Review Date: March 2021
Released: 2020, Saturnia Records
International music project Aqvilea have released their debut album BEYOND THE ELYSIAN FIELDS via Saturnia Records. The name recalls the ancient Roman city of Aquileia, and the project is dedicated not only to the origins of the city but more generally to the celebration of the lost beauty of Latin culture and mythology.
After a brief intro “Aeterna” kicks the album off with epic intensity, and I noticed the guitar riffs and tone that closeout “Bridges to Liberty” have a Jeff Loomis-type feel. “Morpheus Valley” has some thrash in it and is a good example of what symphonic metal is all about. There are keyboards, double-bass drums, and soaring vocals. This band is on the heavier side of symphonic metal – more like an earlier Epica than Nightwish.
The composition of the songs is quite varied. They don’t always follow a predictable verse-chorus-verse-chorus-guitar-solo pattern, but instead have many sudden breaks and tempo shifts. And just when you think a slow song is coming, like the intro to “Legacy of Memories” with some nice piano, it morphs into a proper metal song – with plenty of emotion though.
The production throughout is stellar courtesy of renowned producer Fredrik Nordstrom. With all that is going on with the instrumentation, a weak vocalist would be completely lost. Lead singer Cae Lys is well up to the task with her soprano style, and I found her delivery even and easy to understand. As much as I like Simone Simons I can’t always understand what she’s singing. There are some whispered/growled vocals also from Pier Lando Baldinelli that sound very dark (check out “XIII”).
You can see by the track listing below that there are a lot of songs on this album (about 45 minutes worth), and they stuff a LOT into those 14 tracks. The title track “Beyond the Elysian Fields” closes the album out on a mellow note but I think it fits the album, and you get the sense of sorrow that comes from a long journey full of sacrifice. This is one of those releases where it that takes multiple listens to absorb everything – highly recommended for fans of Epica and newer Leaves’ Eyes.