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I don’t know what’s gotten into the bloody Italians this year, and I frankly don’t care to. Joining an already formidable roster of modern progressive power metal that includes Holy Knights, Vision Divine, Wind Rose, Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, Thy Majestie, and more, Sound Storm’s Immortalia landed completely out of the blue in the midst of high summer, 2012. While I am familiar with the band’s debut release Twilight Opera, I do not recall it being particularly standout, so I had few expectations for this album when I threw it on the first time.
…and got positively steamrolled. Like countrymen Holy Knights (though not quite to the same degree, perhaps), Sound Storm seems to have been biding its time most effectively, lurking in the dark recesses of the genre with bands like Steel Attack and Sons Of Seasons, and steeping its sound in darkness, malice, and more progressive symphonics than before. Despite its almost over-the-top (not Pathfinder-esque, perhaps, but extremely bold nonetheless) choral and orchestral bombast, Sound Storm fits rather flamboyantly into what I think of as the “New wave of progressive power metal”. All three elements (progressive and technical songwriting, symphonic emphasis, and solid power metal fundamentals) work fluidly in synchronous relation to provide a striking and tempestuous experience that, while not without its flaws, is a landmark album for the band. Along with Holy Knights’ Beyond Daylight And Pain and Thy Majestie’s upcoming ShiHuangDi, this release hands Scarlet Records the triple crown for summer releases in the genre.
Opener “Back To Life”, which was, I believe, released as a single last year, sees the band put their best foot forwards. While I don’t feel that Sound Storm quite reaches the heights of their magnificent opener again throughout the album, what an introduction it is! Churning guitar, foreboding keys, and power vocals build to an abruptly melodic and supremely beautiful chorus before descending into a midsection that features sensitive vocals from Philippe D’Orange, touching piano, and an extremely tasteful guitar solo. After another battering chorus, “Back To Life” cuts out suddenly, and the band unveils what else they’ve been working on for the past three years.
Well, even though the peak of the album is immediate and never again matched, there is precious little filler on Immortalia. Great fluidity is the band’s greatest strength, and while numerous iterations of stylistically similar songs soar, charge, and slither by, never once is the formula the same. An effective combination of punchy rhythmic work (superb drums, bass, and rhythm guitar work here, with never an empty space nor off-sounding riff), neo-classical piano, tremendously potent vocal lines (I’ll get to this in a moment), and scathing lead guitar work make one thing very clear: Sound Storm has transformed into a first class symphonic power metal band that knows damn well how to pump out dark, heavy, and memorable tracks as well as the best of them.
And the vocals! This album is a veritable painter’s pallete of vocal timbres. First of all, Philippe D’Orange has a set of pipes the like of which I’ve not heard since Daniel Heiman. At some points, he’s nearly a dead ringer for the former Lost Horizon frontman. I also find him rather similar to Steel Attack’s Ronnie Hemlin, a potent and highly underrated star of the genre. While he doesn’t quite have the experience of either of the above, his softer, more emotional vocals surpass either, and it makes him the perfect showman for Sound Storm’s style. In addition to D’Orange’s terrific lead work, excellent female soprano work, highly effective choirs, and harsh roaring and rasping are all hurled into the volatile, bubbling musical cauldron that is the band’s soundscape. Rare indeed is the album where such a wide spread of vocal styles and timbres are on display, and rarer still when all are performed so well.
Well, I clearly can’t say enough good things about Immortalia, so what’s wrong with it? Well, I think that while the band puts on a phenomenal show and not once is there a boring moment, I sometimes have difficulty separating song from song. Aside from the bone-shredding opener, choruses are generally only moderately effective (“Promises” may be a standout), and I think that the band could benefit from a bit more melody here and there. Otherwise, while I occasionally wish that there’d be some more catchy lead guitar work, it’s more than effective enough as it is.
I really have never experienced an album quite like Immortalia. It is so much more powerful and complex than Nightwish, more accessible and power metal-driven than Sons Of Seasons, and more diverse and memorable than what many modern power metal bands are tiredly coming up with. This has my complete approval and devotion. I say, if you pick up one truly orchestral power metal album this year, leave that new Rhapsody on the shelf, and let it be Immortalia.
