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Again, I ask; what's in a name? It would be hard for even the most saccharine of Euro-metal fans to take a group called "Fairyland" seriously (though if you were to look up what a "fairyland" is you'll understand it better as opposed to...well, you know...). Though for my money I'd've taken its old moniker "Fantasia" at better face value, but here we are. After its core members spent a few years in name changes and coming to the realization that they love wild abandon fantasy metal versus the more primitive wares they'd been plying beforehand, they rebranded under their current moniker and, after some time on the fire, gave unto us a rather, at first glance and packaging impression, unassuming little debut for us to devour.
And fuck me, this a hell of a disc...
If ever there would be a word to describe Fairyland's starting point work it would have to be, strangely enough, honest. There's no preconceived bullshit notions, no talking over the listener with juxtaposed rhetoric or simplistic heaviness; this is simple, right-to-the-balls overblown musical bombast with the sole purpose of taking you on the most epic journey of your life, and not since the glory days of Rhapsody or the more modern odes to long-lost battles ala Pathfinder and Twilight Force has this ever been possible. And as a result, I fucking loved it. I've always been a sucker for sugar-coated, keyboard-drenched metal with more layers than a club sandwich, and "Of Wars in Osyrhia" is so wildly sweetening that it's almost unbelievable. But, as I'd said before, there's a serious honesty to the work, a transparency that aims for the whimsical and not only hits it dead center but completely obliterates the target as a result. Many would be quick to condemn this and other similar works for "drenching" their music with waterfall cascades of keyboards and symphonic arrangements and "drowning out" the guitars (you know, the actual "metal" aspects) and to that I blow a long, loud, "Opus from Bloom County" style raspberry towards it. Fuck every bit of that. I've heard other power/melodic metal bands that go the keyboardless route and many sound so fundamentally flat and unappealing, like they're doing nil justice to their thematics and concepts. The thing of it is, music this fantastical and out of reality needs to be swamped by tickled ivories and sensual strings in order to bring the listener into its grand world of elvish archery and sharp steel singing in the wind. That's the point! If nothing else, consider that utilizing power metal's inherent fast tempos and raging, blood-boiling theatrics ups the end result's staying power by not only mentally painting the image of battles and lore but revving you up for the wars to come, making you part of the ensuing events versus being a simple bystander or bard listener. That's really what did the trick for me with this, no doubt about it.
The main scope of "Of Wars..." is one that's not only well-composed but also catchy and memorable, if a bit pedantic here and there. The action and level of energy provided by the main players never lets up for a second, even during slower odes and balladry (one could sense an odd bout of forced restraint in the otherwise fantastic "The Storyteller", where despite it being one of the best compositions on the album the players are just so ready to explode into speed-laden intensity at a moment's notice), and when going at full tilt the perfect storm of spastic drum and guitar work meeting the damn-near monstrousness of the keyboard and choir sections renders even the most patient of listeners breathless from sprinting in order to keep up. The production level is also quite above average for a power metal act, one that has enough depth for every bit and instrument to peek through and let themselves be known (even if the bass parts are remarkably undermixed...but we're used to that by now). But while on an instrumental level the band is top notch, I can't say the main singing left me all that impressed; I do hope Ms Martin was a phenom during her tenure in Dark Moor (I've yet to hear them, ya see), because here she really doesn't do it for me. It isn't so much her vocals feel phoned in at times, but rather her mid-ranged tone and sense of reined-in inhibition doesn't work that well with the out-of-control nature the rest of the album thrives and overdoses on. It does, sadly, feel like they needed a vocalist and brought in the first person they could find or get ahold of without first testing to see if he or she is the best possible fit. Still, if a single negative trait is all that can be mustered then that's quite alright with me.
All in all "Of Wars..." is a fun, overly satisfying and unforgettable debut that really gives Italy's still-churning sympho-power metal scene a real run for its money. It's such a shame that Fairyland would implode many times over from this point onward and would only grace our ears here and there from then to now, as they had something seriously hot on their hands with this. Fellow sword-toting metallers, if you haven't given this a shot you're truly missing out.
I really want to love Of Wars in Osyrhia, it's epic grandeur and lack of inhibitions regarding any semblance of restraint is endearing. Brainchild Giordana's epic concept is an intriguing idea, but I can't help but feel that it comes off as a faceless amalgam of fantasy tropes we are already sick and tired of in modern power metal. Nabbing Martin was a wise pickup, as the rest of Fairyland's then-lineup hadn't proven themselves yet.
I consider myself a fan of Martin's vocals, but I liked her better in Dark Moor than on here. It sounds like she is barely trying, as she plays it safe in the mid-register for most of the proceedings. There are a few very specific moments where she deviates from this formula, but not enough to keep things sufficiently interesting. Her accent is thick, so some of the lyrics come off as a bit insincere and embarrassing. The layered, operatic choirs are well done, however. These pop up sporadically during almost every song, generally during choruses. The most impressive individual vocal performance is on "The Fellowship", marrying Martin's soaring inflection with the grittier choir sections.
