Released: 2006, Listenable Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
If it weren’t for the names behind the band, it would be pretty tough to classify Angtoria’s debut, GOD HAS A PLAN FOR US ALL, as “metal”. One could stretch and draw the easy semblance of the band’s female-fronted, symphonic Goth-rock with Nightwish but Angtoria is much lighter and less operatic vocally. In reality, there are more similarities to Within Temptation or just about any band on the Napalm Records label with soaring, melodic choruses, ample guitar crunch and plenty of progressive, keyboard-infused tinkling. Sarah Jezebel Deva, formerly heard plying her operatic trade with Therion, Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, is much more reserved here, employing a mid-range soprano that is perfectly suited for the grandiose music of Abyssous’ Chris and Tommy Rehn. Guest appearances include members of My Dying Bride, Time Requiem and Deva’s Cradle bandmate, Dave Pybus. Besides the curious inclusion of a Kylie Minogue cover, GOD HAS A PLAN FOR US ALL is a dark ride through familiar Gothic rock waters but an enjoyable trip nonetheless.
The neo-classical influence of the brothers Rehn explodes immediately with a bombastic flair on the infectious “I’m Calling.” Deva’s sweetly-innocent lyrics are a complete turn from her usual fare in Cradle of Filth and those used to her throaty musings will be pleasantly surprised that she can also deliver when reeled in. Things take a decidedly darker turn on the title track (“So he crept into my room/Whispered my name, took my innocence away/I’m only five, a pervert’s concubine”), and Deva dwells in dark unpleasantries on “Suicide On My Mind,” “Six Feet Under’s Not Deep Enough” (“Your sheer presence makes my skin crawl”) and what seems to be a first-person’s account of being a “cutter” on “Do You See Me Now?” (“Hate the reflection that I see/Wish I could claw…away…my skin”). Behind the haunting, somber lyrics, the Rehn’s music escalates to huge swells and floats on driving melodies that are surprisingly accessible for such weighty material. The choruses of the title track and “Six Feet Under’s Not Deep Enough” bounce along behind strings and keyboard flourishes that are perfectly balanced with the chugging guitar riffs. An Eastern flair peppers Rikard Andersson’s keyboards on “Deity of Disgust” and alongside Deva, Martin Haggstrom provides a solid male presence on vocals that sounds very similar to those of Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund. At times, the swooping strings and choirs give the album’s music a film score feel, especially the instrumental “The Awakening,” but a spoken word section supplied by My Dying Bride’s Aaron Stainthorpe on “Original Sin (The Devil’s Waiting In The Wing)” is cheesier than Manowar and Rhapsody combined. For the most part, though, things refrain from becoming too overblown.
It’s nice to hear Sarah Jezebel Deva expand beyond the trappings of background vocalist and if Angtoria is planned to be a full-time project, there is a lot to offer here for a first-time outing. Deva is an exceptional vocalist and, if nothing else, her performance on GOD HAS A PLAN FOR US ALL is enough to recommend a purchase of the album. As a bonus, the rich, layered music is cloaked in dark, brooding lyrics to appeal to the shady Goth-rock crowd but the melodic tones are accessible enough to bring in a wider audience. Angtoria isn’t reinventing the wheel but they do offer some pretty flashy rims on which to mount it.
KILLER KUTS: “I’m Calling,” “God Has A Plan For Us All,” “Deity of Disgust,” “Six Feet Under’s Not Deep Enough,” “Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned,” “That’s What The Wise Lady Said”