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Have You Heard? Volume 2

Have You Heard?  Volume 2
By: C., Christopher Backeberg, Ton Dekkers, & Max Levites


A few months back, we tried something new at Sonic Cathedral: a group of writers got together, recommended albums to each other, and reviewed the other’s picks. We seemed to enjoy it so much (and some of you seemed to enjoy it as well), that we’ve decided to do it again! As we all have a wide variety of musical tastes, and because the scene is so diverse itself, we think this is a great way to not only find new music, but to get differing outlooks on the music so that readers can get a better idea of what albums fit their own musical preferences. Each writer will list their pick and their reason for choosing it; then the other writers will chime in and give their honest, unbiased opinion on what they’ve heard. Who knows? You may find a new favorite band among some of these, so read on and enjoy!

C’s pick: Insatia - Asylum Denied
Asylum Denied

The first time we did this project, it was easy enough to pick a band that was both musically off the beaten path, and also a band none of my fellow writers had ever heard of. I still had little difficulty this time, but I also wanted to find something that was closer to our “standard” Sonic Cathedral motif. Again, I wanted to call attention to independent acts in the United States, as Europe gets the lion’s share of the attention in this scene, and it has almost become a running joke that there are no good metal bands in the U.S. anymore. So when a band like Insatia comes along, who is influenced by so much of what makes their European counterparts great, I felt they were perfect for this article. Not to mention that Insatia’s frontwoman, Zoë Federoff, has taken vocal lessons with the one and only Floor Jansen herself; which says a lot for the band already! This album (their debut) has gotten a lot of buzz around the scene, so I was a little surprised to hear my fellow cohorts had not heard this gem already.

Christopher:  I am now officially an Insatia fan. They combine symphonic, progressive and power into a most appetising feast of melodic metal. Zoë Federoff scores top marks both as a vocalist and as a composer. Her sweet and not immensely powerful voice harmonises comfortably with the deep, false-chord growling. I love it when bands let the bass guitar have its say without dominating the other instruments. Having two guitars makes for a great interplay of riffs and solos. The drumming is neatly varied, with some of the faster rhythm passages making me dance laterally along the walls of my office. This is easy, all-day music.

Ton:  The symphonic opening made me wonder what nice things we will get further on. Unfortunately, the set expectations were not met. The good thing about this project is that you discover new bands. In this case, it brought a nice album; however, not bringing what would make it a good album for me—partly a matter of taste and also that I’m based in the Netherlands, where the standard level is high. The guitar riffs and drums play a relevant role and vocal lines match the compositions. Sometimes the vocals of Zoë Federoff push it a bit to the limit. Overall, as said earlier: a nice album but missing some refreshing tickling elements.

Max:  While I always appreciate American bands trying their hand at European-style melodic power metal, I must admit the genre is already quite saturated. While this release is perfectly fine—this is your typical melodic power metal album with all the standard features—I feel like I’ve heard it all before. Like I said, it’s fine, and if you aren’t as tired of this whole shtick as I am, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this release. The vocals are decent, the guitar solos not half bad, and there are a few good headbanging moments throughout. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Image of Stone” (official video)

Christopher’s pick: Frequency Drift - Over

Frequency Drift’s unusual type of progressive rock is mind music. It takes you out of your body. You won’t do much dancing to it, and definitely no moshing. This is not to suggest the music is deliberately cerebral; it is, however, deeply emotional. It resonates with two mighty cultural influences: one is the classical music that spanned several eras from late Baroque to early Modern; the other is the vast store of soundtrack music from a century of movies. These two types of music are not at all incompatible. In my view, the best soundtrack music has become post-modern classical music. Frequency Drift overtly acknowledge the soundtrack influence by calling their music “cinematic progressive rock”. The acknowledgement of the classical music influence is implicit in the compositional structures and the use of chamber and symphony orchestra instruments, ranging from a clavichord or spinet to a Brahms-style solo cello. The most prominent instrument—or at any rate, the most noticeable one—is a harp. Since Frequency Drift are so unlike other prog bands, it’s difficult to compare them with many. For their art rock approach they may be closest to The 3rd And The Mortal. The poignancy and melancholia in most of the songs on Over evokes the same reflective emotions as the more sombre music of Steven Wilson or Lunatic Soul. Over, released last year, is their best album to date. Frequency Drift took a new singer on board for this one and gave the world the perfect clarity and timbre of Isa Fallenbacher’s voice. With her pure, embracing singing, Isa elevates Frequency Drift as effectively as Annie Haslam made Renaissance fabulous in the earlier years of prog rock and Kim Seviour has made Touchstone such a gem in modern prog.

