Friday, December 2, 2005

Review: Vena Valley - Tanellis (2004)

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The well-deserved breakthrough of bands like Lacuna Coil, H.I.M. and Nightwish  has increased awareness of the multitude of bands offering a similar sound, thereby taking melodic Gothic metal several steps further out of the underground. As with other genres of metal that have experienced such a surge in popularity, the ranks become flooded with copy-cat bands and those that simply do not deserve to have their "music" recorded. Fortunately all hope is not lost, for there are always plenty of talented groups who soldier on and strive to bring credibility to their genre through competent songwriting and skilled musicianship. Poland's Vena Valley is just such a band, creating moving melodies that compliment impressive female vocals.

Tanellis is the second release from Vena Valley and features 5 tracks of atmospheric Gothic metal, two of which are sung in the band's native language. Frontwoman Justyna Krysiak compares well with Amy Lee of Evanescence and Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, though her voice is not quite as polished as those two Gothic divas. Even still, she possesses a range and depth of emotion that has the power to draw you into the music and allow you to surrender yourself to the moods created by each song. While she handles the English lyrics quite capably, it's when she sings in Polish that her ability to enrapture fully comes into play. Those of us who do not understand the words cannot help but understand their meaning.

The first track on Tanellis, "Hollow", fits well within the mold of dark Gothic rock and is an excellent choice as a lead-off song. The keyboards of Edwin Hiller are used primarily in a backing role, creating lush passages which enhance the magic of Justyna's vocals. The familiar riffs from Sebastian Benduch, bolstered by the bass of Konrad Ciekot, are akin to those often considered staples of the genre and will please most fans. Sebastian offers a somewhat restrained solo, complimented by Edwin's keys, as the track picks up pace in its latter moments. While "Hollow" is my favorite track, "Sennosc" ranks a close second due to the interesting fretwork from Sebastian. Justyna serenades in her native tongue, adding to the mystique created by the rest of the band, while drummer Marcin Górecki displays a bit of creativity in his beats. Another pleasing track, "To Late For Love" is one of the faster paced songs on the EP and features the keyboards in an enhanced role, providing an integral riff throughout. Sebastian and Konrad again work well together to create some deep and intertwined riffs to keep the pace crisp. The remaining two tracks, "Salvation" and "Pokolenia", are also well-written and well-executed compositions that have a catchy groove to them but I found the former to be Justyna's weakest performance. While not bad by any means, she nevertheless seems uncomfortable and so loses a significant amount of force from her voice.

Vena Valley have captured the popular Gothic metal sound and clearly show a knack for molding the common elements to create a style that is unique unto them. While not quite yet reaching the level of becoming innovators, the band members show promise to do so and will at the very least be worthy contributors to the scene. Tanellis is definitely a recommended album for fans of female-fronted Gothic metal.

Track Listing
1 Hollow 4:06
2 Salvation 5:21
3 Sennosc 4:40
4 To Late For Love 3:26
5 Pokolenia 3:29

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