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Among the more consistent mainstays of female fronted melodic metal is Edenbridge, flying under a similar banner of symphonic tinged power metal that is comparable, though perhaps a bit less keyboard oriented and Stratovarius informed than Nightwish. They tend to be preferred among some that are otherwise not terribly fond of their Finnish contemporaries, in large part because vocalist Sabine Edelsbacher doesn’t come off as quite the prima donna vocal presence that Tarja Turunen tends to be. But at the same time, their symphonic tendencies are not quite as overt and bombastic as the near equally important Epica, giving this Austrian outfit a rather unique niche that puts them more in line with the moderated, guitar oriented tendency that traditional European power metal a la Germany exhibits, with maybe a slight gothic edge here and there.
The band has gone through a few mild evolutionary changes, but the dramatic splits and revamps in sound that resulted that seems quite pervasive in this style is not to be found after 13 years and 7 studio albums. “Solitaire” is probably among the least adventurous of their work, but still well within the realm of a solid, entertaining experience that bridges the gap between the flamboyance of Rhapsody Of Fire and the humbleness of most German bands (by comparison to the former anyway). It doesn’t jump into the speed metal fury that was hinted at on “Aphelion”, but it also doesn’t fully commit to the dramatically atmospheric tendencies of “Sunrise In Eden”. This is an album that basically takes the concept of going through the motions in a similar respect to latter day After Forever, but succeeding in being catchier and a bit livelier.
The typical lead off instrumental takes on a rather looming feel, as if a prelude to a coming winter storm, but lands in a bouncy gallop in the title song “Solitaire”, taking a few more pointers from mid 80s Iron Maiden in the riff department rather than that of later 80s Helloween. This proves to be one of the few examples of a truly up tempo song as what follows is more of a middle of the road, heavier character in “Higher”, “Skyliner’s End” and “Come Undone”, exuding more of a heavy gothic character. “Out Of This World” and “Brothers Diamir” play up the atmospherics a bit more, but generally have the same overall feel. The only real break into something dealing more with an outright frenetic character is “A Virtual Dream”, which features a somewhat thrashing riff set married to a dense keyboard backdrop, almost like a select speedy number from “Oceanborn” with a less forbidding vocal presentation.
To put it in the most basic context, this is a solid yet heavily predictable album from a band that has largely kept to their roots. It’s more for the fans of the genre than that one amazing feat of innovation that can appeal to a lot outside the general scene (something that could be attributed to “Sunrise In Eden”), but the target audience here is fairly sizable so this album will probably enjoy fairly extensive play. While it is considerably more metallic than the latest Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil releases, its general lack of strong distinctiveness holds it back a bit.
I have been a fan for many years, and am amazed after each album by their ability to make something new, while staying true to themselves. If we go back only a few albums we find a dramatic difference in sound as opposed to this album, yet, you would know it was them instantly.
Edenbridge returns with “Solitaire” an odd name for a metal album, even by Symphonic Metal standards, but a successful album despite this. The album is quite good with many a good song within, without breaking the repertoire rhythm with a ballad like the last albums did These could be hit or miss, ending up sounding very cheesy (once again) even by Symphonic Metal standards, and left the listener stranded waiting, or skipping the song to keep the album cohesive. There is no issue with that in this album, so no worries.
The album utilizes much more on the symphony than ever before, relying heavily on the strings sections, unlike the previous album which relied more on the horns. Sabine’s singing can be more of an acquired taste I find, but she does attempt new techniques and ranges that she has never tried before, which might not be to a new listener’s liking (even though she succeeds at times), she does have a lower voice that lacks a more complete range. The guitars and drumming tend to remain the same, though there is deviation from the norm at times that are not as predictable, however the melodies can lead to several cases of déjà vu. Another notable and new addition is the use of a choir, singing incoherent maybe-Latin (but does it matter?), it is a successful addition that adds a nice variation that would have been predictable sections of song. Lanvall’s ability with his guitar is amazing, you’ll be picking with him with his high pitched wailing solos, that are still awesome even after so long. The drumming does not stand out, but it is not necessary to the sound for it to be like in other genres, and back up vocals are the same as they have always been, but are still pleasant and without notable flaw.
The album is paced generally the same as all the others, the only slow song appearing as the 10th track before the final instrumental outro (Brothers of Diamir), but even this does not suffer the same yawn worthiness of “Whale Rider” or “Winter Winds” on previous albums. The only exception to that is that the album is more cohesive with all the tracks in line never losing tempo when it is necessary, causing you to not use the “next track” button.
Edenbridge’s sound and lyrics play on a lighter side of metal, in fact what might be the lightest (as opposed to darkness of course, and not so in heaviness). The album is relatively heavy, but it is still a good recommendation for those who are into the genres (Symphonic or Neo-Classical). The band lacks poorly written lyrics which can be prevalent in other bands of the genre, and the listener will notice that there isn’t any copying being done in playing style or lyrics.
Arguably the most notable track is “Higher”, if you’re looking to try the album I suggest looking up that song for a good little taste before you decide to purchase, it is a fast paced track with addicting melodies. I recommend this album to a fan of the band, Symphonic Metal genre fans, and new-to metal or genre listeners.
