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It may further solidify the view in certain quarters that I have a predetermined bias in favor of not only symphonic power metal, but particularly the female fronted variety (my disapproval of Power Symphony and post-Tarja Nightwish not withstanding), but I’m going to have to depart with the conventional wisdom regarding this album and this band. Yes, it can be easily argued that this sub-genre is saturated with players of varying ability, but the so-called intolerable travesty against metal that is Kerion is hardly suited for such infamy. There is a clear line between being horrid and simply being generic, and the goofily named debut “Holy Creatures Quest” is simply the latter, and not too bad all things considered.
To any fellow connoisseurs of this fairly popular style of musically depicting conceptual, fantasy based stories, the influences on here are about as blatant and unapologetic as can be fathomed. Oozing from each rapid based double bass beat, galloping riff, shimmering orchestral lines and heavily present keyboard additives, and a smattering of folksy lead guitar lines and obligatory sweep picking solos is just about every noteworthy band in the style from Spain to the Italian peninsula. Sometimes it’s the majestic speed and pomp of Fairyland‘s “Of Wars In Osyrhia“ (which is unavoidable given that Philippe Giordana arranged the chorus sections) , at others the conventional power metal leanings of Dark Moor circa “The Hall Of Olden Dreams”, and there’s even a few helpings of the mystique and eastern influences of “Hamka”.
As if this weren’t enough to inform the hapless chump who thinks that every album needs to be 100% original that this isn‘t his preferred poison, this band sports a vocalist in Flora Spinelli that can’t mask an overt attempt at emulating Elise Martin at every possible turn. She definitely falls short in this task as her voice doesn’t have nearly as much power, particularly on those obligatory high notes that made classics like “Ride With The Sun” and “Doryan The Enlightened” so captivating. Nevertheless, as a mid-ranged alto or a mezzo soprano with very little high range to speak of, her work on here is sufficient, though definitely a bit less than what is generally expected in this genre.
Be all of this as it may, the overall contents of this album are entertaining and moderately catchy. The highlights generally tend to be where the band embraces their orthodoxy and turns on the speed engines, particularly in the case of “Warrior’s Call”, which is right out of the Rhapsody (Of Fire) playbook with a sailing chorus and the familiar flash and flair in the instrumental department. The somewhat slower and slightly progressive “March Of The Legion” mixes some groovy lines and off-kilter effects (for this genre anyway) and also presents a solid chorus section. The intro and “Last Quest” double feature that kicks things off as also pretty solid, though heavily derivative of the Fairyland approach to the point of sounding like a knockoff, and a similar story is found in the closing epic “Final Strike”, though there’s a smattering of acoustic sections that sound somewhat different and almost folk/rock influenced to change things up slightly.
While definitely far from the greatest thing I’ve ever heard out of the female fronted power metal style, and pretty much 2nd tier for the narrower field of power metal bands to come out of France in the past decade or so, this is something that can be enjoyed by those addicted to this style and maybe even a handful of occasional listeners. I can’t say I hear the massive flaws that drag this thing into the proverbial gutter of all things revolting that certain parties have asserted dominate much of the listen, and I question if I am listening to the same album that they did. But anyway, for high-flying technical musicianship and a just par for the course vocal delivery, this is a pretty safe and predictable bet.
With all of the great releases that I've been finding on Metalodic Records, I decided to pick out Kerion's first album Holy Creatures Quest to familiarize myself with them before moving on to their latest effort. After having done so, I'm afraid my expectations for The Origins have become a bit stunted. I've spent a lot of time lately talking about how exciting and fresh the new symphonic power metal talent is, and now I run into this... thing.
Kerion is a French band and has more in common with Edenbridge than with, say, Nightwish. The lead female vocalist, Flora Spinelli, tends more towards the middle range without reaching extremely high. This is probably a good thing, because whenever she tries to reach a bit, her voice becomes quite thin and almost wavery. This is unfortunate, because the band really doesn't do a horrible job of choral vocals, and the leads actually serve to pull them down. Flora's vocals aren't absolutely atrocious, but I can think of a dozen better off of the top of my head.
What harms the band even further is the lack of catchy melodies. After the intro track, the second part of “The Last Quest” features probably the most memorable verse and chorus on the entire album. Unfortunately, this is pretty readily put to shame by the like of Rhapsody or Ancient Bards. The second two-part song, “Queen of the Gorgons”, is just plain dull (Spinelli has monotonous low vocals until about three minutes into the song) all the way through, but I perked up at the beginning of “Warrior's Call”, which sounded like it might have some real promise and a bit of edge. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the very worst vocal performance on the album, which ruined what might have been an otherwise acceptable symphonic power metal anthem. To their credit, Kerion's choral vocal sections remind me a bit of Fairyland's, and there are some good riffs thrown in here and there that hold some promise.
