Released: 2010, Inner Wound
Much like Phenomena’s BLIND FAITH which I also reviewed this month (October, 2010) Soulspell is a multi-singer, multi-character, thematic album of grand proportions. I started to enjoy both of these projects at around the same time (summer of 2010) and they are both associated in my mind, even though there is no real connection.
SoulSpell is the brainchild of Brazilian drummer Heleno Vale formed several years back and they issued a debut album in 2008. I missed that one and now I absolutely have to get it! THE LABYRINTH OF TRUTH is billed as a Metal Opera, which is quite appropriate. It is certainly darker and heavier and more ‘Metal’ than the Phenomena project. A number of lesser-known Brazilian musicians are featured on this recording, but don’t let the lack of ‘big’ names fool you, these musicians have constructed a fantastic piece of work. Roland Grapow even drops by!
For me, the focal point on these types of projects are the myriad number of guest vocalists. Again, it is good to hear people out of context of their main bands. Vale must have friends in high places because he has recruited some of the best vocal talent metal has to offer. Zak Stevens, Jon Oliva, Tim Owens, German Pascual, and Blaze Bayley are all onboard. Owens brings the power and Jon brings the evil to any project they work on and this is no exception. There not only international singers on parade here, Vale has also recruited some of the best that Brazil has to offer with Edu (Angra), Renato (Tribuzy) Iuri (Hibria)and Nando (Hangar) have all been associated with the project, either on the debut or this one. Vale also has brought on board some new young vocal talent from Brazil as well.
THE LABYRINTH OF TRUTH is a whirlwind of world-class Power Metal. Raging solos all over the place, pummeling drums and soaring vocals that reach for the sky, it’s pretty intense! After a brief intro, the first two cuts comprising 14 minutes are a relentless juggernaut of killer Power Metal. The pace slows ever-so-slightly for ‘Amon’s Fountain’, with some excellent vocal work accompanied by some atmospheric keyboard work…but then a minute or two later it is off to the races once again. Finally by track five we get a slower, more atmospheric piece highlighted by the vocals of Jon Oliva. The song, ‘Into The Arc of Time’ could have easily fit onto a Savatage album with it’s acoustic piano counter-pointing the heavy metal riffs. It also has those multi-part, counter-point vocal harmonies that were such a trademark of Savatage. I love the fast, heavy stuff but this is certainly a highlight on the album.
The one main disadvantages of ‘promo’ copies is the lack of art, lyrics and packaging. From what I can gather from web-sites and info from the label this is an incredibly elaborate concept with almost 30 characters all intertwined into a story featuring Men, Gods, Egyptian Kings, Vampires, Angels, Wizards, Warriors, Spirits…and a lumberjack…it is all too much to absorb with lyrics and background. The music is incredible but I felt lost without the extras that make these Metal Operas so compelling. It probably doesn’t help that I’m coming into Part II either. When you buy this (not download, actually buy) you will surely enjoy the entire tale and elaborate concept. It all seems very complex and will take time to embrace, but well worth it.
SoulSpell has quickly joined the ranks of the elite, multi-album, Metal Operas created by the likes of like Avantasia and Rhapsody, that seem so popular these days. It is by far one of the best and well worth your time and investment.