Released: 2003, Transmission/The End
This instantly jumped into the top tier of all the concept albums I have ever heard. This Metal Opera is destined to set the standard very high for all upcoming all-star projects.
Aina (pronounced ‘Eye-Nah’) is the name of a magical land that is the setting for this 70 minute extravaganza. This project is spearheaded by ex-members of Heaven’s Gate and was conceived by a newcomer to the metal scene an American singer/songwriter named Amanda Sommerville. Amanda wrote the entire concept including the language of Ainae which is smattered through out the CD. What would be a grandiose Metal Opera without countless guest stars. I don’t want to name drop them all but there are about a dozen well-known metal musicians and singers each taking on a role, some large, some not so large.
The tale itself is a fairly conventional opera with broad good vs. evil themes, a hero, a villain, a love interest and epic battles, betrayal, revenge, murder, arson, rape, and on the plus side redemption, victory and so on. One thing I liked it that Amanda avoided a sappy Disney-style ending. Like many famous Greek tragedies not everyone lives happily ever after. Of course the door is left open for the obligatory and anticipated part II.
It doesn’t end there. The new version is a pretty amazing package. It comes with a bonus disc with all sorts of demos, singles, unreleased /alternate versions, a 15 minute long instrumental AND the same instrumental with a well-spoken narration of the entire story. It also includes a DVD which has all sorts of goodies, a storyboard, interviews, and a video for the first single ‘The Beast Within’. The video is a CGI video that has nothing to do with the storyline but is very well done and cool to watch. Housing the three discs is a hard cover book with 70+ pages of info, notes, lyrics, photos, pictures, credits, and so on. The package is gorgeous, one of the best I’ve ever seen.
So, what does all this sound like? The songs are very, very catchy, everyone meets the mood the story perfectly. Of the 15 or so songs, some are instrumental/spoken bridges, some are heartfelt ballads and eight or so are crushing speed/power metal tracks. The voice of the main villain is Thomas Rettke (ex-Heaven’s Gate) and his voice has the perfect range grit and crunch to do a good bad guy. The music has lots of double kick drums and flying solos, soaring majesty vocals with giant back-up sing-along choruses for the war-chants and battle hymns. The production is sterling and it is nice to hear Michael Kiske sing some of the very lilting and not-metal sonnet/ballad components.
Adding a boy’s choir (singing in Ainae) only added to the epic, bombastic narrative feel of the whole project. DORD is highly recommended for anyone who likes bands who dabble in sonic excess and grandeur, from Queen to Rhapsody to W.A.S.P. and everyone in between. Simply superb.