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For a while it seemed that French symphonic power metal band, Fairyland were left for dead, after the release of their 3nd CD ‘The fall of an empire’. Vocalist Max Leclercq, guitarists Anthony Parker and Thomas Cesario (who also played bass) and drummer Pierre-Emmanuel Desfray all left the band in 2007 due to internal problems. The only remaining member was founder and keyboardist, Philippe Giordana.
Giordana, not wanting to see his beloved creation fall to the wayside, began writing material for a new CD, knowing that he will eventually be able to fill the vacant positions; whether permanently or temporarily. Then in early 2009, Giordana enlisted the help of guest musicians to get Fairyland’s 3rd CD, ‘Score to a new beginning’, off the ground and released. Enlisting 2 musicians from local Nice metal bands (Fairyland also originated from Nice), Giordana acquired drummer Willdric Lievin from Hamka (which also features Fairyland’s original vocalist Elisa C. Martin) and guitarist Chris Menta from Swamp Coven. Lastly, bassist Fabio D'Amore and vocalist Marco Sandron were brought over from Italian progressive metal band, Pathosray.
Philippe Giordana also brought in other guest musicians and singers to give the new release some real depth and diversity. Some of the vocalists included Georg Neuhauser from Serenity, who sings on 5 tracks; and Klaaire from Syrayde, who sings on 3 of the tracks. Finally, there are a handful of guitarists who get to play a solo on a few selected tracks.
Sounds interesting? You better believe it. And suddenly, newfound anticipation and excitement has swirled around Fairyland, much like when they released their debut CD, ‘Of wars in osyrhia’ in 2003. The follow-up, ‘The fall of an empire’ was a solid release, but dip in quality (in my opinion) and I felt that a few Fairyland fans may have jumped off the bandwagon since. Now ‘Score to a new beginning’ has arrived, full of new hope and passion; directly from the musical mind of Philippe Giordana.
Focusing mainly on the keyboards, with now Giordana having free range on how the music should be; there is now more creativeness and melody. There is also an adequate balance between the keys/symphonic elements and the guitars. Giordana is an absolute master throughout the CD, giving the performance of a lifetime; and it is obvious that he is enjoying having full control of the songwriting and structure. Sounding much like they did on their debut, we see a grand return of the epic orchestral elements, like big movie scores, particularly on the tracks “Master of the waves” and “Rise of the giants”. There are many spectacular synth solos throughout, but not to be outdone by the wicked guitar solos from the numerous axemen that sweep through the CD.
Guest vocalist Marco Sandron is quite strong on ‘Score to a new beginning’. With a great voice full of emotion, melody and passion; he is backed up well by the big booming choirs and the cast of guest singers. Sounding similar to both Tim “Ripper” Owens and Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), Sandron has brilliant range and can hit the high notes without feeling any strain at all. Somewhat aggressive in style, Sandron gives a great performance throughout, but especially on the fierce track “Godsent”; and hopefully he could be used again in any future Fairyland endeavours.
Blowing me away with such a fantastic release, the magical journey begins with the brilliant “Across the endless sea part II”. After an almost tribal drumming build up, the rumbling double-bass drum kicks in, followed by orchestras and soaring synths. The big choirs during the chorus’ are so emotional and they play a huge part in the CD as a whole. The next track “Assault on the shore” is very catchy, with another big dose of symphonic power metal. The whole CD is fabulous from beginning to end, concluding with the 9-minute epic title track “Score to a new beginning”.
Symphonic power metal fans rejoice for Fairyland have returned to glory. ‘Score to a new beginning’ is by far Fairyland’s best release. Acclaim must be given to Philippe Giordana for being able to resurrect what really is his band. All the guest musicians and singers have done a great job in Giordana’s time of need, and this CD proves that you don’t need an all-star cast to produce a brilliant piece of work. That being said, fans of “metal opera” CDs like Avantasia and Soulspell will love what Fairyland have created with ‘Score to a new beginning’.
Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com
The fact that this album happened and that Fairyland is still in existence is a bit miraculous considering the history. Soon after putting together a classic debut, his longtime compatriot, formerly lead vocalist and fellow composer Willdric Lievin left and took with him the charismatic front woman and former Dark Moor vocalist Elisa Martin, allegedly over creative differences. Undeterred keyboardist and creative force Phillipe Giordana pushed ahead and outdid his former band mates’ offering “Unearth” with Fairyland’s magnum opus “Fall Of An Empire”. Following this landmark achievement in symphonic metal greatness, virtuoso guitarist Anthony Parker and the rest of the reformed lineup left and Phillipe was left once again with the daunting task of making lightning strike in the same place 3 times with yet another completely reformed band.
“Score To A New Beginning” sees this band coming full circle in some respects, in spite of the fact that it is a single songwriter with an entire melodic metal guild of guest slots. Former founder and expert drummer Willdric Lievin has found himself back in the studio under the Fairyland moniker, even if only in a limited basis, assisting in putting together an album that is a good bit closer in sound to “Of Wars In Osyrhia”. The largeness of the production definitely tilts a tiny bit towards the grandiose sound of the last album, but the compact songwriting and largely atmospheric symphony orchestra of keyboard driven sounds here is definitely a hearkening back to the early days of this band. The themes are a bit further away from Rhapsody than they used to be, moving closer to modern film score sounds characteristic of Danny Elfman, John Williams, and those of other famous Hollywood blockbusters, while the Neo-classicism and Malmsteen characteristics have been heavily downplayed.
The primary thing to understand about Fairyland is that it is driven by just about everything except for riffs. Although it is not a Finnish or Italian power metal band, it traces most of its influences from both scenes, thus tends to place more emphasis on keyboards, drums, and vocals. When emphasis is placed on the guitar, it is usually during the solo sections, a place where every band in this genre is expected to hold their own and place on a pedestal of equal prominence with their large sounding choruses. On this album, as he lacks a singular dominant guitar soloist that could hold a candle to Parker, Giordana calls upon 8 different guitarists to offer up their chops, and the results are oddly consistent, though very different. There aren’t any overt attempts at recreating the wild sweep picking steeped leads of the past two albums, which rivaled and arguably may have surpassed Luca Turilli in some instances, but instead a syllabic set of lead lines that tend to resemble what would be heard on a Freedom Call album. It’s unclear whether Giordana set down specific guidelines on how the soloists were to play or if he simply approved each one, but regardless, he may as well have employed the services of one single player who sounds a bit like Cedric Dupont.
The one area where things have changed in a really noticeable way is the vocal work of Marco Sandron. His style is a bit edgier and tends towards a more aggressive, power/thrash character of vocalizing that is normally associated with bands such as Outworld and Symphony X. The rougher shouts heard particularly on “Assault On The Shore” definitely has a Russell Allen tinge to it, though during chorus sections he will often smooth things out and take on a lighter character in line with this band’s past. At times he goes a tiny bit overboard on the theatrics and upstages the entire arrangement, particularly on the latter half of the album when the tension of the album’s concept builds its way to its climax on the title song. When accounting for all of the programmatic devices at work, spearheaded by the overture to epilogue format of the album, Marco’s auditory showmanship is largely appropriate, though definitely different from what most have come to expect from this band.
Though by the standards of this style this is an excellent release, it does come up a bit short in a few respects. The hooks are definitely still in play, but what often goes on aside from the choruses and solos has this feeling of holding on too long, almost as if a bit of Wagnerian thought has seeped into Giordana’s composing. It’s only particularly noticeable on longer songs such as the title track and “Master Of The Waves”, but the whole flow of the album doesn’t quite have the classic sense of running towards an impending end like an army on galloping steeds. It’s basically the difference between a great album and a true classic, but it is something that can be easily heard when listening to these albums in relatively close succession. Giordana seems to be moving closer and closer to writing movie soundtracks without the movie than he is writing albums, and the further downplaying of the guitars tends to suggest a shifting loyalty towards symphony and away from metal. Nonetheless, if the previous two albums agreed with your ears and you don’t mind a massive number of musicians being included in the making of an album, this is a worthwhile album.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 16, 2009.
