Kings & Queens

SKU: IW83044
Label:
Inner Wound Recordings
Category:
Gothic Metal
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"Leah’s 2012 debut, Of Earth and Angels, came out of nowhere and blew me away with its catchy, epic music and beautiful, ethereal vocals. Naturally, I bought her follow-up EP, Otherworld, but didn’t like it as much, since it was much mellower (except for “Dreamland” with guest Eric Peterson).

Thus, I was very excited to learn that Leah’s next release would feature Delain guitarist Timo Somers. I figured Timo was exactly what Leah needed to find her heavier sound again, since he has contributed some of Delain’s best guitar work. As an added bonus, Timo produced and arranged the album and also recruited ex-Delain drummer Sander Zoer.

Does Leah’s new team deliver? Yes. Kings & Queens is epic, heavy, and beautiful. Timo contributes excellent riffs and solos; Sander provides driving rhythms along with bassist Barend Courbois (from Blind Guardian); and Leah sounds as delicate and ethereal as ever. Her voice is high, clear and perfect, much like Liv Kristine’s.

The music, voice, and lyrics evoke far-away lands and heroic stories. Leah has explained: “One theme in particular is the historical and metaphorical grip around our throats we feel from top-down agendas that threaten our freedoms. It seems to be a never-ending game of chess between those who demand power and those who would preserve freedom. It’s the theme of every good fantasy book and film, and the message rings true for even our modern world. In addition, the line-up and stellar musicianship of the guys who came on board this project heightened the sheer epicness and caliber of the music itself.”

The album’s first single is “Enter the Highlands.” It starts heavy with aggressive guitars and drums before Leah’s otherworldly vocals kick in, and then builds with even more intense rhythms, a galloping riff, and choral vocals. Leah says she loves how heavy Timo made the song, and that the lyrics are about lost civilizations, with implications for our own.

Two other songs that really showcase Timo’s guitar skills are “Save the World” and “Angel Fell,” both of which feature blistering solos. These songs also show off the variety of Leah’s sound. “Save the World” starts as folk metal before becoming an anthem, then finishes with delicate voices and a harp after Timo’s solo. “Angel Fell” begins with a harpsichord and is quiet and powerful at first but has a driving finish.

What these songs lack is the catchiness I liked on songs like “Remember” and “Say Yes” from Of Earth and Angels, but that begins to reappear in later songs from Kings & Queens, notably “Heart of Poison” and “Hourglass.”

Perhaps the heart of the album is the epic “Palace of Dreams.” The song is long (at 7:46) and cinematic, with strong guitar and piano and a lyrical tie-in to the album title. Other notable songs include “The Present Darkness” (in which Leah uses a deeper voice) and “Remnant” (which at first sounds especially like Loreena McKennitt, to whom Leah is often compared, before building into heavy guitars). The album concludes with a pretty acoustic cover of a traditional Irish folk song, “Siúil a Rún,” about a lover lost to soldiering.

Overall, I would recommend Kings & Queens to all fans of epic music and ethereal vocals. While not as catchy as Of Earth and Angels, the new album certainly cements Leah’s reputation as the metal Loreena McKennitt (or Enya), with her strong Celtic and new age influences (not to mention her high fantasy look). The album is also a showcase for Timo Somers’ guitar work, and an example of successful crowd-funding, so fans of Delain and fans of independent music alike will want to check it out.

On the flipside, I would say the album and songs are too long. At 78 minutes, Kings & Queens is nearly twice as long as Of Earth and Angels or Delain’s The Human Contradiction. I think the music would have a greater impact if it were more condensed (just as I wish Peter Jackson would release a condensed version of The Hobbit). Delain fans should also know that the vocal variety is much narrower than what we get from Charlotte Wessels, who does fragile and beautiful but also raw and aggressive. Again, Leah is more like Liv Kristine. The lyrics are also subtle and metaphorical (and sometimes require careful listening to understand), so the themes discussed above about freedom and fallen civilizations don’t hit you in the face the way Delain’s (or Judas Priest’s) would." - Sonic Cathedral

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  • "Dawn of a New Era is the third album by the female-fronted French Progressive/Melodic Metal band Venturia, and finds them returning after a couple personnel changes. In 2009, the band parted with singer Mark Ferreira for personal reasons, with their guitarist, Charly Sahona, taking on the role of the lead male vocalist. Then in 2010, Venturia lost former drummer Diego Rapacchietti and replaced him with Frederic Marchal, a long-term friend of the band. In this album, Venturia have also developed their style less towards complicated arrangements and more towards the melodies. There are still elements of the previous albums with the multi-layered vocals, technical playing, and synth-y keyboard sound, and there are still subtle uses of compound time signatures, but they have really toned down on the complicated instrumentals and compound rhythms. For this reason I am sure some will complain that the band is leaning more towards a commercial sound, with others praising them for being more accessible. In any case, I will say that Venturia are not your typical female-fronted metal band. They combine hooky-melodies with technical playing and a progressive background, trading off between female and male vocals as well as full vocal harmonies, technical heavy guitars, and a rich, atmospheric keyboard background." - Sea Of Tranquility
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  • In 1974, Jethro Tull announced plans for WarChild, a multi-faceted project that was to encompass a feature-length film, a soundtrack album, as well a new album from the band. In October of that year, Tull released a 10-song album that would climb to #2 in the U.S. and the top 15 in the U.K., but the film and accompanying soundtrack were shelved. To commemorate the 40-year anniversary of this ambitious experiment, Parlophone revisits WarChild.WARCHILD: THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY THEATRE EDITION will be available as a limited edition 2-CD/2-DVD set on November 25 2014.Highlights from the set include:- Original album and bonus tracks (three previously unreleased), remixed in 5.1 surround and stereo by Steven Wilson.- 10 orchestral pieces (nine previously unreleased) written for the film s soundtrack, 4 of which are remixed in 5.1 surround and stereo by Steven Wilson.- Flat transfers of the original LP mix at 96/24, and the quadrophonic version (with 2 bonus tracks) in 4.0.- The Third Hoorah promo footage, and footage from a January 1974 photo session/press conference where the WarChild project was announced.- An 80-page booklet featuring an extensive history of the project, a film script synopsis, track-by-track annotations by Ian Anderson, plus rare and unseen photographs.
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