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A Nice Little Ballad - 70%

ParabolaX, December 19th, 2011

Marenne is a metal band.

Note my use of present tense. Two years afterwards, singer Marenne collaborated with some metal musicians under her name and recorded The Past Prelude, an album that was undeniably in the realm of metal. But before that, Marenne was a lady with a voice, and the song "Pretty White Dress" was recorded.

So before Marenne fully jumped into the glorious world of metal (at least with performing; she might be a long-time metalhead for all I know), she made a largely acoustic ballad. It's pretty accessible, yet much like the stuff on The Past Predule without distorted guitars and godlike leads of Zachary Hietala.

Acousitc ballads generally need a voice, and Marenne's voice is the main draw to this. Her style is clear and professional, with notes perfectly hit and techniques used in the right places. Judging from some live videos, she can replicate all this live too. Marenne is a great singer, and this single was definitely written for her to show the world that she can sing well. Though in spite of all this, her inflection can be very odd, really straining some words in her lower register. A great vocal range (her low notes go really low, and she can hit some respectable highs), weird pronunciation, it almost makes her sound terrible on first listen. But once you get past the way Marenne decides her words sound, she has some pipes. Unlike many female singers in metal (or at least in metal for some part of their careers, like good ol' Marenne here), she sings with power and passion, not one or the other.

Emotion, power, technique, weird as hell accent. Three out of four good things isn't that bad.

The session musicians here aren't as noteworthy. There's some strings, saxophone, acoustic guitar, drums, and Tomi Joutsen of Amorphis on back vocals. For the last one, he was indeed a background singer and I was really surprised to read that it is him. Considering how he's such a great singer in latter-day Amorphis, his part here feels so flat, relegating himself to deep notes just to provide a layer of backing to Marenne. As for the rest, they indeed got some decent skills, and they get more of a role as the song progresses, but it gets a little bland. It's pretty safe stuff. The Past Prelude, on the other hand, features probably some of the best musicians Marenne knows and it shows. Here, not so much.

But in the end, it's a ballad. It thankfully restrains itself from being fluffy, choosing a more longing tone that I think fits perfectly. Although Marenne proved that she can do better things after this, "Pretty White Dress" is not a bad song by any stretch.

Hell, she had to start somewhere.