Remember Fairyland? That’s this French band which one day woke up thinking Rhapsody sounded cool and decided to copy it in every aspect, including the inept fantasy story to follow from one album to another. I first discovered them with their 2003 album Of Wars in Osyrhia, and it was terrible. Six years later it still is, in spite of the departure of all the former members who at one time or another must have realized there wouldn’t ever be anything worthwhile coming from all this. And please note this isn’t another gratuitous rant from another Rhapsody hater. I happen to really like Rhapsody’s early works, before Luca Turilli turned that band into a grotesque vehicle for his own megalomania. Indeed, I’m not ashamed to confess I’ve always shown a dubious inclination for melody. I definitely don’t mind some sugar in my metal – the little touch necessary to enhance the taste. But Fairyland just missed the point completely: instead of keeping the best of Rhapsody – the classical and baroque influences – they chose to copy the worst – the cretin story no one ever cares for, the megalomania, the pomp.
Those guys (or, rather, this guy – keyboardist Phil Giordana is now alone, other contributors here are considered guest musicians) are nothing less than the Within Temptation of power metal. Don’t care about writing good, memorable songs. Don’t care about writing good lyrics. Don’t care about, well, MELODY. Drown everything under ten tons of synthetic orchestral junk, and pray for the listener not to discover the trick. Reading the booklet there are not less than SEVENTEEN musicians involved in this release. Waste of time, waste of energy: most of the time all you’ll be prominently hearing is Mr Giordana, his keyboards and computers, backed by some monkey endlessly abusing his poor triggered double bass and snare. Alright I’m pushing it too far, the drummer isn’t that terrible, in fact he might even be the only musician here worth any attention, but the drums are simply sounding terrible.
Because speaking of the guitars... well, there ARE guitars, as surprising as it may sound, because outside of the solos they’re pretty hard to distinguish. And coming to said solos, I’m still wondering why Giordana bothered to recruit so many guests (no less than eight) to play those as they all more or less sound the same, once again complete Luca Turilli arpeggios worship, which in turn is complete Yngwie Malmsteen worship so there isn’t anything revolutionary to be expected there. Without mentioning most of them are pretty short, so it’s very easy to lose them into the orchestral mud. Probably did Mr Giordana purposely kept them discrete, expecting in comparison his own keyboards solos would shine. Hell, let’s be honest, the guy is indeed a terrible composer, but as a musician he isn’t especially bad. Awfully common and clichéd, like his songwriting; but not bad, unlike his songwriting.
There’s a plethora of singers as well, though most of them are only contributing to backing vocals, and once again the result doesn’t live up to the means employed. The lead voice is high-pitched with no real personality while the choirs are useless at best, grotesque at worst. There’s a slight touch of female vocals which by themselves are pretty good, not a single bit pop-ish or whatever, but nonetheless so scarce there’s no way they could redeem the overall failure this album is.
Of course any in-depth analysis of the individual tracks wouldn’t be of any use, because under the orchestral turd the most absolute void reigns, though again cliché will be the key word. There’s the orchestral intro. There’s the ballad (A Soldier’s Letter), complete with occasional acoustic guitars – but still no melody, no emotion, only pomp. There’s the instrumental (Rise of the Giants) which, unlike most of its counterparts serving as good pretexts for the guitarists to fully display their skills, here is only another pseudorchestral crapfest. There’s the epic (the title track), another epic failure indeed. And just when you thought after 45 minutes of indigestible wandering there finally is a single inspired melody, you know, something pleasant to hear, at this very moment you also realize you’ve heard it before – Bob Dylan. Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. That’s a coincidence, a mere coincidence, and I’ll never pretend anything else, but notice the irony: for once the guy had a genuine idea, someone already had the same forty years before!
Well, that might work as a proof nothing can be totally worthless, as at least it gave me the idea to listen to Dylan again. However if you want to check some good orchestral power metal, go with Thy Majestie instead.
