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Scandinavia comes to America again. - 87%

hells_unicorn, June 10th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2011, CD, Blinding Force Recordings

Call it a cliche, but every artist needs an outlet, and often times the more prolific ones will require multiple ones. Likewise, there will always be forerunners in a given area who, regardless of whether or not they've stumbled onto something wholly original, will stumble upon a new trend years before it gets going. While some may point to an act like Evanescence as an attempt to mimic the popular female-fronted symphonic metal style that was pioneered by Nightwish and After Forever, one of the earliest attempts at a full out emulation was the handiwork of two individuals who had already been in on the power metal scene either in Europe or domestically going back to the earlier 2000s.

Thus stands Echoterra, a conglomeration of various American and an occasional European (original vocalist was from Finland) that got in on the female-fronted thing several years before albums by the likes of Midnight Eternal and Graveshadow hit the scene. The dominant personality of the fold on their second and far more refined studio LP Land Of The Midnight Sun, despite a wowing operatic display to rival Tarja Turunen out of Melissa Ferlakk, is keyboardist Jonah Weingarten, who loads each of these otherwise catchy numbers up with so much sugary synthesizer leads that it rivals Vitalij Kuprij at his most showy.

The resulting variation on the Nightwish formula that occurs here is fairly unique, not only because of the dense amount of synth leads and dense orchestral sounds painting this album, but also in how the songwriting manifests itself. There is a fairly strong similarity in the game of riffs and general feel of the music behind Ferlakk's vocals on faster and more impact based songs like "Midnight Sun" and "From The Gutter To The Throne" that could pass for select songs from Pyramaze's first couple albums; perhaps a logical consequence of Weingarten's tenure with said band. Likewise, the flavoring of more Neo-classical offerings like "Genes Of Isis" and the riff happy opener "After The Rain" lean a bit towards a somewhat power/progressive mold.

For the most part, the songs tend to resemble the pre-2007 era of Nightwish more than not, and Weingarten does his best to take Tuomas Holopainen role as band leader to the logical conclusion that it never quite reached. Songs like "The Best Is Yet To Come" and "The Ghost Within My Heart" provide an instant view into the glory days of said band, and are almost too memorable for their own good. The sense of melancholy contemplation that drenched the various songs heard on Wishmaster and Century Child is equally as present, and the voice of Ferlakk is a bit smoother and less abrasive, as a simple comparison of "Memories From Another Time" to the similarly structured Nightwish classic "She Is My Sin" will reveal.

Minnesota and the rest of the upper-mid west is often referred to by the rest of us Americans as "Little Scandinavia", and musically their metal scene has often validated this about as much as the common surnames encountered up there. About the only thing about this recording that really differs from most of the similar metal that has come out of northern Europe is the drum production, which is a bit flat and exaggerated to the point of sounding like a drum machine, even though it is performed by a live drummer that is sadly no longer with us. It's a lone Persian Flaw in an otherwise flawless realization of a style that still churns out quality albums to this day, though most abstain from putting 13 minutes of ambient noise from a recording of the sun at the tail end.