C.:  I like this;. the music is somewhat folky with a touch of classical influence. If I had to compare them to any band that our readers might be familiar with, I would liken them more to Kingfisher Sky in that they are not all about being “metal” or writing heavy songs for their own sake, but are more about setting a mood. It’s a warm, peaceful sound that wraps around you as you listen to it. It’s one of those albums you listen to when you want to shut the door behind you, unwind, and completely lose yourself in music; not so much for those times when you are speeding down the highway with the top down, or pumping your fists in the air. The music blends the progressive and symphonic elements without either genre’s tendency for grandiloquence or overblown theatrics. These are two of my favorite genres, so I know how easily both of them can get wrapped up in their own greatness, and tend to go overboard with the musical technicality or dramatic flair. Frequency Drift does not suffer from this affliction. This is probably the album I enjoyed most out of the three. Definitely a band I want to hear more of, and will make it a point to seek out their back catalog.

Ton:  This is definitely not metal, but it has a similar impact. Instead of the dynamic aggressive power, the emotional, sometimes esoteric energy is felt all over. The “heavier” elements are nicely integrated in the slow, fading music. The clear and clean vocals of Isa Fallenbacher are strong and sensible. The complex classically-oriented musical structures and instrumentation are easily accessible and balanced. All this provides plenty variation to keep you into the album. This is not an album to get you up to speed, but very recommend when you need to slow down. You can do this in a very attractive way.

Max:  I’m generally a fan of atmospheric music with a melancholic touch, so this release turned out to be right up my alley. Frequency Drift manages to create this beautiful, almost cinematic soundscape by weaving beautiful female vocals in with somber string arrangements and a touch of progressive rock. It’s even got a bit of a folksy vibe at times, which is not at all unpleasant. The production is top notch. This definitely reminds me a bit of The Gathering and Tristania without the heavy parts. Actually, I’m not sure this qualifies as metal, or even rock really, but I don’t mind. It makes a very good rainy day album, and may be my favorite of the three albums my colleagues chose for this article.

Run” (official video)

Ton’s pick: Revengin - Cymatics

The first encounter with this band was at a gig in a venue in Rio de Janeiro that was not seen as safe by my host. I still do not regret that visit. Despite the poor technical conditions, I realized this was different. The album was a present from the band. It stayed more than 6 months in my car, the place I spent the most time listening. The sometimes not-standard compositions are refreshing; and combined with plenty of variation, it kept me attracted over a long period of time. The unconventional drumming, the guitar riffs, and vocal lines of Bruna Rocha are merged into attractive dark symphonic metal. When I have to choose favorites it will be “Even Never” and “Nine Chains of Sorrow”. These songs show all the elements that made me select the album for this project.

C.:  In terms of being symphonic goth, think Kamelot and Serenity meets early Tristania with a touch of Paradise Lost for good measure. Being Brazilian, they remind me somewhat of the long-defunct Brazilian symphonic/goth-metal band Pettalom, but with more harsh vocals from the male vocalist, and not as over-the-top with the operatic vocals from the female vocalist. There’s also some nice guitar riffing, some of it almost bordering on a thrash-metal style. You don’t hear a lot of that from the more symphonic bands! While a lot of the music feels familiar to me, I am also hard-pressed to pin down exactly who they sound like. Stylistically, this is more “my” kind of music than the other 2 albums, but I cannot exactly cite this band a new favorite yet, as I feel there is definitely room for improvement. While the female vocalist is very good at not relying too much on her operatic flair (as so many in this genre tend to do), there are also times when her vocals stay in a sort of “safe zone” and there are missed opportunities to really show off what she can do. Because of this, sometimes the guitars on the heavier songs tend to drown her out when her voice needs to be more powerful and match the strength of the music, especially when the harsh male vocals come in and just completely take over. But it is that same gentleness to her vocals that pierce the heart on songs such as “Kharonte’s Curse”. For what it’s worth, these are very minor flaws and can be worked out with time over another album or two. An interesting band with a lot of potential. I look forward to hearing what they’ll do next.

