Released: 2005, Black Lotus Records
HOUR OF JOY is this Dutch band’s debut album in the atmospheric metal scene. They’re following in the footsteps of The Gathering, Epica, Lacuna Coil, and After Forever, and this album is a decent step in the right direction. The song writing is solid, and it’s clear that their gem is female singer Saskia van Heugten. Her vocals are not only stellar, but sound-wise stand far above the other five band members. It’s almost like the producer spent all his time perfecting the vocals, leaving the music with a raw, sometimes muffled sound.
This album reminds me so much of Lacuna Coil’s IN A REVERIE. It’s heavy and dark, pretty simple in terms of style, and the vocals don’t take on the operatic tones of Nightwish or Epica. Songs like “The Unknown is Searching the Unfound” have the strength that gets me headbanging, and sometimes they insert some progressive elements with instrumental sections in songs like “Kill the Silence.” And just when I’m getting a bit bored at a slow part, they blast in with some heaviness and I’m into it again.
The songs do become a bit formulaic by track eight; they stick with what they’ve done well so far, stretching their ‘atmospheric’ power to a lengthy 13 tracks. The vocals do get a bit draining after awhile as well, like she spent all she had on the first two-thirds of the album. All that said, though, I do look forward to hearing more from these guys (and girl) in the future. They can only get better.