Fairyland is an interesting act to follow. They started with a female singer, then they switched the lineup and got a male singer, and then every member except the keyboardist-songwriter Philippe Giordana left the band. Some bands may have given up, but Philippe took a different approach to the album - instead of recruiting a new lineup, he focused on hiring a motley crew of guest musicians. Sounds interesting, right? It certainly is.
Forewarning: Fall of an Empire is a standard to which I have and always will hold this band. Excuse the constant comparisons to the album.
Unlike Avantasia or Ayreon, Fairyland's guest musicians are from fairly obscure power/prog groups instead of famous musicians such as Jorn Lande or Michael Kiske. We have several musicians from the criminally unheard of Pathosray alongside Serenity, Heavenly, Benighted Soul, and even more. Each member does a brilliant job with their instruments, though it's almost impossible to discern one from the other if you aren't familiar with the musicians themselves. My favorite part of the album is the vocals - Assault On The Shore is one of the catchiest songs in Fairyland's catalogue. Godsent is powerful and doesn't let go, throwing some ridiculously high notes at you. The vocals range from rough to clean, from choral to one person hitting a note way out of the park. The backing choral vocals that have become common in Fairyland's music are still here and sound the same as they did in Fall of an Empire (such as the chorus to The Walls of Laemnil). The pronunciation is rarely messy, except for the word "thunder" which is pronounced like "tender" - the first song, Across The Endless Sea Part II, uses a couple of lyrics that are a throwback to Part I, and the pronunciation hasn't changed at all, which is a nice touch of reminiscence, but a little lazy.
The keyboards are the main focus of this album. Fall of an Empire had a perfect balance and harmony between the guitars and keyboards, and with the absence of a permanent lineup, it seems like Philippe has even more room to breathe. From classic synth leads in the solos (Assault on the Shore), to classic piano introductions (Across The Endless Sea Part II) to something that sounds perfectly fit for a film score (Master of the Waves), Philippe puts everything he knows to the best of their abilities. He truly shines in the title track, with an absolutely gorgeous harp introduction that seamlessly flows into a mix of choirs, strings, and native drums that are sure to stick in your head for a long time.
However, there is something missing. While some songs have amazing, memorable vocal lines, something is missing that made Fall of an Empire so wonderful. Empire was long and varied with fourteen songs of all kinds of styles and interlude tracks. Score to a New Beginning is not even fifty minutes with only ten tracks, two of which are the introduction and outro. With the addition of many guest musicians, I think what this lacks is consistency. You have Philippe's musical genius, but gone is the simple magic that came from a band of five. Not to say the album is a letdown - it lived up to my expectations in almost every way - but there really is a magic that is missing that you can hear on Fall of an Empire.
Score isn't as catchy as its predecessor. I partially blame the members of the band who rudely abandonded Phil. Max Leclercq's voice matched the Fairyland sound *perfectly* and I can hear moments on this album where he should've been singing, not the guest vocalists. That's the most disappointing part of the guest project for me. Don't misunderstand me, though. The guest musicians are wonderfully talented, but when you listen to Empire, you hear something magical. Max's vocal lines followed by the blistering guitar solo from Anthony Parker in the title track is one of my favorite things the band has done. You hear this solid chemistry between the band members and a crystal clear sound from each instrument that I've been unable to catch in Score, even after multiple listens. The album is very busy, with what feels at times like an entire choir and orchestra backing a thunderous metal band. It will take a few listens to fully sink in, and you'll hear something new every time you give the record a spin.
Long story short, Score To A New Beginning is a brilliant follow-up to Fall of an Empire, and an amazing effort on Philippe Giordana's part for going through the unexpected problems in the band and continuing in such a way. A true work of art, Score to a New Beginning is an album that every fan of power metal should check out. It is an epic journey that will have you begging for much more. It is a relatively short album clocking in at only fifty minutes and it's more complex and slightly less catchy than I was expecting it to be, but in the end it truly is an amazing album. Personally, I have one big problem, and that is how long I have to wait between a symphonic band's albums. Well, here's to Fairyland. The wait was entirely worth it.