Released: 2011, StormSpell Records
Just for a brief moment back in 2011, StormSpell Records stepped outside of their classic/traditional/power Metal realm and issued a pair of albums by female fronted, gothic, symphonic Power Metal bands from Russia. One band is Solar the other is Narwhal Tusk and both are excellent albums, demonstrating the labels good ear for signing different styles and perhaps expanding their repertoire.
IN DESPAIR by Narwhal Tusk was originally issued in Russia in 2010 on an indie label but StormSpell gave it the deluxe reissue treatment with a high-gloss, heavy paper stock 16 page booklet with a nice, distinct purple colour scheme. The utterly massive global explosion of female fronted symphonic Metal stretched to all corners of the globe and Russia was no exception. Based in Taganrog (close to Sochi, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics) the band is close enough to Western Europe to draw on that massive Nightwish influence.
Naturally, vocalist, Valentine Ystremskaya is a flawless song-bird whose soprano style is so common and so familiar (and so important!) to this style of Metal. Her voice has a sweetness that reminds me of Sabine of Edenbridge. She is ably backed by the male vocal counterpoint sung by Dmitry Returns. They are not a ‘Beauty and the beast’ duet style, he uses a clean vocal that nicely compliments her lead role. The lyrics are in English and tell some sad tales of loss, loss and rebirth. The music never really gets that heavy or bombastic, it stays nicely in the zone occupied by bands like Visions Of Atlantis and the aforementioned Edenbridge. The guitar tone is quite clean and there are lots of keyboards for added atmosphere. The pace of the album is mid-paced to quite slow. In fact the whole album is a very gentle listening experience. That may seem like the kiss of death for a Metal band, but in fact, for this sub-genre, it is the opposite. The strength of the simple songs, focused primarily on a stellar vocals, negate the need for speed or crushing guitars. Neither depressing or uplifting, the slightly gothic and melancholy delivery is superbly executed.
IN DESPAIR is a real gem and although it is a crowded genre, I hope fans can discover this band for themselves.