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Pleasant but all too familiar festive power metal - 75%

dweeb, December 3rd, 2011

Arven is a lightly folksy power metal band from Germany and this is their debut CD. Although there are a few ballads, most of the songs are heavy, crunchy and very festive, with folksy touches throughout most of them. The arrangements tend to be fairly simple and direct, alternating between melodic mid-paced passages with catchy choruses and fast, bouncy, upbeat ones. The melodic passages feature most of the folksy touches courtesy of violin, flute and clean guitar; the faster passages are guitar-driven and are often extremely rocking and energetic with frequent exuberant instrumentals. The several ballads are especially beautiful, and transition nicely between pretty, sometimes melancholy, acoustic passages and crunchy power ballads.

Except for their drummer, the band is all female. Their vocalist, Carina Hanselmann, is absolutely superb; she has a beautiful soprano style that is unusually confident, smooth, clear and expressive. Even when she transitions to a lightly operatic style there is an effortlessness and enthusiasm in her delivery that is completely enchanting. The ballads are among my favorite songs on the CD as they showcase just how beautiful and engaging her vocals are; indeed, even her few spoken parts are a joy to hear. There is also occasional backing female choir.

‘Music of Light’ is well-done on every level but it suffers simply from sounding too familiar; this is hardly surprising when you think of how many excellent bands crowd this genre, bands like Dawn of Destiny, Crimson Tears, Gwyllion, Bare Infinity, Lunatica and Voices of Destiny (though Arven is more folksy than any of these bands). If you have only heard a little festive power metal then ‘Music of Light’ would most likely be stunning, the songs are so exuberant and Carina is so enthralling; but if you have been listening to this style of metal for years you feel like you’ve absorbed everything ‘Music of Light’ has to offer after just a few listens, due in no small part to the simplicity and predictability of most of the arrangements. There is no question that Carina is the highlight of this band and ‘Music of Light’ is worth owning just to hear her sing; I am hoping the band will be more adventurous next time in their song-writing, as they have the potential to rise above the limitations and cliches of so much of the melodic power metal in circulation today.

Originally reviewed at http://www.metalcdratings.com/

Impressively sophisticated - 90%

doomknocker, November 11th, 2011

You gotta love the underground, and you gotta love the musical spectrums which don’t get as much attention as the higher-ups. It’s a shame that due attention seems so fleeting for the acts that exist in those very places, but theirs’ tends to be a bastion of talent and ability the likes of which so few in the modern mainstream world could ever hope to comprehend or accept. Which is why I tend to focus more on labels like Napalm rather than Roadrunner, the ones that take bands as they are, as I’m more blown away by the former’s roster more so than the latter’s. That’s just how I rollz there, fellas.

And as a result, such focus has been thrust upon Arven, a semi-new act to emerge within the underground melodic metal scene, so let’s see if they’re worth checking out at all…

So Arven is a (sorta) all ladies act. And some pretty talented ladies, at that. I always find it refreshing to see this kinda thing evoking class and ability over some kind of image, and the way “Music of Light” presents itself, with the band’s own take on the symphonic folk/power metal variety, is just as fantastic in terms of atmosphere and compositional niceties. I’d praised groups that have the capacity to charm with metal music based more on feeling than brutality, especially those in the melodic side, and this group is well deserving of said praise. The sensation I get from this jumps from something akin to seeing a metal band performing in an old 18th century concert hall to sitting by the fireside in a forest clearing, with all the thick harmonies and semi-chaotic riffs needed for it all to work as well as it does. It would’ve also been easy for the group to fall into the traps of limitation, what with so many other bands out there trying this out (and less succeeding), but the way they churn their arrangements out is impressive in its ability to help craft an identity all their own.

Guitar/bass riffs/leads (both heavy and clean) and slightly simple percussion make up a good bulk of the musical backbone, but not enough to take it all over, and not overtly heavy enough to distract from the rhythms and melodies ever-so present, but in their own regard, they aren’t simply the backdrop for everything else; they exist to augment it all, giving the necessary power to push lush strings, wild violin and piano tandems and absorbing backing choirs forward that much more. And at the forefront, the lead singer’s timbre and range is one of a natural craft; one doesn’t hear her force anything out of her grasp, nor attempt to push herself into that “frontwoman” category, becoming one with the rest of the band and just as important as her fellow performers. It all comes down to it all sounding like a band on a mission, simultaneously serious and fun, from the rocking “Raise Your Cups” and “Midwinter Nights” to the softer, more somber likes of “My Dear Friend”.

At the end of the day, “Music of Light” is a great disc through and through. Attentive with what works in more ways than one, their version of melodic sympho-metal is truly an aural feast to behold.

Originally written for The Offering
www.offeringwebzine.com