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The power metal revival and branch out effect that inevitably followed in the late 90s was a curious occurrence, something of a conservative revolt against the so-called newer genres of music. But at the same time, the resulting movement wasn’t totally closed off to innovation, and often the biggest gripes thrown at the scene by older heavy metal purists are the occasional off-kilter influences. In the thick of this are bands that incorporated a very blunt amount of symphonic influences, largely imported from Malmsteen and latter day Helloween. They’ve since become a massive sub-genre onto themselves, largely hailing from Italy and Germany, but recently a number of prominent bands have come out of the less fertile metallic grounds of France.
Kerion is a band that not only shares membership in this scene; they are the personification of every aspect of it, none of them fully exploited per say, but all of them very present. It wouldn’t be out of line to label this band as Dark Moor-lite, quasi-Fairyland, weekend Rhapsody (Of Fire), or occasionally Nightwish, as bits and pieces can be found in any number of their songs. But the one thing that tends to come up short is that uniquely distinctive element that each of said band contains. In fact, the background chorus input of Fairyland composer Philippe Giordana tends to make this band sound like more of a knockoff of said band than an independent entity, though to be fair; their sophomore effort in “The Origins” is not the speeding beast that was “Of Wars In Osyrhia”.
But for all intents and purposes, being generic sounding doesn’t always mean worthless, and this album does have a fair share of redeeming elements. Granted, there are also a handful of awkward elements and moments that keep this album from fully taken off. Things start off on a reasonably solid note with a typical symphonic “Prelude”, followed by a typical speed metal infused cooker in “Time Of Fantasy”, which ironically features a powerful male lead vocalist in a more prominent role than the principle one in Flora Spinelli. It proves to be a bit of a double edged sword as the somewhat lackluster range of the latter is fully exposed for the rest of the album. In similar fashion, the band falls into the “Something Wicked This Way Comes” trap of mixing overt pop/rock elements into their ballad work, resulting in a catchy yet also annoyingly repetitious number in “We Will Go”, and a longer and slightly less awkward continuation of the same trend in “Angels Of The Last Hope”.
Putting aside the mixed bag approach that often crops up from one song to next, overall this is a bit of an improvement to “Holy Creatures Quest”, owing primarily to some slightly better songwriting and occasionally some clarity of influence. When taking the shorter and streamlined power metal that emerges in “Dark Isle”, “Black Fate, and even the extended version of a largely similar approach in “Requiem Of The Black Rose” (which sounds like it was lifted right off of “Symphony Of Enchanted Lands”), things definitely take on a more triumphant feel. But at the same time, when looking at the heavily predictable riff set and the largely Anthony Parker meets Luca Turilli solos, the feeling of majesty and high fantasy still sounds like it’s lost a tiny bit of its potency.
It’s somewhat odd that this band has existed for almost as long as most of the founders of this genre and yet didn’t really come into any level of prominence until just a few years ago. While I might not have been any more enthralled by this band had this album been put out in 2002 where it would have come off as far more original, it is definitely a valid point to argue that this band lives in a different era. While they will probably never be able to shake their generic nature, if they laid off on the quirky balladry and actually focused on writing triumphant power/speed metal songs with the obligatory symphonic tendencies oozing from every corner, they’d be all the better for it. But even as a lesser, diluted effort, there will definitely be an audience for this band amongst the base of every similar sounding band mentioned earlier.
Kerion discouraged me an awful lot with its first release, the inferior Holy Creatures Quest. But, being the forgiving fellow that I am, I've decided to give the band another chance with their most recent release. I learned after I heard the first album that Phillipe Giordana was indeed involved with the choral arrangements, and that he had done the same with The Origins. So, figuring that at the very worst, this would be another opportunity to hear Giordana's great work, I dove right in.
Musically, The Origins is a significant improvement over the band's previous effort. Everything sounds tighter and melodies are much better developed and more memorable. The guitar lines stand out prominently at times above the backdrop, which has mostly resolved itself into a cohesive and purposeful force rather than a muddled mess. The choirs are just as good as I wanted them to be, and are, next to some of the guitar leads, the most enjoyable part of the experience here. Though admittedly, they still sound much better on a Fairyland album, where the lead vocalist strengthens the effect.
That's right, I'm on again about a vocalist. Flora Spinelli is, plain and simple, not cut out for power metal. I mentioned this in my previous review, but now that she is single-handedly holding her band back, this topic deserves some special attention. Her vocals are mostly in key, her pronunciation is a bit tenuous but acceptable, and she certainly doesn't overpower the music, so what's the issue here? Well, put bluntly, the problem is energy. Her voice is most often very dead and flat. I'm not talking a quarter-tone low here, I mean just devoid of emotion and any real feeling. She sings like many an unenthusiastic choir-girl that I knew back in high school, like it's an obligation. This is represented on just about every single track here. The band's music has grown and matured since their debut, so it's very disappointing to see that the lead vocals are now the single large problem rather than one of many.
Kerion has a pretty decent offering here, and unlike Holy Creatures Quest, this one doesn't belong in the bargain bin next to Power Symphony's Lightbringer. With a passionate and energetic singer, Kerion could be a solid B-grade power metal band (read: not a genre leader, but consistently enjoyable) at this point in their career. I've learned that I am hardly alone in this sentiment, and I sincerely hope that Kerion makes a change or two or they'll find themselves lumped in forever with the “good band with a bad singer” pile that everyone mentions wistfully from time to time.
Originally written for www.blackwindmetal.blogspot.com/