Citadel - Игра Света и Тени – 3.5/5
After finishing its third spin, I realised I still couldn’t remember any of the tracks, and therein lies the problem here. By all means I should be reeling over from shock at the sheer number of layers they’ve successfully integrated here, clean male and female vocals, high pitched soprano, flutes, high octane guitar leads and atmospheric keyboards with a littering of violin backing, and even a saxophone on the second track, nothing feels as though it was performed especially poorly, but somehow I often find myself drifting, allowing it to become background music too readily. It is this unfortunate lack of gripping leads that ultimately spoils an otherwise intriguingly unique symphonic/power metal album
Getting the main obstacle out of the way first, be prepared for high pitched soprano. Very high pitched (think the highest note possible by Logdlund of ‘Diablo Swing Orchestra’) in fact. Performed by the second female vocalist, it constitutes a relatively minor presence compared to the leading lady, who favours less of a shrill tone, she works with the third ‘backing’ vocalist (yes, there are three different vocalists with notable presence). Working the upper tenor register he works well playing off of the soprano to provide a soothing vocal harmony, and whilst both are performed well (particularly the soprano) neither seem top of their game, providing the grace but lacking in the power at times. Sung entirely in Russian, it lends a unique, and oddly not as hardened tone as expected, which only adds to the unique end result.
The guitars for the most part do little creatively, creating competent riffs, occasionally going acoustic, the two guitarists working together coherently, and the lead providing upbeat – if not neo-classical in feel – shredded solos. Not void of melody, he is capable of performing well at a slower pace too, if not perhaps the highlight of the outfit he certainly does nothing to bring it down. The flutes, however, felt vastly underused. Proudly displaying their prowess in the instrumental (track 7), which quite frankly wouldn’t feel out of place in Kalevala (Russian Folk), their delicate and unique touch creates a draw like nothing else on the album can.
Unfortunately, these dominating layers tend to render the violins for the most part lost and inaudible in the backing, a situation only more problematic when it comes to the bass, which becomes almost entirely redundant. The drumming comes through clearly, with a decent repertoire of fills he greatly assists the guitars, particularly in creating tension, but the keyboards – like the flute – whilst having specific moments to shine, and in such situations assist in providing a soft and fragile atmosphere and mellower passages, once again for the most part feel lost behind the guitar and vocal work.
There is a lot present here, and certainly the potential to produce a unique strain of the genre, but too often it gets dominated by the same two aspects, which simply don’t have the draw required to create something memorable. Their greatest strength lies in their multi-layered approach, but there is still work to be done, and I have hopes that they can improve on this. Certainly worth a look if you’re getting tired of the same style, don’t go expecting a work of genius and you’ll uncover a solid and satisfying release.
Highlights: Track 2, Track 6, Track 7