I love Edenbridge. I really do. It breaks my heart to have to listen to their newest album and admit that half of it gets old pretty fast. I was really looking forward to this, perhaps my most anticipated album for the summer, and I'm left feeling pretty underwhelmed. Oh sure, there's still some really good stuff here, but the stuff that isn't great...isn't great.
First up, the stuff that is great. The "Entree Unique" and "Exit Unique" tracks serve as some pretty darn good instrumental interludes; definitely a treat. Next is the title track, which starts off with an exchange between a string ensemble and The Metal, then both become intertwined and give birth to something ambitious yet accessible, with a fantastic chorus to boot. "Higher" begins similarly, with a light piano melody leading us into another heaping helping of that delicious symphonic metal we've come to expect from Edenbridge.
"Skyline's End" is a bit slower moving, but that ain't nothing that will hold it back, by any means. Some great riffs to be found, and not a single moment can be described as dull. "Bon Voyage Vagabond" takes its time and builds slowly (and by slowly, I mean almost a minute), but once it gets started, it really gets started. Finally, we have "Brothers Diamir," which is a fantastic ballad with some great solos and instrumental passages; clearly, this was intended to be the big epic of the album, and boy does it sound great.
Before continuing, let us discuss the finer elements of this album. In terms of the overall sound, Sabine's vocal work is as great as ever, the guitars have a big, rich sound, and the orchestral parts, while prominent, don't feel like they're smothering the group. The bass and drums are nice and audible, and both performers give competent rhythm to the album. Really, in short, it feels like a mix between "The Grand Design" and "MyEarthDream". This isn't a bad thing by any means, but some people have expressed that those albums seemed a little same-y. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to see what they mean, especially with "Solitaire."
Problem child number one is "Come Undone," which just failed to attract my interest, even from the start. There's nothing inherently -bad- about it, but it just doesn't distinguish itself at all. Sure, the verses are dark, low-key, and interesting, but that just ain't gonna cut it. "Out of This World" starts with a more synth-y sound, which is very nice and seems like it's going to lead into a great song, but what follows is a song that feels forced and is a tad too slow.
"Further Afield" gets my nomination for Worst Song on the Album, not only because the intro feels weird and out of place, but like its predecessor, it feels forced and a little off-beat. As for "A Virtual Dream," it just feels like filler. It starts with a riff that doesn't quite interest me, and continues into a vocal melody that doesn't quite interest me, right into a pre-chorus with strange guitar work that doesn't quite interest me, running smack into a chorus that doesn't quite interest me.
And there you have it. Edenbridge's newest begins on a very strong foot, stumbles and scrambles for a while, and finally gets back up to kick some ass right at the end. If some of the middle tracks were removed or reworked, I'd be ecstatic about "Solitaire." However, since you don't usually release full studio albums with the intent of fixing its problems later, I'll just have to live with what they gave us. Could've been worse, though. I'm gonna recommend this, but don't be expecting every song to be a masterpiece.
I may have mentioned a diatribe or two about progressive metal to a specific few, but for what it’s worth there’s a part of me who really registers with it. The likes of OPETH, STAR ONE and DREAM THEATER (prerequisites for all prog the world over) make for mind-opening experiences, no matter how pandering and problematic a few of the last group’s songs and albums can be at times. Like all other styles it’s all in the overall feel for it that makes for good listens; throwing in reckless abandon performance and mathcore style, overly calculated time signature abuse does not a good prog album make in the least. It needs that little something that tickles the ear drums of all forms of potential listener, where wankery and prissy notions are left at the door.
And it’s with that mind set in play that I tackled what this EDENBRIDGE band had to offer me…would they be able to give me what I wanted with my prog?
Even at first glance, EDENBRIDGE’s latest thankfully doesn’t attempt to cram too much into their progressive wares but instead astound and warrant vilification through a more simplistic approach. “Solitaire”, as a whole, oozes powerful drama and mind-numbing intensity in as natural a way as they can evoke by way of electric instrumentation. There’s a lot to take in with every minute that succeeds each other throughout the duration of the disc, where the spine-tingling keyboard tandems, symphonic madness, thrashing guitar/bass riffing, potently powerful drum work and form-fitting female vocals/variously voiced choirs come together in that masterful, “we know what the hell we’re doin’!” way that makes for plentiful tasty listens, where epic chord arrangements and crushing heaviness combine in seamless successions. Theirs is a very straight-forward approach with short-and-to-the-point song lengths that makes it all the more easy to get into the scheme of things and become lost in that which makes this disc as fantastic as it is. And again I must spew forth my lamentations on this sort of thing not getting the due attention it deserves; it’s a shame that such fine, talented bands such as these guys are left in the dust amidst the ever-increasing clamoring for all those in-their-fourteenth-minute-of-fame acts that clog the myspace pages and national tours ad nauseum. Still, the fact that such a scene continues to exist in this and any other age is laudable on my end and I will willingly descend into those fathomless musical depths by my lonesome, thank you very much! This is shown in the fine examples of the likes of “Solitaire”, “Bon Voyage Vagabond”, and “Out of This World”, with nary a sensation of crapola or detriment present to make the listen a burden. It’s all pure enjoyable escapism on this end.
All in all EDENBRIDGE’s latest is a masterwork of heavy, symphonic epicness. Rest assured, dear reader, that this will end up seeing plenty of time in my battered and bruised CD player for as long as my interest will hold on…which may be longer than one would expect. Absolutely recommended.