- - - - - -

Aonia - Sunchaser

Aonia - CD Review




CD Info
Independent Release
5 tracks
English lyrics


Aonia, it is written, is a 7 piece English band from Yorkshire, England, or is it Worksop in Nottinghamshire, not that I’d know the difference. Well, anyway, they got that one kinda wrong, it’s a 7 piece band with 6 Britts and a Hoosier from Indianapolis. Details, I know, but us Hoosiers like to get the details correct. However you define it, they do a brand of Femme Metal that I’m more than a little comfortable with although I’m not entirely certain how to classify them. You can certainly be comfortable throwing around terms like symphonic, there’s a metal component, a strong one, and there are two really fine female vocals, both of the classical orientation. You occasionally see the term Gothic thrown at the sound but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that. I generally associate Gothic with the message and this release doesn’t focus on that lyrical direction very often. Vocalist Mel Adams commented on this congruence of styles saying, “We take influences from all sorts of different places - as you picked out there are pagan ideas, Greek ideas, Norse ideas later on with ‘Warrior's Path’ and this album is less Gothic than ‘City of Shadows’ but ‘Nightmare’ has distinctive Gothic influences! Basically, we try to incorporate a lot of myths, legends and fantasies without limiting ourselves to a particular concept. ‘Aonia’ itself is Greek (‘where the muses dwell’) but you get a bit constrained after awhile of sticking to just one thing! Not had Celtic listed yet so that's cool!” And yes, I did hear Celtic influences, maybe it was just me, but I’ll talk a little about that where appropriate.

The release is the band’s second, I believe, and it does present us with some strong material. In fact, the only thing I can seriously complain about is that there isn’t enough of it. Assuming the first was an EP as well, maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and come out with a fuller product. The reviews I’ve read of this release, and the comparisons to the first, suggest that the music press is pretty much in agreement that this is good stuff. There is the occasional suggestion that production could be stronger but, to me, that may be a strong point. Several tracks seem a little raw, like what we might expect in a live performance, which gives the sound a more natural flavor. Given the nature of the material, symphonic metal supporting two very competent coloratura sopranos, you might expect a Nightwish approach, one delivered by $501,000 worth of studio production expertise. But, of course, not every classical sound has that kind of money lying around. The fact that there is a bit of a relaxed delivery to the sound only enhances the product for me. Those two sopranos, Melissa Adams and Joanne Robinson, clearly know their way around the vocal style and their interaction is probably the strength of the release, not to say anything negative about the remaining Brits, one of whom can be heard doing the occasional male vocal. But, the focus is clearly the two female vocals. You get multiple female vocals in this style of music sometimes, but, generally, they’re not doing the same approach. For instance, you might get a metal vocalist paired with a classical vocalist. But here, the two are similar in style which can lead to some interesting vocal interplay.

The lyrics don’t take us to the dark recesses of the human spirit in the style of the dark Gothic. There are a variety of ideas expressed but, to some extent, the music seems to overpower those lyrical themes. The two main vocalists do have somewhat similar styles musically but a little different accent so, whether you’re American or English, you tend to pick up the themes. And, you’ll find yourself going with the music over the lyrics most of the time, it’s pretty well developed music and I think that was the focus of this release. However, there are a few thoughts worth mentioning and, on some occasions, you miss them because of the complexity of the music delivering them. In a live performance, I could appreciate that without some excellent mixing, it would be more difficult to pick up the lyrical threads.

Well, there are only 5 tracks on the release but several are a little lengthy, the longest being near 7 1/2 minutes in length. And, as befits a release with a classical bent, they tend to be rather nicely developed. You get this approach with the first track, the title track. It begins sounding like a metal performance, lots of guitars screeching away. But, things branch out quickly as we are introduced to the keyboard symphonics. This goes on for a bit and then the vocals are introduced. They come on slowly, just one initially. But remember, this is a vocalist based band, and as things progress they make damn sure you begin to understand this reality. There are branches in the road, times when the guitars take over, followed by the keys, things go from fast to slow, from crushing to beautiful, from haunting to thundering . . . .all in one 6 minute track. When things come to an end you’re not sure what you’ve just heard, but you’re pretty sure you liked it. And that is the general theme of the release, way too many bases to cover, all of them done in such a manner that you’re comfortable with the flexibility and multiple styles.

Echoes takes it down a notch, softer guitars start things out but lead to more pounding metal as the track heats up. Again, you’re just not sure what to expect. When the vocals enter the arena they are, again, different from what we could have expected based on the previous track. The two girls have somewhat similar styles and sometimes sound similar. Other times, it’s two completely different voices. Lyrically, this is the one I sent to the band asking “What the hell’s going on here”:

In an emerald glen near sapphire streams,
With blessed breeze and watery sunbeams,
I beheld a golden god with iceberg eyes, Adonis’ kiss,
Cream-white skin and arms of stone – his cold heart reflecting this.

Emerald glen suggests a bit o the green, blessed breeze seems to point to Pagan thoughts, Adonis, well, she addressed this above. But this is a vocal highlight, some really strong stuff from the girls.

Warriors Path takes us in another direction. You get something more metal in nature but utilizing even more varied structures. You get some spoken material to introduce some of the material, the vocals sound more Viking warrior oriented. And the lyrics support this direction:

Choirs of angels greet thee, at the gates of Valhalla
While the poppy peeps and the willow weeps / Beneath the blinding rain.
The mortal world – behind thee, at the gates of Valhalla.
Beyond the clouds, to Odin vowed: / A warrior again!

Reflections provides yet another totally different direction. We begin with some strange sounds straight out of Australia and then move in metal directions from a completely different perspective. What happened here. It almost sounds like a different band. The lasses bring us back to reality, however, but the band brings in a screaming male vocal to throw another monkey wrench into the equation. And, just when you think you have a handle on things, we get the final selection, Nightmare, which is further from the median sound than anything before it. This is the beautiful, this is where the ladies provide something that, to me, goes a bit green musically. And, it’s at this point, at least for me, where I throw up my hands and decide that classification is highly over rated and the more prudent approach is to just sit back and enjoy.

And, enjoying is clearly the best approach with this one. There’s a world of fine music here to enjoy, these folks know their stuff, ain’a. And like I said before, the only problem with this EP is that it ends too soon. Let’s hope that isn’t the case with the next one.