Original review written for Black Wind Metal
Have you ever listened to something that totally kicked in your sternum even though you weren't expecting much in the first place? My rib cage and its assorted components are, unfortunately, splintered and in pieces, because the epic symphonic blueprint of Italy's Sound Storm totally took me by surprise. I was anticipating something like Rhapsody of Fire—perhaps a little more symphonic based on what I knew about the band. However, "Immortalia," just the project’s second full-length album, shows a superb demonstration of epic symphonic metal mastery from a group that knows what it wants and wastes nothing of value. "Immortalia" is a total rush of symphonic bliss, a carefully calculated opus of majestic instrumentation delivered through top-notch performances and a pristine medium of artistic brilliance that easily rivals cohorts like Rhapsody of Fire and pretty much any symphonic-based group my mind can conjure.
I can't help but call Sound Storm one of the finer symphonic metal acts, and they actually use both symphonic influences and heavy metal without off-setting one for the other. Of course, the main issue with something like this is the songwriting because of all the interior and exterior movements happening at every angle, but "Immortalia" doesn't suffer from a cacophonic bombardment of instruments slamming into the listener's ear. Instead, the overall compositions are remarkably smooth and definitely not cluttered at all. As I previously specified, Sound Storm has some musical tendencies that could probably be notched up to Rhapsody of Fire or another epic symphonic/orchestral project based on the shared overall scheme held by their counterparts. How does Sound Storm look individualistic compared to their competitors?
Well, "Immortalia" is quite the throne-shifter if you're looking for this type of thing, because every song from the intro to the beautifully epic piece of melancholy that blesses "The Portrait" holds the listener's attention, and there's enough spice and variety to truly keep things fresh. At times they fire hyperactive examples of adrenaline-pumping symphonic metal like "Wrath of the Storm" or "Blood of Maiden" without missing a beat, yet Sound Storm easily switches tones and skins for wonderful ballads ("Watching You Fading"), atmospheric pieces which rule the day ("The Curse of the Moon," "Faraway") and nearly everything in-between. They supply the operatic female vocals, symphonic qualities, incredible keyboard melodies, and dazzling guitar leads, so there's no need to bring your own.
It's also very difficult to not find Philippe D'Orange's cinematic voice absolutely stunning. He kills it on "The Curse of the Moon" and "Faraway" like any great vocalist should; the mid-paced, atmospheric ground obtained by both songs is where he shines the brightest. It's pivotal to mention little secondary bits which often go unnoticed such as production and overall flow are likewise fantastic attributes to this glorious album as well, and I'm completely devoid of any complaints. The animated, catchy nature of what Sound Storm produces throughout "Immortalia" has enough substance to explain its depth without question, and fans of largely bombastic music should certainly find "Immortalia" hastily. Do not let this eclipse you.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Italian symphonic-metal act Sound Storm has recently announced the release of their sophomore full-length, titled Immortalia, which should be good news for anyone fan of epic music, shredding guitars, and soaring vocals. Clearly influenced by bands such as Therion, Nightwish, and Kamelot, the 11-track album makes a solid statement in the ever-expanding world of symphonic metal.
The music begins with the title track, a two-minute intro which could just as easily fit into an Epica album, building suspense with an operatic duet and pounding drums. Then “Back to Life” swoops in, the excellent power metal track serving as our introduction to singer Philippe D’Orange and his amazingly high vocal range. The theatrical elements blend perfectly here with the impressively fast double bass and heavy guitars, especially during the guitar solo. In fact, the metal and theatrical elements blend perfectly throughout the entire album, which is Sound Storm’s greatest achievement.
The next song, “Curse of the Moon,” reminds me strongly of Sonata Arctica – except for the growls of guitarist Valerio Sbriglione. If only they’d been more prominent throughout the album, as they provide a good balance with the falsetto voice of the lead singer. The following two tracks are also excellent – especially the shredding solos in “Faraway,” not only by the guitarist, but the keyboardist and bassist as well. These are all talented musicians in their own right.
The second half of the album is still good – just not quite as good, or as memorable. The singer takes his voice to new highs, and not all of them are perfect; sometimes his falsettos are simply distracting, as on “Call Me Devil” and “Watching You Fading”. At least the middle-eastern melodies in “Seven Veils” is interesting, where they could easily have fallen flat.
Overall, the good vastly outweighs the bad here, and the album is still great even at its worst. For anyone who claims that none of the new symphonic metal bands are any good, this should prove them entirely wrong.
(Originally published in Destructive Music Webzine: http://destructive-music.com/?p=1430)