The keyboards naturally hog the spotlight, burying the rhythm section behind walls of faux-string sections and blaring brass ensembles. It is so excessive that it begins to grow tiring as they begin to lose some of their foothold. I mean, I am a keyboardist and this is too much for even my ears. Giordana can write some infectious melodies and is a passable composer, but he has to learn that less can very often be more when it comes to keyboards. Of Wars in Osyrhia passes by the listener with such obvious epic glamors that it fails to make much of an impact. Sure, it sounds bombastic and epic at first, but once you realize this album is basically an hour of straight orchestration with Martin on top, interest begins to wane.
The rhythm section is almost entirely buried behind the keyboards, so the clicky, plastic double-bass becomes the listener's only real means of following the music properly. Parker will occasionally fly out of left field and deliver some solid shred-excess, but he is just as quickly swallowed up by the bombastic keyboards. Lievin's bass is more prominent than the rest of the guitars, strangely. He is constantly throbbing at the forefront of the mix, so not all is lost. The inclusion of the loud bass might be the only individual element that keeps Of Wars in Osyrhia metal. The first full track "Ride with the Sun" is passable, but the entire heart of the album drags. Nothing is downright bad, but it grows very tiring on the whole.
The exceptions are the last two tracks. "The Army of the White Mountains" is a decent instrumental, but once it segues into the title track Giordana blows the doors off and finally delivers the potential I knew he had. The bombastic strings are at their best during the first 1:30 or so, evoking triumphant overtones. For some reason Martin's vocals are a lot clearer and biting during the title track. I'm not sure if it was a production oversight or stylistic decision. Regardless, if there is one killer cut here on Of Wars in Osyrhia, this is it!
I still can't help but see Fairyland as a Giordana solo project with revolving guest musicians filling the ranks, as he has already gone through several vocalists after Martin's departure. This is commendable and ambitious for a debut, but music this bloated is excessively hard to pull off in the metal field.
A typical sympho keyboard intro that doesn't merit describing leads into the first track. Goodness. Ride with the Sun has to have the most overblown "symphonic" power metal intro that I have yet to hear. Shamelessly loud pseudo-violins burst in on the keys before surprisingly well mixed guitars kick in and the song builds to a swift transition to the first vocal segment. The vocals are good - typically adolescent male sounding, but this is melodic pm we're talking about. The singer is actually female (from Dark Moor), but to those unaware of this, most will assume that she is male. The tunes are superb and catchy, and the keyboard backing is very strong. It's the same story for the second song, piles of vocal melodies, tuneful guitar leads and omnipresent keys providing chorus hooks and backing ambience (although never that ambient - their presence is always felt). The Storyteller is the first slow track, with a great combination of near spoken vocals and backing vocals by the band providing the main hook in the chorus. When the singer's voice level rises towards the end it creates a great sense of conclusion.
The songs mentioned so far present a good overview Fairyland's strengths and weaknesses - they live and die on rather simple melodies, and how well the listener responds to them. There is absolutely no way to enjoy this from a riffing point of view, which sets it far apart from power/speed metal. Generally, the songs power through on the strength of their vocal and keyboard melodies rather than any rigorous song writing for the rest of the band, but the guitars are well-played and not completely buried by the keys. The production is actually rather good, the guitars don't sound overly puny, and the keys are extremely clear - the balance is pretty much bang on for a band that has no pretence to being ballsy or heavy. The only downside is the drums, which do get a bit buried at times.
There is a slight drop in quality towards the middle - the songs are still catchy, but less inspired than the first couple. This is relative, however - there are many standout moments and they would be the top picks of an album by a lesser band. The intro to Rebirth is a fine example of how Fairyland can throw in a highly effective keyboard melody to regain any potentially wavering interest. This song in particular leads into another interesting slow vocal passage and band-sung chorus that while nothing original creates a superb atmosphere and the change in dynamics is welcome.
The penultimate The Army of the White Mountains is the first non-standard track (another admirable trait of this album is that it has no interludes) - a full keyboard song at six minutes in length. It is as flawed as you could expect from such a format, but it's more than tolerable, and dare I say it, bordering on good. The final self-titled track is the obligatory long one, and is quite a strong finish. The intro is brash as usual, leading into a bubbling keyboard theme underpinned by fast guitars alternating between riffing and highly melodic leads. It sticks very much to formula throughout with a few very appealing parts, such as the tender vocal melody at 4:45 and the keys at 9:17 seemingly lulling the song to an end, then drums kick in and float it more energetically towards the quiet conclusion. These small and engaging melodies (invariably on keyboard or in the vocals) help to maintain attention, but the overall impression is that this track is overly long. The album itself could've also benefited from a little fat-trimming.
