Arwen - Illusions

Arwen - Illusions - 3/5

Ok, so I was looking forward to this, being both a Power Metal and Lord of the Rings nut. So far, so good with the obligatory strings-laden intro out of the way, and into the opener and title track Illusions.

The male vocal immediately grabbed me, with a powerful style similar to that of Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot). The rythmic riffing also blend suitably well with the keys and the vocal melody. The female vocals are slowly eased in, harmonising with the male vocal line nicely. The thing that struck me about the female vocal style is the eerie sound to it. Nothing bad, but it didn't sit well with me. Neverless, with the opener out of the way and having impressed, I looked forward to Riding Alone, the next track.

The keyboard intro instantly hooks me, giving an excellent feel of triumph. Some might say having two keyboard players is gratuitous, but not if they're utilised this well. So far, so good then. The female vocals kick in, and there it is again, that shiney, ethereal voice. Then it hits me - the dreaded auto-tune studio effect. Now stay with me, you're undoubtably thinking "What do you know about auto-tune, dickwad?!". Well I'll tell you. When a friend of mine (a talented singer no less) was invited to sing on a dance compilation (stay with me), they insisted they use auto-tune on his voice, as was the norm in all dance tracks. He played me the finished article, and pointed out the characteristics. These characteristics match those in this female vocal effect. Now, coming off that tangent, I have come to a number of conclusions: the obvious one being that this female vocalist cannot hold a note (I doubt this one the most, there is nothing to be heard here that would push a female register), the other that this is used to deliberately give this effect. Either way, some notes made me wince slightly. Anyway, the song, on the whole is very good, with some nice melodies and a great chorus.

I won't go into as much detail with the remainder of the album; it continues in the same fashion, with powerful male vocals and rythmic (but slightly supressed) guitar work. The keyboards run the show, and don't disappoint, which great use of the strings effect. The drums are tight and do their job.

One last track that hooked me is Lullaby. This, as expected, was a female vocal-driven ballad. This is very well written and executed well (still reeks of that auto-tune). Fantasy or Reality features some great, melodic, lead guitar which proves the guitarists' pedigree.

Though my review may sound negative, that isn't the case. If you like your keyboard-driven symphonic/power metal, then this is definitely worth a look. I enjoyed it on the whole. It's stuffed with pulsing, swelling and generally excellent chorus' which carry very well. All musicians are showcased brilliantly in this well-made and shrewdly produced album.

Stand out track - Dance of Souls (or Riding alone, if just for the female vocal production)

By C. Bidwell