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Great news for fans of melodic power/symphonic metal with a South American flair, the mastermind songwriter Heleno Vale and his spectacular musical creation, Soulspell, has returned once again to deliver the third release under the Soulspell name, much to the enjoyment of people like myself among many others. For those reading about Soulspell for the first time, it is a Brazilian metal opera project, created by drummer Heleno Vale and similar to Avantasia, featuring a convoy of local and international vocalists and musicians, producing epic melodic power metal which has spanned over two releases since 2004.
Over the first two Soulspell albums, Vale has done extremely well showcasing to the world the large talent pool that Brazil has to offer, using both veteran and first time vocalists/musicians, as well as bringing in some international muscle to balance the ledger. Much like the original structure of Tobias Sammet’s two ‘metal opera’ CDs, there is a fantasy concept entwined with Soulspell’s discs and the vocalists have been given stage names for their parts in the metal opera tale. The end result is an excellent musical journey of emotion, passion and great theatrical melodic power metal.
Session-members returning for the third release entitled ‘Hollow’s Gathering’ from the previous two albums 2010’s ‘The Labyrinth of Truths’ and 2008’s ‘A Legacy of Honor’ includes vocalists Iuri Sanson (Hibria), Nando Fernandes (ex-Hangar) and Leandro Caçoilo (ex-Eterna). Session-member vocalists coming back for a second time include Daísa Munhoz (Vandroya), Carlos Zema (Immortal Guardian), Tim “Ripper” Owens (Charred Walls of the Damned/ex-Iced Earth) and Blaze Bayley (Blaze Bayley/ex-Iron Maiden). And lastly, there are 14 new session-members (vocalists) for this latest disc, some of which includes Manuela Saggioro (also guitarist), Tito Falaschi (also bassist) (Illustria), Mario Pastore (Pastore), Michael Vescera (Fatal Force/Obsession/Sovereign), Amanda Somerville, Matt Smith (Theocracy) and Leandro Caçoilo (Age One/ex-Eterna). Whew...ok, and finally there are also 12 musicians, which includes five guitarists, two drummers, two bassists - one of whom is Markus Grosskopf (Helloween), two keyboardists and a pianist.
I really like the decision for Heleno to not only use a few veteran performers here and there, but to give the young and relatively inexperienced musicians/vocalists a fair go; give them their start in their metal journey so to speak. The end result speaks for itself, with all members involved giving it their all on ‘Hollow’s Gathering’ and miraculously working extremely well as a team, with so many people involved in this gigantic project. The master song-writer Heleno Vale does not disappoint on his third installment of the Soulspell project, with ‘Hollow’s Gathering’ being on par with the previous two albums, however incorporating other metal genres more smoothly and creatively into the mix.
Take the frantic opening track for example; “Hollow’s Gathering” is a nine minute epic track that forges power metal, melodic metal, symphonic metal and progressive metal all into one, making for a superb start to the disc. Not only is this project a certified metal opera, but it could also easily pass literally for a stage show, with the music being so diverse from track to track, packed full of emotion and powerful energy; I could imagine myself sitting in the audience watching all this unfold in front of me, awestruck.
Against what you might be thinking, the whole disc is definitely not travelling at light-speed, in fact the majority of ‘Hollow’s Gathering’ is at a mid-pace, boarding onto fast pace. Some tracks are actually almost ballad-esque in some ways too; taking tracks like “To Crawl or to Fly” and “Anymore” as examples. All of these wonderfully written tracks do have constant tempo changes throughout, making them quite unpredictable; with lashings of prog here and bellows of orchestras there, atmospheric and peaceful parts here and flurries of furious power there.
While the whole release is very good, I must mention that I felt that the second half of the album outweighs the first half, as it contains far catchier, speedy and appealing tracks, and I also felt that there were too many slower songs on this disc. Nevertheless some top standouts in my humble opinion include the awesome catchiness of “Adrian’s Call”, ripe with neo-classical passages, but with a melodic metal guitar riffs and atmospheric proggy keyboards; while “Change the Tide” would be a winner in anyone’s language. Featuring double bass pummeling and a simple yet affective melody, the catchy chorus soars with emotion while the guitar riffs are fierce and swift and the synths are plentiful. Another track fans will greatly enjoy is “The Keeper’s Game”, a kick ass melodic power metal song which features Blaze Bayley in fine form I must say, with great support from newcomer Pedro Campos and also Tito Falaschi.
Overall, ‘Hollow’s Gathering’ will once again appeal to fans of the previous two releases, with a greater appreciation for Heleno Vale and his exceptional talents. Aside from hearing great melodic power metal with influences from so many other metal genres thrown in, we also get to hear the emerging new talents of local Brazilian metal vocalists and musicians who will most likely go on to have great careers in metal. If metal operas are up your alley or if Avantasia is one of your favourite bands, then definitely check out Soulspell, as you won’t be disappointed.
(Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com and www.themetalforge.com)