French symphonic power Metallers Operadyse release their debut album, 'Pandemonium', through a joint venture between Sonic Attack and SPV on November 25th (November 19th in the States).
For those new to the band, me included, a potted history (no, not the botanical kind): The band's origin goes back to 2006 when guitarist Damien Marco formed this six-member unit with the help of his friends Bastien Sable (keyboards) and Jennifer Lassalle (vocalist).
Their first EP, 'Hope Era Dies', was released in 2009 and after some member changes, the band settled on its current lineup with the addition of Emmanuel Colombier (drums) and Stephane Lambert (bass). Vocalist Franck Garcia joined the band after original female vocalist Lassalle left for personal reasons. She does though appear on a lt of the tracks.
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So settled on a lineup, the album was recorded late last year in Draudenhaus Studios in Nantes and according to the press release "shows a strong atmospheric touch wrapped around a pounding rhythm, driving guitars, oscillating keyboards with the clear and very powerful voice of Franck Garcia giving the band's style its typical expression."
As far as their press releases go, all is up to standard, using several words when one will do and filling with random adjectives. But I am not well known as a literary expert so best to get on with the musical content.
First up is 'Rise' which is the intr to the album but at a little under two minutes it stands up on its own. It is a synth and keyboard piece, and whilst not in the technical echelons of the likes of Rick Wakeman and Magnum's Mark Stanway, it is a very beautifully written piece.
Inspiring, uplifting and you could see it as a film score for a fantasy adventure featuring goblins, trolls, dwarves and the like (not sure why I have just described a lot of the music industry but purely coincidence). It works very well as an intro to the album.
'Celestial sword' is next up. Beginnings marked with keyboard and guitar, rapid fire drums pushing it along. In a way, the drumns are what you would expect to hear on something all in all a lot heavier but they wrk very well indeed on this giving it that extra push. Vocals kick in and it is full of melodious exchanges between guitar and vox, the tempo never ceasing. A very good song, well written and played, a touch of celtic influence showing along with the obvious Helloween influence.
'Unfold Legend' comes firing out the gate next, well actually from the CD player, but you get the general drift. Drums again powering the track along as they do throughout the album. The melody gives the vocals the chance to really shine, and whilst not quite as immense as Helloween's Michael Kiske back in the Keeper days, Garcia does have a very impressive vocal range and he uses it to great effect.
The song just keeps on coming and even in the middle where there is almost a military marching feel, it never lets up until the last 30 seconds when a clever and perfectly fitting outro takes over, orchestral in feel. A stunning track.
'Keeper Of The flame' is another up tempo song, perhaps more straightforward but that desn't take away from the musical and lyrical content. It goes almost without saying by this point that pounding rhythm behind it gives it an impetus – a press release with some fact, there's a thing.
'The Path' has an anthemic quality about it and should be a storming live track. There is the military feel that struts its stuff almost throughout the album but the thing that really grabs you by the nuts in this one is the voice. On this one especially he sings with incredible clarity and power and carries the song off to his lair as a trophy. The song is a good one, well played but it is the vocals that lift it to another level.
If you ever wondered what lives at the bottm of the garden, apart from the underwear you left there the night before, then 'Fairies Secret Garden' may provide the answer. With an intro that is reminiscent of the chimes in a Clint Eastwod spaghetti western, the feel and mood of this one is very different to what has come before, darker, more sombre.
That is easy to pull off with quieter sections as there is at the start of this one, but where it gets clever is that when the tempo quickens, there is a melancholic and almost troubled mood to the song. Musically it is an interesting beast as well, guitars crunching heaviness in the mid section, half gregorian chants overlaying it before it shifts back.
This is almost a song of two parts, but both fit very well with each other. And as if to prove a point, the end of the song takes on a totally different direction – quiet, female vocals adding more sobriety to proceedings.
'Arkanya' brings a more upbeat tempo, hope contrasting to the darkness of the previous song. Rising keyboards at the beginning of the song giving way to heavy riffs which in turn give way to thoughtful voice almost on its own. Male and female vocals in perfect tandem, duet like interchanges in places, fitting the song perfectly.
The title track is a six and a bit minute epic, fitting into the band's repertoire and genre as well as a firing squad would at an x-factor show. Long synth intro, heavy riffs coming in, powerful vocals, this song puts together all the layers that make up the band, almost a showcase for their talents. Pandemonium is though not an apt title as ai is musically anything but.
So to 'Nevermore'. A good song, thoughtful keyboards and military drums, vocals again coming to the fore. It is well written although it does follow the now familiar pattern of the album without any new direction or interesting deviations.
'Frozen' is the last track on the album and as is quite often the way on rock albums, it is at a pace to suggest a farewell song, well the best time for a farewell is at the end. It is a quiet piece featuring just Jennifer's vocals overlaying synths and it is a particularly beautiful song. It may be that she would have given the band something that a lot of others of this ilk don't have but they are in good hands with Garcia.
This is definitely a good debut album from a very talented bunch. The only thing at the moment is the lack of diversity in the songs but hopefully that will come with time as the songwriting veers off in differing directions.
European Metal is in a way something we may never have got totally to grips with in this country but this should dispel any doubts that any of you out there may have. And it is certainly good to see new bands coming to the fore and carrying the torch.