The first three songs are better than the rest, but the small drop-off is not a concern at all. What it does, it does brilliantly.
Fairyland traces its origin back to a pair of aspiring French musicians named Philippe Giordana and Willdric Lievin who started with a vision, to create a magical tale set to music on a grand scale. “Of Wars in Osyrhia” thus becomes precisely what its epic album art depicts, a towering colossus of organized sound and mystical storytelling. All of it culminates through the superior vocal efforts of Elisa Martin, who in years prior was the driving force behind the success of Dark Moor, as well as the rather surprisingly excellent guitar work by Anthony Parker, who was briefly with Heavenly during their early pre-major label days. Elisa’s vocals can be best described as a less flamboyant and bombastic alternative to Fabio Lione’s super operatic voice, while Parker’s excellence as a player combines the technical prowess of Luca Turilli with the crunchy edge of Gamma Ray’s guitar sound.
The resulting sound of all these combined elements is quite similar to Rhapsody; in fact, it is a near perfectly even hybrid of all of their first 3 full length albums. You have extremely catchy anthems loaded with speed and majesty such as “Ride with the Sun” and “Fight for your King” that hearken back to “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands”. You get darker fast tracks like “On the Path to Fury” and “A Dark Omen” that remind of such “Dawn of Victory” classics as “Dargor, Shadowlord of the Black Mountain”. Meanwhile, “Doryan the Enlightened” has sections to it that are reminiscent of “Rage of the Winter”. The slower folk inspired “The Storyteller” sounds a bit like “Village of Dwarves”, although it has quite a bit more electric guitar presence and about twice the overall intrigue.
Like most epic albums, Fairyland’s debut delivers an exceptionally long track to close the album, one that rivals Luca Turilli’s masterpiece, the title track of “Symphony of the Enchanted Lands”. It doesn’t quite have the same large scale and clean production as the Rhapsody classic, but it makes up for it with sheer energy and well placed section contrasts. This song alone makes the album worth picking up, although obviously one may have a hard time getting to it because of the desire to repeat play the amazing music before it.
Although heavily comparable to Rhapsody, there are some noteworthy differences between them and this band that should be addressed. The overall vibe of this release has a stronger folk influence, similar to the ones found on albums by Blind Guardian and Falconer. This can be gleaned from the instrumental intro “And so came the storm”, as well as several quiet sections in several other tracks. Furthermore, the ballad “Rebirth” sounds much more like a Symphony X ballad than anything Rhapsody has ever put out, particularly when focusing on the piano work.
Basically this is an all around great release that will please all fans of symphonic power metal. You get the same speed, power and spirit that are present on Rhapsody’s efforts, along with a few rather pleasant surprises and a healthier emphasis on guitar work. It’s not quite the masterpiece that “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands”, but I’d put it ahead of every other album Rhapsody has put out since their inception. If you like Dark Moor, Falconer, Blind Guardian and Freedom Call then this album will not disappoint.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on January 6, 2009.
A few months ago I was browsing through a friend's music and I came across Fairyland. "Who the hell would name their band Fairyland?" I asked him. He put on "On the Path to Fury," and I was blown away. I was expecting really cheesy power metal... make no mistake, that's what this is... but it's so much more than that. To sum it up, Fairyland sounds like Rhapsody. If you enjoy Rhapsody, you will probably enjoy Fairyland. Their singer even sounds like Fabio... but it's a woman! All the elements that make up Rhapsody are on this disc: the shredding guitars, the waterfalls of double-bass, the fantasy based lyrics, and the keyboards! Oh, the keyboards. Fairyland is a lot more keyboard heavy than Rhapsody, and they're used much more effectively. The keyboards are really the main instrument here, and really help to give the album its intense epic feel, whereas Rhapsody's keyboards take a backseat to the fast and usually uninteresting palm-muted guitar lines, occasionally being used to punctuate the music with a terribly fake sounding brass section or something. The keyboards here, while played with similar skill, are much more realistic sounding.
If you love Rhapsody but hate the cheesy narration that plagues every other Rhapsody song (especially on Symphony of Enchanted Lands!), then you'll love Fairyland. It does have some of the cheesy narration, but it's not quite so bad. If you love Rhapsody but think they need more keyboards, then you'll love Fairyland. If you love Rhapsody's style of epic power metal, but think their songwriting is boring and uninspired, you'll love Fairyland. If you think Rhapsody wrote the formula on how to create an epic power metal, you'll find that Fairyland has perfected the formula. Personally, I think this album is a hundred times better than anything Rhapsody has ever done. In fact, you won't even need any of your Rhapsody albums after you listen to this disc, it just completely blows them all away.
