Finally getting around to the next part of my retrospective! We’re halfway through the countdown of my 20 favorite artists that I’ve covered at Sonic Cathedral over the past 5 years. If you’ve missed the first two installments, now’s a great time to catch up:
Which means that today I’ll reveal the first half of my top 10. 😉 And remember that you can catch the daily version of the countdown at my official Facebook page.
Home: Bielefeld, Germany
Genre: Symphonic metal
Covered: February 2012
Xandria was among the first several bands I gravitated toward when I started listened to metal in 2005. I enjoyed their playful, sensual brand of oriental / Middle Eastern tinged gothic pop-metal, but what really drew me to Xandria was their third album India, their first foray into symphonic metal. It brought out the band’s creativity more than their other releases, in my opinion. So after being disappointed by their fourth album Salome – The Seventh Veil, I was thrilled to hear they’d return to symphonics for Album #5. And did they return – with a vengeance! Neverworld’s End pulses with a bolder, powerful sound and the beautiful soprano voice of new frontwoman Manuela Kraller. Cinematic arrangements, ethnic flavors, distinct personalities for each song… No wonder Neverworld’s End ended up as my #3 album of 2012 and one of my favorite reviews I’d written that year. And with the band’s first two North American shows coming up – ProgPower USA next month, and 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise in January – Xandria shows no signs of losing momentum. I can’t wait to hear what new music they have in store for us in 2014!
#9: Beyond The Bridge
Genre: Progressive rock/metal
Covered: February 2012
In the 5 years I’ve been with SC, I’ve given only one CD I’ve reviewed a perfect grade. That honor belongs to Beyond The Bridge, whose debut album The Old Man & The Spirit can be best described in one word: Incredible. Everything from the smorgasbord of prog elements and ethnic flavors (even some salsa!), to melodies that range from anthemic to soaring, to the vocal interplay between metal veteran Herbie Langhans and jazz singer Dilenya Mar. And despite its technicality, The Old Man & The Spirit is emotionally charged and follows a universal concept that everyone encounters at some point in their lives. It’s rare for a progressive band to achieve that kind of balance. Did I mention that I love every freakin’ song on this album? Beyond The Bridge have been quiet since playing several shows this past spring in their home country (their first gigs since the sudden passing of keyboardist / guitarist / producer Simon Oberender). Maybe they’re working on new material?
Home: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Genre: Symphonic metal
Covered: December 2010
I still remember the day I discovered Avariel. I was at Epica’s January 2010 show at the Palladium in Worcester, and ran into bassist Ryan Kelly during one of the opening acts’ sets. When he told me about the band, I think my reaction was, “WHAT?! A female-fronted metal band? From Boston??” 😀 I reviewed their debut CD, The Dawn, later that year and was impressed by their mix of American and European symphonic metal styles to create a bold, dynamic, and varied sound. What was even better than covering Avariel for SC, however, was becoming friends with the band members. Our common interests go way beyond music, and the support we give and receive for each other’s creative projects is invaluable. Sadly, Avariel parted ways in January 2012, but not before playing a farewell show that was honestly one of the best metal shows I’ve ever been to. Their music is still available to purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and other digital outlets.
#7: Stream of Passion
Home: The Netherlands / Mexico
Genre: Symphonic / progressive metal
Stream of Passion have proven that they’re one of the most distinctive, innovative, and fun symphonic metal bands on the planet. Distinctive because of their progressive leanings, Marcela Bovio’s enigmatic voice and bilingual lyrics, and their use of small string ensembles rather than full-blown orchestras, giving their music a lush yet romantic feel. Innovative (and distinctive still) because of their incorporation of Latin music like tango and flamenco into their third album, Darker Days. And fun because… well, based on their concert videos and social media posts, Stream of Passion seem like a fantastic live act and very funny, down-to-earth people. I’d definitely describe Marcela as both funny and down-to-earth after interviewing her before Darker Days was released in 2011. Our conversation covered a great range of topics, from Marcela’s cross-continental move from Mexico to The Netherlands, to languages and Vincent van Gogh. In fact, the van Gogh question and answer (about halfway through the article) may be one of my favorite single interview parts ever. Stream of Passion are currently running an IndieGoGo campaign to fund the recording of their upcoming fourth album.
#6: Flowing Tears
Genre: Gothic metal
Covered: January 2009
This may surprise a lot of people, but Flowing Tears is my favorite female-fronted metal band ever, edging out a certain Dutch band that’s yet to be revealed in this countdown. I adore all of their albums and how each one has a different focus and personality while sticking to that atmospheric, entrancing, distinct Flowing Tears sound. Believe it or not, though, one FT album rises above the rest for me: Thy Kingdom Gone, my all-time favorite “femme metal” album. From Benjamin Buss’ layers of incredible, full-bodied guitars, to Helen Vogt’s outstanding display of emotion and range (whispers to screams, soft to belting), it’s a work of art that I revisit often and that speaks to my muse. So, why isn’t Flowing Tears higher on this list? Because I’ve had the opportunity to cover them only once during my time at SC. This band has pretty much been silent since their 2009 appearance at Metal Female Voices Fest. And with most of the musicians now playing in the successful power metal band Powerwolf, who knows when we’ll hear from Flowing Tears again?
Coming Soon: I’ll reveal my top 5 artists of the Sonic Cathedral Retrospective before the end of the week. Plus, my review of the Jessica Prouty Band’s upcoming CD Set Me Free will be online at SC soon. Finally, I passed the 15,000-word mark in my novel-in-progress – which means it’s time for another the next edition of “Chronicling The Craft”! 😉