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Whyzdom - Alive

Whyzdom - DVD Review

Whyzdom - Alive

CD Info
Self Released
Mainly English lyrics
10 tracks

I’ll admit up front that Whyzdom has long been one of my favorite sounds, ever since their first little EP that I gave an 11/10 score a number of years ago. And, nothing they’ve done since then has done anything do lower my estimation of the band, or Vynce Leff who pretty much runs the show. Vynce is a remarkable man, one of the people I most admire in this genre. He writes most of the music and lyrics and does arranging. And, he does it with a number of auxiliary capabilities. Vynce knows music, Vynce knows programming, Vynce knows lyrical composition, and, as this release proves, Vynce knows video production. I have no doubt that should I run into a problem conducting a multivariate statistical analysis, Vynce could lend me a hand. If you can handle East West I suspect SAS would give you little concern.

The project here had an interesting beginning, Vynce explains, “The general intention of the DVD was mainly to make a nice souvenir for all of us in the band. We have some videos of other concerts that can be found on Youtube, but we didn't have a real physical object that we could be proud of and, you know, show it to our families, children, friends, and so on... When Ton told us that the concert was filmed, we immediately thought that it was a great occasion to make it real. And we also thought that our friends all over the world would like to finally see a full concert of Whyzdom.” I can’t imagine a more worthwhile reason for developing a project like this.

The material on the release, some 10 individual songs, cover material from several Whyzdom releases. Vocalist Marie Rouyer puts on a display of vocal artistry that cements her position as one of the top vocalists in the realm. Whyzdom is on the bill for MFVF again this year and, the afore mentioned Ms Rouyer is in a condition of pregnancy that, we hope, will be resolved in a positive manner before that event. She is devastating, both musically and visually, an incredible talent. And, she has solid material to work with and a killer band to back her up.

I’d like to talk a little more about how this release came to be before looking at specifics. It’s an interesting story. The first 6 tracks are from the FemME Metal event in the Netherlands, Ton Deker’s event in Eindhoven. Vynce talks about how that came to pass, “There was 5 HD cameras at Female Metal Event. The Imagineering Suite (Tom de Wit) was in charge. He sent me all footage on a USB stick. I edited everything on a Mac pro with Final Cut Pro X.” Now that’s some solid production capability, not everyone is a Final Cut specialist. Vynce continues, “We were not 100% sure we would really make a DVD of it. We needed to see the footage and hear the recordings. And to be honest, we hadn't really considered how much pressing, authoring and so on, would cost. So, as usual, we only focused on the present moment, not at all on the fact that ‘maybe’ it would end up as a DVD. It's only when we received the footage that we took the decision to do it. But even then we didn't know if people would really be interested in purchasing it... so at first, we thought we would make a DVD-R duplication (bootlegs are often duplicated this way). But after a few days of preordering campaign, it appeared that with so many friends willing to support us, we could make a real high quality pressing, with a nice booklet, full of great pictures by our friends David Sarah, Jim Wilkinson, Eddy Jolen, Pascal Travers.

The product itself presents much of what this genre is known for. There’s metal, of course, three guitars, drums, keys, all the requirements for that part of the product. But, Vynce being a software specialist with access to many of the finest musical software products available, is able to provide a symphonic component that takes a back seat to no one, including that guy from Nightwish. Add to that a 3 lady choir, and a very good choir by any standards, and one of the finest lead vocalists in the business and you pretty much have the full monte for the music. Now, I can appreciate that not everyone pays as much attention to the lyrics as I do but trust me, they’re as good as the music. And, in the visual presentations here, you get a solid interpretation of the intent of these lyrics, as only musicians with a solid understanding of the visual arts can present. As mentioned previously, the first 6 songs were done during the bands appearance at FemME metal in the Netherlands. And they begin with the traditional Whyzdom approach as the choral group approaches the stage under veiled covers to the sound of a Gothic bell. The band, and choir, then launch into a dramatic presentation of While The Witches Burn. Marie reaches for a skull and the track evolves into a Shakespearian version of Gothic metal. Although I doubt the Bard had a vocalist like this one. Tears Of A Hopeless God follows and again we get the dramatic, both visually and musically. It should be mentioned here that no one does choral work in this genre like Vynce and he demonstrates that here. The interaction of Marie with the ladies of the chorus is spectacular.

