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Now here is the 3rd release from Austrian "Edenbridge" in less than three years. Their first two albums were truly sensational, brilliant, amazing. Having heard them, I bought this one blindly (or should I say - deafly?) the moment I laid my hands on it. Oops.
All looks great, it does: the cover artwork by Markus Mayer, a widely recognized artist, once again is fantastic, the band is finally getting the long-deserved attention, they even persuaded D.C. Cooper himself to appear as a guest star. But it is the music that matters.
No, it does not suck, on the contrary, it is well performed, produced, and carries the trademark sound of "Edenbridge". But next to their previous albums, it somehow seems robbed of much life, and soul, and depth. Where are the progressive acoustic passages and majestic melodies that used to send shivers down my spine? Alas, even Sabine's beautiful voice sounds dimmed.
The band heeded the popular demand to write more fast songs; in fact, eight of eleven can be considered fast numbers this time 'round. Alas, not one comes even close to the inspiration and beauty of "Cheyenne Spirit" off "Sunrise in Eden", or "Fly on a Rainbow Dream", or "Color My Sky" off "Arcana". These new songs fail to stick in your head. Sometimes, they start great, as they used to, but "die" on a generic chorus. Some do have strong choruses and/ or solos, but the structure is unimpressive (I mean, blazing speed with little to no variation). In the end, they just all fall together leaving unpleasant aftertaste of a rehashed material.
Then, the ballads are nice but musically they use the same recipe as on "Arcana", and with the passage of time cease to excite. Who cares to hear those same choruses with different lyrics over and over again?.. The by now traditional epic closer "Red Ball in Blue Sky", featuring vocal duo of Sabine and D.C. Cooper, is good (nevermind the stupid title!), but for me falls short of the classics that are "My Last Step Beyond" and "Arcana". Two other songs worthy of mention on "Aphelion" are probably "The Undiscovered Land" and "Farpoint Anywhere" (a melody that raised my eyelids, if not eyebrows, at any rate).
General impression: melodic and technical, but uninspired; happy, but not uplifting. The reason might be that master(mind) Lanvall is still the only composer for the group; his muses have been working overtime lately and seem to have failed him at last. In other words, he went for quantity to satisfy the fans but forgot the quality. To come up with creative ideas, one needs time, or the artist is apt to get the "Malmsteen fever" (otherwise known as the "Can't-not-write syndrome")...
I am NOT going to throw this CD away. It will work well as background music. It could actually be a strong debut release for any melodic band. But I KNOW what their debut (and the follow-up) was like! So I can't help saying: do not start with this album if you are new to "Edenbridge". You might decide to omit the other two, as a result, and that would be such a loss!