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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