Despite some good rhythmic guitar riffing, the songs feel a bit muddy in composition. The melodic lines do not flow smoothly (though often enough, these are lacking anyways), and the band seems to rely too often upon instrumental sections to prolong and enhance their music. The problem with this is that while they seem to have intentions of writing epic music, they fall very flat instrumentally. There's precious little in the way of usual epic bombast to support the ridiculous lyricism and admittedly bland story. We power metal fans don't mind ridiculous titles and lyrics, but the line has to be drawn somewhere (namely, at poor to mediocre music).
This is not a very pleasant listen for people who enjoy well-established and talented power metal. Those just getting into the genre might find it thrilling and powerful for a little while, until they discover other, much more talented bands. Really, odds are that you're going to have heard an awful lot before you dig up this gilded piece of junk anyways, so just don't bother. Kerion and its lead vocalist are going to have to improve their game considerably (and maybe take some voice lessons) if they hope to make any sort of headway in their chosen field.
Originally written for www.blackwindmetal.blogspot.com/
Now you know me. I love power metal. I love symphonic power metal. I was just a wee young lad of 21 when I listened to Holy Creatures Quest, and at first, I was delighted. "Oh boy," I thought, "a Dark Moor doppelganger! It's like listening to Elisa and the gang again!" Unfortunately, my delight ended at that very moment, because I swiftly realized that this seeming Dark Moor clone was lacking in one major department: Kerion can't write music to save their lives.
The first track, "Intro-Last Quest," is a damning sign of things to come--terrible keyboard synths that meander about with no real direction, paper-thin and lifeless drumming, even thinner guitar tones, and the super-thin level of talent residing inside Flora Spinelli, who offers absolutely zero refuge amidst this raging shit storm. Oh, sure, this intro starts getting interesting two-thirds of the way through, but is quickly thrown aside for sloppy arpeggio-humping guitar solos. And those horrible synths never--ever--stop.
"Queen of the Gorgons" begins with a half-assed acoustic...something, but it's not long before those abominable keyboard noises take center stage yet again. And then, oh my God, look out everyone! Here come those guitars to play even more light-speed scales and arpeggios! Sadly, this is one of the better tracks, as the bulk of the song doesn't offend me as much as most everything else on the album. It's mid-paced, it's boring, and the keyboard synths will make you want to strangle somebody, but this is about as good as it gets.
Example: "The Alchemist" starts off promising enough, with tinny triangle-esque notes and some deep piano keys punctuating. But the keys become aimless, a harp enters and exits with no consequence, some terrible synthy guitar shit starts weee-oooo-weeee-oooo-ing all over the place, and this awful 4-minute pseudo-epic is only beginning to go on its merry way. More mid-paced power-chord garbage with Flora's terrible, ill-fitting vocals. That's pretty much the entire theme of Holy Creatures Quest: start every song with fairly interesting intros, lead into shitty mid-paced dreck, and then end after 4-6 minutes without any fanfare.
There are some fast songs, but they're just as unimpressive as the aforementioned. In fact, the only songs that even approaches overall decency are the album's token ballad, "Breath of Heaven," and the album's token blazin'-fast track, "Warriors Call." The former works only because it's melodic and catchy without being annoying, but at over 6 minutes long, it wears its welcome very thin. The latter is just your generic speed/power metal anthem, and it doesn't do anything to really distinguish itself, except by being better than the garbage surrounding it.
There's really not much else to say about the music itself. Every song is either generic or terrible, and a quick look at the people behind this train wreck can give some insight into what went wrong. First off, the keyboard player is a guest and not a permanent member; THIS EXPLAINS A LOT. Second, all of these songs were written by the one guitarist; this also explains a lot, particularly the reason why they're all so uniformly unlistenable. Third and finally, there is a dude in the band whose sole job is to write the "story" of the album. And that's all he does. Dude, can't you see your band mates are having trouble even writing music? Maybe you should, I dunno, help them before you go writing about your little gorgons and minotaurs and shit?
I'm not quite as angry at Holy Creatures Quest as I was 2 years ago, but I'm still disappointed and disgusted by what I hear. There is no sugarcoating it, folks: this album sucks. This album is for no one, except maybe your worst enemies. Holy Creatures Quest is nothing but audio vitriol, designed only to inflict pain on its listener as if it were a weapon. Actually, now that I think about it, given the lyrical themes about fighting big bad monsters, maybe that's what the folks at Kerion were going for...