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Italians Sound Storm have presented me with quite a dilemma, for I enjoy the meat of their symphonic sound. They manage to merge the synthesized orchestration very well alongside the riffs without really drowning them. However, this is another case where the band's own vocal ambitions are thrown a little overboard, leaving a bad taste in my ears while I try enjoy the underlying quality of the musical composition.
Filippo Arancio has a pretty good voice, when he's sticking to his guns and delivering a more aggressive middle range. Sure, there is his accent, plain as day, but it only adds character. They also use operatic vocal choirs, which sound angelic off in the background, and detract nothing from the music. But, every so often, you will hear this horrible feminine vocal erupt into the mix, for no reason. Point in case: "Bound to Hell" at :45, it sounds like a bad fairy tell...why wouldn't you want to edit these out when you were finishing up the record? Or mastering out? Other examples include the bridge of "The Nightmare", where more of the fem vox pop up to accent Arancio's barking in the bridge, and "Lord of the Blood" which gets a little awkward when Filippo delivers some of his screams. Little things like this nearly drew my attention to the edge of oblivion.
Otherwise, the band is strong, and tracks like "Falling Star" and "Always Be the Same" are great examples of the symphonic style, catchily written. Valerio Verderosa is truly impressive, his pianos are sweeping and complementary, and alone he can carry a track, as proven in the closer "Queen of the Ice". There's also a little teaser/intro with acoustic guitars called "Ecclesiae Lucidium" which is excellent. I feel that if Sound Storm would take this back to the studio, edit out a few of the annoying bits, they could return with one of the stronger symphonic/power metal albums I've heard in recent years. As is, I could recommend this only to die hard fans of other Italian bands like Rhapsody and Dark Moor.
Highlights: Falling Star, Always Be the Same, Ecclesiae Lucidium