Favorite track: Doryan the Enlightened
"Of Wars in Osyhria" is the first (and hopefully not last) release from Fairyland, a power metal band from France. This album is pretty good, and it is NOT a Rhapsody clone, it has its own sound.
The album starts with an intro that doesn't have electric guitars or such. It has nice little flute melodies with a man telling a tale. I have to say the percussion in this song are particularly impressive. Then we are suddendly brought to "Ride With the Sun". This song is epic to say the least. It has all you can think of, guitars, strings, keyboards, etc. You know the drill if you're a power metal fan. The verse riff is a bit too generic though, a different chord progression would've helped a lot. The vocals are great, (same vocalist as Dark Moor"). Yes, it's a girl, but don't expect some stuff like Nightwish, it's just... a girl, not opera. The rest of this song flows very nicely. After 3 minutes, there's a symphonic string/choir break, it's stunning.
Next up, "Doryan The Enlightened". This is your all-around power metal song. Classical intro, generic verses, and fast solos with harmonies. A bit memorable, but nothing outstanding. "The Story Teller" is a good one though, it starts off with a very memorable acoustic guitar riff, and then comes the vocals and symphonic effects, very epic. The next song, "Fight For Your King" reminds me a lot of "Ride With the Sun" (the album's second song). The intro is almost the same thing, some strings and then a fast beat and generic chorus. There's nothing wrong with that song in particular, but a bit more originality would've been nice.
"On the Path to Fury" starts with a spooky voice. The choir in the intro is pretty damn stunning, I have to say I didn't except that. This song has pretty good solos and instrumental parts. A break from all this singing was good. This song is above average - better than the previous songs on the album. "Rebirth" shows a lot or originality in the intro, it sounds a bit oriental. It has a sort of flute that gives it an oriental feeling. Keyboards in the intro are also appreciated, something to leave this symphonic ambience. Yes, there are some strings in the back, but they don't affect the song in a negative way at all. The song ends with a little fade-out, which i prefer compared to an abrupt ending.
Now we're on #8, getting closer to the end of the album. "The Fellowship" sounds like a Lord Of The Rings type of thing. In the intro I pictured little goblins running around. The rest of the song is good, but everything starts getting old. I want new riffs, more variety! After hearing the last three songs on this album ("A Dark Omen", "The Army Of The White Mountains", and "Of Wars In Osyhria"), I am left wanting more. "Of Wars In Osyhria" is supposed to be the highlight of this album, but it's just boring, since it's all been done before, in THIS album!
So to sum it all up, this is pretty good album, except for the last 3 songs. They're not bad, but they just sound too much like the other songs on the album. However, if you're a big power metal fan, go ahead and get this album.
When I saw that a metal band actually had named themselves "Fairyland," I had to investigate.
This stuff is almost a total Rhapsody clone, minus almost any traces whatsoever of metal -- if you don't believe there's any, contrast the two and see. It's bizarre, cheesy, medieval-fantasy themed symphonic music with a female singer, namely Elisa Martin from Dark Moor. However, she's not Tarja from Nightwish -- her voice isn't much different than a male power metal singer or really Fabio from Rhapsody, and I can't always tell if there's backing non-choral male vocals or not. Also, whereas Dark Moor was a decent later-Blind-Guardian clone, this band isn't Dark Moor -- I couldn't honestly even classify Fairyland as a metal band.
I swear the first track came right out of Final Fantasy VI, except with a narrator and cheesy symphonic elements. As soon as the second track hits, you know it's flower metal, with the ONE guitar providing just a bit of noise -- there is no bass or lead guitar -- while the relentless double bass goes off like a non-medieval machinegun as the overbearing prancing keyboards suffocate everything. The keyboards on this album are FLOWERY -- they almost make Rhapsody seem crushing, but it's somehow a bit more irritating as opposed to just being laughably cheesy like Rhapsody. There's also infrequent narration in this album, just like in Rhapsody.
The first guitar solo isn't heard until 3 minutes into the third track, but it's rather impressive -- a good amount of Yngwie shredding going on there, but we want more, damn it! However, the amount of guitar soloing in this album is far eclipsed by the keyboards. The lyrical content is based on the theme of land called Osyrhia, and as you can guess, there's almost more mentions of unicorns in this than in the King James Bible (yes, they're in there).
There's a few more moments that sound almost right out of Nobuo Uematsu's playbook in tracks like On the Path to Fury, followed by the usual Rhapsody-inspired stuff. The track Rebirth... ack. Lousy ballad. The Army of the White Mountains is a neat track, however, since it's entirely a symphonic keyboard instrumental, and it's well done -- my favorite one on here.
I'll give it a 25, mostly for the skill in musicianship -- they'd be great at creating medieval-themed video game soundtracks if they left out some of the blatant Rhapsody clone elements. There's a lot worse things than this, and this does have its audience, but it's not me.