Has it really been six years since Napalm Records unleashed Exit Eden onto an unsuspecting public and in doing so, created one of the best surprises in quite some time? The international symphonic metal supergroup released an album of cover versions of well-known pop and rock songs, and the videos from the album, ‘Rhapsodies in Black’, would go on to rack up a gazillion hits on YouTube (the jaw-dropping version of the Bonnie Tyler/Jim Steinman monster hit ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ currently sits at 11 million views) – so popular that many are waiting with bated breath on a sophomore effort. Featured alongside the more established names in the band, Amanda Somerville and Clémentine Delauney, were two relatively young unknown vocalists; Anna Brunner and Marina La Torraca. And both well and truly held their own alongside their vastly experienced bandmates. Since then, Anna Brunner has gone on to form League of Distortion and can currently be found out on the road opening for Kamelot, and Marina La Torraca formed the international modern metal outfit Phantom Elite, who have just released their third album in five years: ‘Blue Blood’.
The symphonic metal connection with Phantom Elite stops at Marina’s involvement with Exit Eden, for ‘Blue Blood’ drinks at the well of modern metal; with touches of progressive, melo-death (thanks to some impressive growls from Marina on moments such as album opener ‘Skin Of My Teeth’), and metalcore (great screamo-vocals on ‘Inner Beast’) all wrapped up in a gnarly bundle of joy that needs to be consumed in one sitting to really appreciate the goodies stored within. Hell, there are even some tastes of poppier Euro-metal that bands such as Amaranthe pioneered (‘Fragments’ immediately springs to mind). The common denominator though is the powerhouse vocals from Brazilian La Torraca who proves time and time again that Exit Eden was not a fluke.
Alongside Marina is Max van Esch on guitars, bass, synths/electronic arrangements, and drummer Joeri Warmerdam who totally knocks it out of the park from the off and whose work on ‘Skin Of My Teeth’ might just wear out the rewind button. The majority of the ten featured tracks will offer up something different from the others; ‘This Sick World’ has some amazing swells throughout and the arrangements on this one are particularly impressive; ‘Birdcage’ follows on and is a vehicle to showcase the softer, more-poppier side to Marina’s vocal range on a track that could be described as ballad-like – but that description would be wrong, it’s just more radio-friendly and less in your face that the others.
‘Apex’ lands right in the middle of the album and it seems to be there for a reason; to act as a centerpiece. As insane as it sounds if you can imagine Lady Gaga taking her love of Metal a step further and recording a one-off with Korn, then ‘Apex’ is what it might just sound like. Warmerdam absolutely slays on this one, while the experimental ‘Laid With Vines’ is all about the work of Max van Esch; from the electronica arrangements to the gnarly guitar riffs, this is his baby…ditto his varied guitar work on ‘Daydark’ which goes from grungey, groove-metal down tuned licks to hooky-as-hell melodies in the blink of an eye. Every album with a hint of progressive metal about it needs a lengthy epic and the seven-minute multi-faceted title track delivers just that. One of those tracks where you discover something new on each listen, and Marina’s finest seven minutes put down on tape…the lengthy growl towards the end is intense, and the angelic vocals that quickly follow help bring a great juxtaposition to the party.
In a crowded marketplace, ‘Blue Blood’ sticks out above the rest; thanks to perfect vocals, some insane playing, and a willingness to try something new and not repeat or rehash previous offerings. A damn fine album, and if we were a site that uses a scoring system, ‘Blue Blood’ would get an extra point for the regal-like album sleeve (‘Blue Blood’ – think about it) – Queen Marina has a nice ring to it…no?
Available now via Frontiers Music
Review – Dave