Friday, October 29, 2004

Review: Of Infinity - The Essence of Inifinity (2004)

Of Infinity [ Website | MySpace ]
The Essence of Infinity

The San Antonio, Texas, metal outfit Of Infinity is going to succeed. Talented as many underground bands are, for whatever reason they never quite catch the attention of the right people. Success in the music industry is a magic formula with talent, self-promotion, and determination being the main ingredients. Judging from what Of Infinity delivers on their three-song EP The Essence Of Infinity, they have all three in abundance.

Their press kit is, quite honestly, the slickest I've received in quite a long while. Neatly organized information about the band is packaged very smartly with a full-color, glossy slipsleeve containing the CD. Why am I spending my time, and yours, to mention the band's press kit? Because that is the first thing those industry types at the record labels will see as they're pouring through thousands of demos and inquiries. Catching their attention is the name of the game, so consider this a public service message to all of those up-and-coming bands out there. Being organized and professional does not mean that you're any less metal.

Ok, my soapbox has been kicked from under me so I'll get on to what the majority of us care about - Of Infinity's music. The members of the band (Alessandra Zinicola - vocals/piano/keys, Nazareth Sando - guitars/percussion, and Kurtis Kyllo - bass) have been playing together for less than two years, though Alessandra and Nazareth got together in 1999 to begin the project. What they've done in that short amount of time, however, says much for their songwriting ability and depth of talent.

The Essence Of Infinity begins with "The Voice Without", a pretty straightforward Gothic doom metal piece full of lush keys, somber guitar passages, and Alessandra's beautiful voice. As powerful as it is beautiful, her voice is strongest in the lower ranges and does tend to lose an edge as she reaches into her upper ranges, but overall she meshes seamlessly with the music. The next track, "Shadow Of A Lie", reminds me of something from Celestial Season's Solar Lovers album, with very Gothic violin passages from Emily Hesterman. Once again, the piano and keyboards make a strong presence and combine with Nazareth's dark riffs to provide the perfect atmosphere for Alessandra to work her magic. She's not as wistful on this track, which plays right into her strengths. While being significantly stronger than the first track, "Shadow Of A Lie" is eclipsed by the album's final track. "It's Only For Forever" shows the band take a giant leap with their melodic construction. Right away you're grabbed by Alessandra's piano intro as Nazareth lays into a pretty emotive solo. The vocal hooks are outstanding and perfectly laid. This is Of Infinity at their strongest, and as the final track it leaves the listener craving for more.

The three songs of The Essence Of Infinity are well crafted, well executed examples of Gothic metal that is beautiful, true to the genre, and accessible. The band has recently added a full time drummer to the fold, Carlos Teller, so with a complete lineup and there no longer being a need to rely on drum programming, I hope for much more to come along in the near future.

Track Listing
1The Voice Without5:33
2Shadow Of A Lie6:37
3It's Only For Forever4:50

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Review: Vagh - Into The Future Zone (2004)

Into The Future Zone

For some, the hard rock of the 1980s hold a very special place in their memories. The imagery of Tawny Kitean gyrating on the hood of a car to the sounds of lush keyboard riffs and restrained guitar licks is indeed both familiar and memorable. Fans of Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, and Journey listen up - the Swedish rockers Vagh share your love for this unforgettable era of rock and have dedicated themselves to bringing it back in exacting fashion. Founded by guitarist and keyboard player Robin Vagh as an expression of his love for AOR and melodic hard rock, the band released Into The Future Zone, their second album of '80s-style rock, earlier this year.

