Stream Of Passion have been one of my favourite bands for years, ever since their initial incarnation as a side project from Arjen Lucassen through the multiple line up changes when Lucassen left and on now to this, their fourth studio release.
Having parted company with their label this release was financed by a crowdfunding campaign and just to make things clear, it was an album I really wanted to hear so I contributed to the funding along with other fans from around the world.
This band of Dutch musicians fronted by their amazing Mexican import of a singer are lumped in with the host of female fronted symphonic metal bands around these days but I think that is unfair. They have a unique sound of metal, symphonic and progressive influences mixed with a latin twist and each album has sounded different to the previous one.
Article continues below...
In a recent interview with MetalTalk (see link below) Ms Bovio who is the main songwriter said they wanted to be ambitious with the songs on this album and that they certainly have been. From the opening bars of the first track 'Monster' it is clear that a major step has been taken towards the band's progressive leanings. Multiple time changes and huge swathes of keyboards are prevalent and in addition the latin flavours have been turned up several notches, both in rhythms and feel.
The guitars still crunch out riffs in fine style and the moment where the riff kicks in in the superb 'Delirio' is just monstrous! One of my favourite tracks on the album it manages to combine latin and even jazzy touches with Spanish lyrics and some full on metal too.
A point of emphasis for the band on previous releases has been the wild and wonderful solos of guitarist Stephan Schultz but these have been pared down here and are really only apparent on rare occasions such as in the emotional 'Secrets', partly inspired by a seriously ill child the band played a charity show to help.
The guitars on this album are all about riffs and atmosphere, Eric Hazebroek getting to show off his melancholy hook lines to great effect in songs like 'Out Of The Darkness' which is all subtle rhythms, swirling riffs and delicate keyboard flourishes.
The backbone of the band Johan Van Stratum on bass and Martijn Peters on drums handle all the challenging rhythms and time changes with aplomb, keeping a solid foundation for everything else to be built on. This is never more evident than on the epic 'Earthquake' which reverberates gently and then builds into building shaking grooves, all with some fantastic vocals from the feisty redhead up front. This is another great song.
This album is a definite group effort and as a band all the musicians are on top form, but I think there are two star turns on this album. The first is keyboard player Jeffrey Revet whose playing is simply astounding! I knew he was good but this album shows him doing sweet delicate piano or huge symphonic swathes of sound seemingly effortlessly switching between them. On the Muse-like parts of the title track (now christened AWOOO by the band!) he creates a beautiful, shimmering hook line to hang the song on yet on the big chorus moments of the otherwise subdued, reflective 'Exile' he brings sweeping orchestral grandeur in to back up the guitars.
The other star turn is inevitably the Mexican songstress herself Marcela Bovio. She has one of those voices, if she sings you will listen. Whether it's the breathy emotion of melancholy ballad 'For You', the irresistable beauty of listening to her sing in her native Spanish in 'Delirio' and 'Exile' or the quite frankly astonishing notes she hits in places on 'Monster', 'Earthquake' or bonus track 'The Distance Between Us' she is quite simply a tour de force and one of the best in the business, no question.
There are many highlights here but where it all comes together in epic fashion is on the album's longest song 'Don't Let Go'. From the atmospheric piano intro and gently building rhythm, the haunting vocals echo of longing and loss and the chorus is epic and memorable. There is a spoken Spanish section and a superb guitar solo, this song is full of invention and emotion. Six minutes just isn't long enough; you're left wanting more.
Of course while I love this band I have to be honest and there are some things which don't quite work for me. Sometimes on the chorus' of some songs you have multiple guitars and layers of keyboards and layers of vocals and it can be a bit overwhelming to my (admittedly old) ears. The track 'Burning Star' I just can't get to grips with, it's not bad but it comes over to me as a few time changes too far and doesn't really hang together as a memorable song. Finally some of the songs here are immediate and brilliant and some of the others take a while to grow on you which is a sign of depth, but I wonder how they will fare with any casual listeners checking the band out.
Verdict: I have stated a few reservations about this album and it has taken a direction I wasn't totally expecting from the band but there is no escaping that this is a quality, quality album made by a superb bunch of musicians and I love most of it. I think they are capable of even better though so I'm already looking forward to the next one!
A War Of Our Own
Don't Let Go
Out Of The Darkness
The Distance Between Us (digipack bonus track)
Marcela Bovio-vocals, violin
Johan Van Stratum-bass
Jeffrey Revet-keyboards Interview: http://metaltalk.net/columns/20106641.php