Atlantis follows, and again we see some solid metal framing first rate vocals. This one seems to emphasize the metal, lots of crunching guitars. But, we don’t forget the voices, they’re a full component. As is the dramatic.

Eves Last Daughter, Let’s Play with Fire and On the Road to Babylon continue with the killer set, each a gem. The Dutch got something to remember with this one.

But the final 4 tracks, done during various presentations around Northern Europe are equally as stunning. On The Wings of Time may present one of Marie’s finest and most dramatic presentations, and that’s saying something with this lady. This one is done without a choir which you might expect to matter but, with Marie’s dramatic presentation, we hardly notice. Much the same can be said for the following track, Cathedral Of The Damned, where the choral work is sampled in. This one also gets a lot of the computer generated symphonic material, something very few can accomplish at this level. Again, Marie goes dramatic, showing up in a dark shroud and climbing the vocal ladder with a voice to be treasured.

I should mention that there are occasional male vocals, Vynce and others, but they’re positioned as secondary components. This music is female dominated, in all respects. And, it’s been that way since the beginning. And that beginning is demonstrated with the track Daughter Of The Night, probably the single song that first attracted me to Whyzdom. This one is introduced by Vynce who then turns it over to Marie. The original version of this song was sung by another female vocalist, one many of us consider to be the most beautiful women ever to appear in the genre. But, she really didn’t have Marie’s voice, and Marie can do the sexy as well as anyone, including that original vocalist. And, this song is sexy, trust me. The song itself remains one of my favorites of all time.

One final word about the final track, Atlantis, a second treatment of the song here. It’s done at the Kraken Metal Fest in Soignies, and it features a special component. And that component is the Le Chanteuse belge, Ms. Jamie Lee Smit. Hard to beat a combo like that, and this one smokes, in more ways than one. Especially when Marie goes into that harsh vocal which is truly a new wrinkle for the band.

Now, I’ve given this release an 11/10 but I need to explain that a little. Is the product deserving of a high score? Absolutely. But, maybe not an 11/10. The problem is there is a very small sample size to compare it to. Technically, musically, and in every other way, it’s easily on a par with the best this genre has to offer; End of an Era from Nightwish, Black Symphony by Within Temptation and a few others. Problem is, there just aren’t all that many. And that’s a serious problem. This is a visual genre, not just a musical one. I recently covered a live performance by the American band Otep that demonstrated that what we get in the CD is often far less than what we get live. And they weren’t close to Whyzdom. Now I know a lot of folks are of the opinion that a live DVD is too much to consider but I beg to differ. In my opinion, a DVD may be a LOT less expensive to produce than a CD. You don’t have to write songs, you don’t have to arrange, you don’d have to mix. You just shoot and edit, and Vynce proves that a little Final Cut expertise can cover that component. Beyond that, you press and distribute. Expenses yes, but nothing like a CD. So the beauty of this product may be the proof that visual material is within the budgets of more than a few bands. And, if you have a visual product anywhere near the quality of Whyzdom, that should be something to consider. We all know video people, we all know people who have a Mac and Final Cut runs a crushing $299. I did my first musical video work back in 1970 with a band that never considered it up to that time. I did it for free. And, it’s a lot easier today and the video and audio is going to be a lot better than what I did back then. So, let’s get past the YouTube material and think about putting some interesting live video material out there. As much as anything, Vynce and Whyzdom have proven that DVD is an economical reality. . . and that, as much as anything, is worth an 11/10.