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It stands, but not quite alone. - 80%

hells_unicorn, October 27th, 2011

Among the more consistent mainstays of female fronted melodic metal is Edenbridge, flying under a similar banner of symphonic tinged power metal that is comparable, though perhaps a bit less keyboard oriented and Stratovarius informed than Nightwish. They tend to be preferred among some that are otherwise not terribly fond of their Finnish contemporaries, in large part because vocalist Sabine Edelsbacher doesn’t come off as quite the prima donna vocal presence that Tarja Turunen tends to be. But at the same time, their symphonic tendencies are not quite as overt and bombastic as the near equally important Epica, giving this Austrian outfit a rather unique niche that puts them more in line with the moderated, guitar oriented tendency that traditional European power metal a la Germany exhibits, with maybe a slight gothic edge here and there.

The band has gone through a few mild evolutionary changes, but the dramatic splits and revamps in sound that resulted that seems quite pervasive in this style is not to be found after 13 years and 7 studio albums. “Solitaire” is probably among the least adventurous of their work, but still well within the realm of a solid, entertaining experience that bridges the gap between the flamboyance of Rhapsody Of Fire and the humbleness of most German bands (by comparison to the former anyway). It doesn’t jump into the speed metal fury that was hinted at on “Aphelion”, but it also doesn’t fully commit to the dramatically atmospheric tendencies of “Sunrise In Eden”. This is an album that basically takes the concept of going through the motions in a similar respect to latter day After Forever, but succeeding in being catchier and a bit livelier.

The typical lead off instrumental takes on a rather looming feel, as if a prelude to a coming winter storm, but lands in a bouncy gallop in the title song “Solitaire”, taking a few more pointers from mid 80s Iron Maiden in the riff department rather than that of later 80s Helloween. This proves to be one of the few examples of a truly up tempo song as what follows is more of a middle of the road, heavier character in “Higher”, “Skyliner’s End” and “Come Undone”, exuding more of a heavy gothic character. “Out Of This World” and “Brothers Diamir” play up the atmospherics a bit more, but generally have the same overall feel. The only real break into something dealing more with an outright frenetic character is “A Virtual Dream”, which features a somewhat thrashing riff set married to a dense keyboard backdrop, almost like a select speedy number from “Oceanborn” with a less forbidding vocal presentation.

To put it in the most basic context, this is a solid yet heavily predictable album from a band that has largely kept to their roots. It’s more for the fans of the genre than that one amazing feat of innovation that can appeal to a lot outside the general scene (something that could be attributed to “Sunrise In Eden”), but the target audience here is fairly sizable so this album will probably enjoy fairly extensive play. While it is considerably more metallic than the latest Within Temptation and Lacuna Coil releases, its general lack of strong distinctiveness holds it back a bit.