Released: 2013, Noisehead Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Symphonic metal needs to sound epic. Vast. Anthemic. It needs to carefully marry lush orchestrations, from those of WINTERSUN proportions down to simple sweeping keyboard arrangements, to the raw power of a band at full throttle encompassing a simplistic and powerful approach or a frenetic blast of Bach-inspired technicality. Once that has been accomplished, the path is pretty much set. But that simple formula doesn't necessarily equate to greatness.
Noisehead Records six-piece oxymoron FALLEN ARISE stepped forward with their debut “Ethereal”; a mix of lush, vast orchestrations to the middle-ground of metal marshalled in the studio by Fotis Benardo of SEPTICFLESH fame (alongside fellow member Christos Antoniou who handled orchestrations). The fact that half of SEPTICFLESH helped produce this album should give you an indication of the production of “Ethereal” - exemplary. Fans of SEPTICFLESH will know that the production values on “Communion” and “The Great Mass” were through the roof and it follows suit here. Well recorded, finely mixed and well-balanced.
But the songs don't lend themselves to the production. “Eternity” has some truly lovely orchestrations, but flowing from verse to chorus doesn't feel like there is the huge uplift one would expect – it feels rather flat even with the double kicks beneath Spyla's powerful vocals and especially so when it falls into half-time. “My Fall”, when it kicks in, doesn't feel powerful enough and this is something the album suffers from throughout. There are some wonderful musical passages on display here, but it all seems to fall a little flat. There are times when these are lost by a sense of “symphonic metal by the numbers” - there is nothing that pushes the boundaries of the genre here.
Their contemporaries in NIGHTWISH, LEAVES' EYES and DELAIN, while not constantly breaking new ground, manage to pull off a powerful and dynamic effort that feels epic, vast and anthemic. Even when Spyla and male vocalist Christos Kontoulis begin belting out higher notes to change up into those epic moments, they still feel confined within themselves. It's a shame as they are perfectly good singers and should be the pinnacle of the piece but just seem to shy away from really becoming that focal point.
Alarmingly it's orchestral piece “Furor” that begins to attempt breaking the mould, but upon climaxing and follower “Nightouched” breaking, there is a noticeable drop in dynamic which should not happen when transitioning from an orchestral piece to metal – at the very least, it needs to hold up the dynamic. That's not to say that this isn't listenable, because it is.
Fans of symphonic metal would likely get many things out of “Ethereal”. It is a well polished piece of art, but for that reason it just doesn't stand out. It's too refined, too safe. And it's disappointing because, as previously said, there are some fantastic bits to savour: “Never Forget Me” is a beautiful piano-led ballad with Skyla taking centre stage and she more than holds her own; “Furor” is an incredible orchestral piece that deserves a Hollywood film to star in; “Ethereal” has a gorgeous guitar solo towards the last third; as well as several others.
“Ethereal” just feels a little too uninspired – it has fallen, but not quite risen yet. It's looking up, hands on the floor and readying to push up, but not quite ready yet. There is a decent foundation for FALLEN ARISE here but one that needs to be tinkered with a little. Be bolder and really go all out for the kill; if the same effort and verve found on “Furor” is applied to their sophomore, then it will be one hell of an album. Their musicianship deserves it. As debuts go, this one is reasonable and at least worth a listen but will hopefully stand as stable ground for the band to kick on from.
Review by Lee Carter