Christopher:  This is my preferred style of Gothic and symphonic metal—deeper, darker and more intense than the succession of sunshine-and-puppies music churned out by too many bands. I write this from a prejudicial stance, of course, because my metal taste tends more towards the harsh side. Cymatics deliver the same kind of pleasure I draw from early Sirenia and The Sins Of Thy Beloved. The combination of clean female and dark male vocals works very well on Revengin, although Cymatics tend to be syrupy when the male vocals are clean, not growled. For me, the highlight of this album is the excellent guitar work. It boomingly demonstrates how effectively down-tuned thrash riffing can work with an operatic soprano.

Max:  This Brazilian band’s debut is also an attempt at traditional European-style symphonic metal à la Kamelot and Epica, but a little closer to my taste than the other one on this list, and I’d argue a more successful foray into the genre. It’s actually quite an engaging album. The arrangements are very interesting and have a dark, heavy, yet atmospheric quality to them. There are parts that seem to hearken back to late-90s gothic metal, which is a nice touch. The female vocals are top notch and contrast well with the harsh male vocals. Even if it’s not altogether new or particularly innovative, this is a quality symphonic-gothic metal record that incorporates all the best elements of the genre.

Even Never” (audio)

Max’s pick: Silent Stream of Godless Elegy -

Silent Stream of Godless Elegy may not be a particularly well-known band outside their native Czech Republic, but they’re actually one of the original pioneers of what we today know as folk metal, and one of the few bands to truly blend the two disparate genres without any of the gimmicks usually associated with this scene. Traditional Moravian folk music is seamlessly woven together with doom metal instrumentation and beauty-and-the-beast vocals to create a unique soundscape that transports the listener to a distant place and time. I chose this album to share with my colleagues because this band has been a well-kept secret for far too long, and I’m hoping a my fellow writers and you, the readers, will fall as in love with this band as I did when I stumbled upon their music around six or seven years ago. It’s about time these guys get a little more love from both folk metal and female-fronted metal enthusiasts, because with music like this, they certainly deserve it.

C.:  Quintessential folk-metal; reminds me a bit of Cruachan or Battlelore, but with lyrics in Czech. Despite that I can’t understand the lyrics, music is universal, and emotion can be understood no matter what the language barrier. Like most other folk-metal bands of this kind, there is a growly male vocal to accompany the angelic female voice; but he’s not entirely unpleasant for what it is. I can normally only handle the harsh vocals in small doses, or in this kind of setting. Just as in folk music, there are slow ballads, as well as lively, upbeat tunes that make you want to dance a jig; with memorable, catchy hooks that stick in your head in spite of not exactly knowing what the words are! Good stuff.

Christopher:  Eastern Europeans excel at folk metal, one of my greatest loves in metal. Silent Stream of Godless Elegy have such rich folk music and so many fascinating ethnic instruments as well as that Slavonic Dances-type violin to add to their music. I have just about everything I could find by Arkona, from Russia, and Dalriada, from Hungary. Now I have to put everything I can find by these Czechs on my want-list. The vocalist, Hanele, has one of the warmest and most seductive voices I’ve heard this year. Being from Silesia, the band is no doubt very familiar with both Czech and Polish folk music. The colourful and sometimes dark history of their region reflects strongly in their highly enjoyable songs.

Ton:  This Czech band is a pleasant surprise. Traditional Eastern European instruments are incorporated in balance. It’s never over the top and creates a very authentic dark, ambient doom/folk-metal. I don’t have a clue about the lyrics but the vocal lines of Hanele (and Hrnec) create an atmosphere where you can create your own stories. The warm voices with high level composition with most likely influences of local transnationals are intriguing and sometimes bombastic. This mix is a very nice experience. A favorite is “Slava” most likely because of the Therion references and “Pramen, Co Ví”.

Mokoš” (official live video)

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