Review: Serenity – 'Codex Atlanticus'

After parting ways with vocalist Clementine Delauney, Austrian symphonic metal outfit Serenity slimmed down to a four-piece. The lion’s share of the vocals are now handled by original member Georg Neuhauser, ably assisted by bassist Fabio D’Amore, who himself possesses a fine set of lungs. There is also a line up change in the guitar department, with Chris Hermsdorfer taking over from the recently departed Tom Buchberger.

Long term Serenity fans need not worry, as the change in line up hasn’t led to a change in style, as the album is more of the massive, bombastic, and soaring sounds that one would expect from Neuhauser. The album is based loosely on the life and times of Leonardo Da Vinci, and the legacy that he left behind. Symphonic metal is, by nature, huge, and this is an ambitious project with a great concept, and the band pull it off with aplomb. A real labour of love.

The title track opens up the album, a short orchestral piece that sets the scene for the rest of the album. This leads into a gentle piano intro before the band come crashing in on ‘Follow Me’, a tasty full-on slab of commercial metal with some impressive riffing. The orchestral arrangements are quite subtle and not too overbearing, as can often be the case on many symphonic metal albums these days, with substance being chosen over style. Neuhauser has a fairly unique voice, perfectly suited to the classical overtones of the genre. If comparisons need to be made, then perhaps Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica would be a good place to start. To these ears, Neuhauser’s voice is very Lloyd Webber/Broadway/West End musical inspired. His clean and precise vocals really tell a tale and are very emotive.

‘Sprouts Of Terror’ is quite thrashy in places, especially the drumming from Andreas Shipflinger. Bassist, Fabio D’Amore helps out with some aggressive vocals, before taking a step back and letting Neuhauser bring his melodic touch. Again, the orchestral arrangement enhances the background sound, and the track sounds epic. ‘Iniquity’ first aired on YouTube late last year, and is similar to some of the work that Neuhauser produced on the Phantasma collaboration with Charlotte Wessels… very cinematic, echoing über movie soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer. ‘Reason’ and ‘Caught In A Myth’ are classic Serenity, with the latter having an almost galloping beat throughout. ‘Fate Of Light’ is another banger, with a gothic feel to it, thanks to the Carmina Burana choir-like vocals… (O, Fortuna: the piece of music that countless metal bands use as intro music). There’s another soaring and uplifting vocal performance from Neuhauser, along with some fine shredding from Hermsdorfer.

The album also has it’s softer moments. ‘My Final Chapter’ opens with some Celtic infused sounds, that every movie producer adds when the main protagonist thinks of “Da Old Country”, however the soloing from Hermsdorfer raises the track above cheese level. Maybe it’s being a Celt that does it, but whenever I hear those sounds I instantly adopt a phoney Scottish/Irish accent in true Hollywood style. ‘The Perfect Woman’ opens with an intro piece that is pure Jim Steinman,  and continues in the rock opera vein, especially when the guest female vocals from Amanda Somerville and Tasha Koch kick in. Gloriously OTT, and a real highlight of the album. ‘Spirit In The Flesh’ has some more movie score musical tinges over a heart-pumping drum fill, and ‘The Order’ closes the album with a speedy piano intro that gives way to some frantic shredding in the background as Neuhauser gives his all.

A strong album that will appeal to fans both old and new,’Codex Atlanticus’ was released 29th January and can be ordered HERE

Review Dave Stott

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