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Sarah Jezebel Deva latest release after touring with bands like Mortiis, Cradle of Filth, and Therion is different but amazing. Her debut album, "A Sign of Sublime" is heavy with distorted guitars, dark and atmospheric with keyboards, beautiful with her voice behind the mike, and has galloping drums. Her solo album has more guitars than bands like "Within Temptation", and even Sarah's past band "Angtoria", a band which was good, but fell flat on its face.
Though the music is labeled symphonic gothic metal it really does not have that many dominant orchestral parts, infact this album is heavier than her past band Angtoria; I don't mean just by having the guitar's presence being acknowledged a little bit more, I mean other than vocals, it's the main instrument. But there are exceptions, tracks like "New Born Failure", "The Dvil's Opera" and "Daddy's Not Coming Home" are much more orchestral or ambient. The bass is not as noticable, only really in the fourth track, and most of that is lower instruments like cello and double bass, and bass drum.
I feel that the recording of this album is not the best quality and that it can sound better, but that might also be true for the song writing in general. The meledies and harmonies work together, especially in the title track for this album. Alone the melody for this track is really off the wall and weird but the harmony gives it substance and makes sound tasteful. The lyrics are better than the lyrics out of Angtoria's "God Has A Plan For Us All", and she shows off her lyrics in the most black metal influenced song "They Called Her Lady Tyranny". "Relives her fears with a skin stained belt, it’s a feeling like you’ve never felt, to watch her flesh and blood deflate agony reflects, glass eyes dilate". Though I hate the rhyming it is catchy and memorable.
Highlights: She Stands Like Stone, The Devil's Opera, They Called Her Lady Tyranny, and Your Woeful Chair
Laddies and gentlewomen, behold…the first solo album from that dulcet ghostly songstress, Sarah Jezebel Deva. This is a name that even those of the non-blackened metal variety should at least be familiar with just out of guilt by association alone. Never mind her dalliances with MYSTIC CIRCLE, MORTIIS, and the somewhat failed experiment known as ANGTORIA…at the end of the day it all comes back to her tenure with CRADLE OF FILTH, and how such a tenure became less and less of itself as time and subsequent albums would progress. For me, it was a shame that she would end up dropping out of probably the biggest band she’ll ever perform with, but on that same token I totally understood; once the vocal parts meant for her ended up in the hands and throats of more well-known and virtually UN-known singers, the shit that was destined to hit the fan did so with the force of cannon fire, and it seemed high time for Lady Deva to turn high tail and depart without resorting to conjuring up her last namesake.
And now that she’s back to recording music (potentially HER way), will she be able to make it on her own? Let’s find out…
Despite the music containing that COF-ish gothicly dramatic touch, this here solo album seems like an entity all its own. The overall sound is metallic in a quite broad way, with Sarah’s vocals being the primary focus and the backing band taking the most extreme of back seats. The good thing in this regard is that Ms. Deva has a strong voice that doesn’t venture into bothersome theatrics; she neither overdoes pop star ambitions ala Annete Olzon nor scrapes that precious voice box raw in a defiant, irritating way like Angela Gossow, and instead brings to life an inky, black-clad curtain with a powerful, clean/operatic approach that fits the musical scheme of things rather well (despite those moments where she warbles off-key), and in some ways she’s better here than her one-time musical association, as she doesn’t have to fight a front man for face time. But unfortunately, there is a cross to bear with musical solo acts…when the main focus is the singer at hand, the backing band suffers from being more than simply ignored and their performance ends up being a background affair that could be seen as possibly unnecessary. Which is a bit of a shame, as the backing players’ symphonic gothic metal noodlings are well-focused and entertaining in their own right, where the orchestral keyboards, scratchy guitar/bass riffs, and power-metallic percussion come together in an above-average way, despite a lack of punch and staying power when attempting to poke through the main vocal approach. And when everyone is on, they’re truly on, as shown by the likes of “She Stands Like Stone” and “The Devil’s Opera”, sheltering the weaker filler tracks of “A Sign of Sublime” and “They Called Her Lady Tyranny”. Still…for a first entry, this could’ve ended up sounding far worse.
All in all Sarah’s latest musical entry since washing the filth away is pretty decent, albeit flawed and needing a few of the edges smoothed out. Maybe time will be friendly to her should she continue down this musical path and future works will knock us dead. In that case, I say keep it up, Lady.
While I have to admit I can’t prevent myself from feeling some sympathy for Sarah Jezebel Deva essentially for her previous work with Therion, I also have to admit nothing she’s done after said work so far seems to be worth more than a mere curiosity-motivated couple of listens. Indeed, if she may excel as an essential piece of an otherwise more complex puzzle, she obviously still lacks the strength and talent to carry the load on her shoulders alone. Angtoria for instance is a terrible band, but in her defence she isn’t the songwriter there. Now with this new eponymous project Sarah tries herself at writing songs, in addition of doing all the vocals and, you know, it’s a tad better than Angtoria. At least you can hear the guitars; it’s metal, no doubt.
... I mean, on the metal songs. On nine tracks (and a rather short album, 38 minutes for the regular edition), four aren’t metal to begin with, but more like standard junk orchestral music (Genesis, the Devil’s Opera), ambient (A Newborn Failure) or piano-driven pop music (Daddy’s Not Coming Home). Granted, those are still a minority, but the whole work would probably have been more coherent, and better, without them – not to say, provided it’s taken out of context, A Newborn Failure (about an abortion?) isn’t entirely devoid of its own dark emotional touch. Now coming to the rest of the tracks they’re of course heavily orchestrated, probably far too heavily orchestrated, but that remains overall decent.
Actually pretty much everything here could sum up to this word, decent. Decent orchestral metal (as usual, I won’t use the term gothic, one of the most misleading and overused ever). The drums sometimes sound a tad artificial, but still not as triggered as on your random power metal recording, and the guy behind the kit knows his job, though he’s obviously never been asked to play anything particularly technical either. The bass is hard to distinguish, what seems to be an inherent characteristic of this kind of music. The guitars show a not unpleasant slightly raspy sound, with occasional hints to old Cradle of Filth which aren’t the least surprising knowing where the band’s mastermind is coming from. The solos, because there indeed are solos, could be described the same way the drums are: perhaps lacking of virtuosity, but of overall honest quality. In short though there isn’t anything here you won’t have heard before, and though the songwriting quality probably decreases with the listener further progressing into the album, there wouldn’t be anything to cry about if it wasn’t for, well, Sarah herself.
Ironical, isn’t it? Logical, though. With years it seems the Fat Lady has been more and more abandoning her lyrical voice to sing with her normal, pop voice, which is almost exclusively used on the present album and which is also, unfortunately, extremely annoying. Indeed, the aforementioned presumed drop in quality in the later tracks might simply be due to the vocals becoming more and more intolerable – Your Woeful Chair, for instance is pure torture, oooopen yer eeeeeyes that’s Within Temptation quality we’re talking about here (who knows, I haven’t listened to Within Temptation for years now, but that’s not the point). What looks pretty sad, knowing the character is (or was?) able to do much, much better. A Sign of Sublime had potential, for sure. Not the potential of being a great album by any mean, but at least the potential of standing a bit above the pool of keyboard-laden pseudorchestral metal the scene is plagued with. Perhaps Sarah will never cess surprising us; this time, let’s admit it wasn’t for the best.
Highlights: A Sign of Sublime, She Stands Like Stone