Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: Victorians Aristocrats' Symphony - Revival (2012)

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Victorians Aristocrats Symphony - Revival
Performance art, when combined with heavy metal, can be a very powerful experience. Alice Cooper, in my opinion the progenitor of shock rock/metal, so integrated his stage persona and theatrics with his music (and does so still) that the sum of the entire experience far exceeds its parts. In the modern symphonic/Gothic metal world, most outfits make only a cursory attempt to establish a visual image beyond the occasional frilly cravat or heavily mascaraed frontwoman. Poland's Victorians - Aristocrats' Symphony (VAS for simplicity's sake), on the other hand, have taken the unique approach of placing emphasis on image and theatrics. The band's music, as evidenced by their debut album Revival, is enjoyable and meets all of the stylistic prerequisites, but it's the VAS backstory and stage presence that sets this band apart from the numerous second-tier outfits hitting the live circuit these days.

As the VAS story goes, over a century ago the ancestors of the current band members founded a secret society known as the V-Lodge. Read into that what you will, I certainly did, but the band's official bio seems to allude to the V referring to either the Victorian Age or vampirism - probably both - but not the kind of V that I was thinking of. Anyway, the band members came together in 2010 to resurrect the aristocratic and somewhat debauched ideals of this secretive Victorian society through classically-inspired arrangements and semi-operatic vocals. The band members fully immerse themselves into their theatrical world by donning period costumes and adopting mysterious-sounding pseudonyms, each with an equally fanciful personal backstory, for a completely integrated musical and visual creation.

Victorians Aristocrats Symphony
Although a great deal of importance is obviously placed upon the visual aspects of VAS, the music does not suffer because of it. Fronted by the striking personality of Eydis, the band creates a robust, symphonic metal soundscape rife with classical references and instrumentation. Eydis delivers a throaty, enchanting performance with just a hint of an Eastern European accent. Her range is impressive, and while not quite as polished as the Tarja Turunen and Monika Pedersen crowd, Eydis is only a notch below the elite singers due in large part to her versatility. The first song on Revival, "Descent of Your Destiny", contains her most engaging performance of the album as she skillfully employs Middle-Eastern vocal melodies in her delivery. Elsewhere, Eydis deftly maneuvers from crisp high notes to sultry near-whispers, underscoring her ability to match whatever mood the band chooses to set.

The most Gothic-sounding song on Revival, "In the End", employs familiar chugging riffs as a foundation for a mournful piano arrangement and a plucky string accompaniment. The remainder of Revival is an exercise in symphonic metal execution, with lush keyboard effects combining with synthesized orchestral compositions to enshroud the driving riffs and martial beats in a a gilded glaze.

While executed with precision and bolstered by interesting vocal variety, the music of Revival possesses little to set VAS apart from many of their symphonic metal peers. The story, therefore, is in the band's devotion to their visual presentation. Fans of Nightwish and the like will still want to explore Revival further, and those fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend a VAS live performance will want to be sure to do so.

Track Listing
1Descent of Your Destiny5:18
2In the End (Love Me Now)3:53
3Voice of Eternal Love3:55
4Who Never Loved5:26
6Servants of Beauty3:39
7Prince of Night3:43
8Don't Let Them Cut My Wings3:40
9Juliet's Tale5:51
Total Runtime45:10

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