The album starts out on fire with the catchy "To Hell And Back Again". Robin lays down some searing riffs while guest guitarist David Persson kicks out quality leads and a stylish solo. Up-tempo and chock full of hooks, the lead-off track is by far the best song on the disc. Vocalist Jonas Blum has a somewhat gritty voice that generally fits, though at times he struggles and sounds at odds with the music. On the first two tracks he bears a slight similarity to Whitfield Crane (Ugly Kid Joe), but on tracks like "Calling On You" he sounds so out of place as to be distracting. Perhaps it's this inconsistency that prompted Robin Vagh to enlist the aid of John Marshall Gibbs and Noomi Str├ągefors to guest on two tracks each. Gibbs' first appearance, on "I Wanna Feel Love", has him performing his best David Coverdale impersonation but he ultimately falls short of the mark. On "Show Me Heaven Tonight", however, Gibbs shines as he emulates the grit and confidence of Jon Bon Jovi. For her part, Noomi displays promise in her tough girl, Pat Benatar sort of way. She struggles to remain on key when sustaining a note, but her potential is evident.

Vocal variety aside, apart from the lead-off track Into The Future Zone is a predictable album sticking to a tried and true formula. Though lacking in spontaneity, this album delivers everything you should expect from the genre - loads of hooks, catchy choruses, just the right amount of keyboard atmosphere, and a dash of guitar fire. Fans of the era, and melodic hard rock in general, will enjoy Vagh's new album.

Track Listing
1 To Hell And Back Again 4:17
2 Can't Reach You 3:34
3 I Wanna Feel Love 4:38
4 Love Touch 3:06
5 Show Me Heaven Tonight 4:30
6 Calling On You 3:33
7 Moment Of A Touch 4:39
8 Rebecca 3:55
9 Invincible 4:24
10 Don't Turn Away 4:31
11 This Feeling Inside 4:43
12 Future Zone 5:56

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Friday, October 1, 2004

Review: Dawn - Veil of Sorrow (2003)

Dawn [ MySpace ]
Veil of Sorrow

When I first stumbled across Dawn I was more than a little intrigued. Here was a band from Northern Ireland, heavily influenced by doom metal, with a female vocalist. I of course began to draw mental comparisons to The Gathering, Theatre of Tragedy, and the like without even having heard audio samples from the band. When I received a copy of Dawn's debut EP, Veil of Sorrow, my preconceived notions of what this band would sound like were quite frankly blown away. Drawing heavily on the somber doom atmosphere of bands like the aforementioned, this particular quintet takes their sound a step further by incorporating elements from several styles of metal. Lead guitarist Ian Harper belts out both traditionally styled solos and the frantic fretwork often found on black metal releases, not to mention exceptionally catchy hooks which are prevalent throughout. As if the remarkable quality of the musicianship wasn't enough, Dawn sets themselves apart because of the sensational voice of Amy Robinson. Possessing a unique tone among female metal vocalists, Amy contrasts the guitar heaviness with an innocent lilt that simply has to be heard.

With only four tracks, Veil of Sorrow still manages to traverse a wide range of style and emotion. The lead-off, and title, track sets Ian's skills on the table immediately. A haunting riff backed by the ominous bass of Robert Bramford gives the song a ponderous quality, but Amy's voice soars as she hooks into you and forces you to sing along - particularly after downing a few Strongbows ;) Amy's voice does have a bit of a childlike quality, and I imagine some may find her to be a tad shrill at times, but for me she is altogether captivating. "No Forgiveness" is my favorite track on Veil of Sorrow. Here Bramford's bass branches out to deliver some quality lines, Ian delivers a handful of leads as expressive as they are stellar, and the extremely infectious choruses bring it all together. The twin guitar opening to "Lifetime Addiction" is more than a slight nod to the great NWOBHM bands, while the rumbling skinwork of Thomas Mullan hints at what he's capable of. Closing out Veil of Sorrow is "Priceless Gift", and here the band reaches into the realm of extreme metal to add yet another dimension to their sound. Ian delivers some excessively rabid leads while Mullen brings the double-kick to bear. Heavy on the bass, the final track of Veil of Sorrow wraps up with significant doom overtones.

Dawn's EP can best be surmised as hook-laden traditionally-inspired doom metal with captivating female vocals - a formula for success rarely heard and sure to catapult this young Irish band into the global metal spotlight. Watch for their full-length debut on Lone Wolf Music in February.

Track Listing
1 Veil of Sorrow 6:00
2 No Forgiveness 6:09
3 Lifetime Addiction 5:37
4 Priceless Gift 5:58

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