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This album was at first disappointing to me, as I expected some Virgin Steel, Manowar, Rhapsody of Fire charging Italian Power Metal. Instead what I heard was this NWOBHM-ish epic with shades of old Rainbow and Wagner's Valkyries. Rainbow screamer Graham Bonnet is all over this album, and he's sounding better than most of the other guys his age singing this classic metal style, still sounding pretty old though. But hey. pretty easy to forgive him after the stuff he did with Yngwie.
So, I listened to this a bunch of times and ended up getting way more out of it when I did. It's just the fake symphonics that got in my way at first, but the songs are really good with all kinds of killer guitar. The album opens with "Coronation" which sounds kind of like Rainbow's "Long Live Rock 'N Roll" but with more shreddy guitar playing. Bonnet really brings out the Rainbow on this one, but it's got those Valkyries flying around too. I think my favorite song on this album is "Palace Guard", with all kinds of Manowar type choirs, crazy Allan Holdsworthian lead guitar, and the best I've heard Bonnet in decades.
"Errandia" is another killer song, really long and epic with about a million great riffs and changes. I'd go as far as to call it beautiful where the guitar plays over the orchestra backing, it's just too bad about the orchestra probably being some bargain basement software.
Anyway, definitely get this, it's got so much going on at least some of it will grab you.
This is the project that has so far been notable not only for the participation of Graham Bonnet, but for its shamelessly hyperbolic and self-promoting press releases. Terms like "Wagnerian Opera Metal, Defined" and "Heavy Metal Maestro" get bandied about. And how does the music shape up after all this hooplah? Well, there are bits of the Wagnerian on a few tracks, and the (canned) members of the orchestra do show, but this is more Deep Rainbow Sabbath than anything particularly Byzantine.
It's also damn good, definitely one of the most interesting classic metal/hard rock releases of the past few years. There are 4 songs with Bonnet, and one song apiece by Tommy Heart (whom some might remember from Uli Roth's Sky of Avalon) and leather-lunged Veronica Freeman of Benedictum. "Coronation" opens with a Valkyrian flourish, then settles into a very Blackmore's Rainbow groove, with Bonnet sounding quite good considering his wear. This is the catchiest track on the record, with some almost Disney-esque Bonnet backing vocals. It's also an obvious favorite; any fan of classic Deep Purple or Rainbow would find something to like about this track. "Palace Guard" features Bonnet again, this time in a suitably Manowar-esque setting. The big choir parts sound like they could have come off some German power metal album. This one is more progressive, with plenty of changes and ripping guitar solos. This song underscores just how guitar-dominated Lyraka Volume 1; the lead guitar is far more prevalent throughout this album than anything symphonic (though there's that as well). Bonnet sounds particularly incendiary during the verses, but he turns in a delightfully melodic turn during the long, well orchestrated midsection. "Scatherus" is the one track sung by Veronica Freeman, and could be most closely aligned with the more extreme side of metal. Ms. Freeman is known to be somewhat of a Dio disciple vocally, but she actually sounds a bit more like Paul Di'anno (classic Iron Maiden) here. Either way, this song is like the title, scathing, both on vocal and lead guitar levels.
"Errandia" is close to 13 minutes long, with involved orchestration and a lot of lead guitar (the latter courtesy of one Andy DiGelsomina), and it's that very length that wears the proceedings a bit thin for me. The orchestral passages range from gorgeous to freaked-out, almost psychedelic dissonance, and though impressively well written, some might feel these long passages are pushing things time-wise . Bonnet turns in a surprisingly level vocal here, emoting quite well given his tuneful-belter reputation. Overall this song sounds influenced by the Mob Rules eras of the Sabs, with a side helping of some eccentric composer like Allan Pettersson. Errandia is also probably the most musically interesting track, and for me the dissonances were conducive to repeated listens.
One of the main gripes about this album involves the apparently canned orchestral accompinaments, and I think the proceedings will probably benefit from reissue with a "real" orchestra tracking over the too obvious plug-ins. Neires is the track that Tommy Heart sings on, and has an interesting stew of styles. I hear classic rock, metal, COUNTRY (yes I know) and even some operaticizing by Heart in the midsection. Speaking of Heart, this is the heaviest I've heard him; but then I'm mostly familiar with his Glam rock work with Fair Warning. There's also some very beautiful, almost Celtic violin playing. I wonder how enthused fans of Rainbow or Alcatrazz or will be with this kind of "variety". Oddly, as all over the place as this song is, it fits together in a very compelling way. As for the aforementioned Rainbow fans, they will most probably be appeased by the cd closer, "Beyond the Palace." Starting out in spirit like that old Dio favorite, "Heaven and Hell", this track features all the mythical fantasizing of Rainbow and probably the album's best solo by DiGelsomina. It goes on too long at the end, which again aligns it with the classic "Stargazer" tradition, but there it is. Bonnet even hits a very pleasing, Plant-like "let me take you there" at the rapturous fade out. Great stuff, and I would even venture to assert the Bonnet tracks here as vying with some of the best in his career. Really.
From what I've read, not only Bonnet but old Yngwie-shrieker Mark Boals will be on board for the 2nd album. Count me in.