky about the amount of metal in your metal, Et in Arcadia Ego will prove to deliver.

Chrysilia - Et in Arcadia Ego

The symphonic keyboards never really take the upper hand, but rather play a role similar to those of Odysseas’s violin presence, bringing about melodic tinges and great, whirling melodic leads. The instrumental buildup in title track; dense, slow war drums set with an increasing violin melody and atmospheric keyboards just ooze epicness, like the calm before the battle. Then the twist comes, and it’s even deeper, no blast into full force, but an instrumental piece that builds onward with the drums and keys being the main focus - put this track over a war epic like Braveheart and it will not feel out of place. Still, it works best as a mid piece to halve the album lest it become overwhelming, while as a standalone track it might not do best. Instead, the serenely beautiful Desperate Wings or the ‘round the campfire feel of Chrysilia - vocalist Chryso bordering on bardlike - make better on their own. Still, the album is meant to be taken whole, and that’s how it does best. Though the mentioned ones are some of the less metallic tracks on here, there is no shortage of those, either.

Talented guitarist Teo Ross gets more work on his hands in tracks like By the Gates of Ypsus and King of a Stellar War. Still heavy with folk elements however, the music never really seems to let the guitars reach their full potential. The riff work seems underdeveloped and the solos - when they appear - are bland. Perhaps in a natural sense, with the overall focus on John Matzakos’s keys, Odysseas’s violin and of course the operatic vocals of Chryso. Overall however, the blend of metal and classic elements with the folkier tunes is interesting and done well, evidently with a lot of passion and a sense of colorful storytelling. The entire album clocks in at just under 50 minutes (not counting bonus the bonus “operatic” version of Desperate Wings), but if you let it sweep you away it feels longer - in a good sense. Clearly, the album has its small flaws, little things to work on and bits and pieces that aren’t quite up to par with the best parts, but in all Chrysilia delivers a sweet debut; clever, mythological and heavily serene.

 

Standout tracks: By the Gates of Ypsus, Arcadia

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Chrysilia - The Menalon Trail