Fairyland – The Fall of an Empire - 5/5
Fairyland, formerly Fantasia, is a symphonic power metal band from France, but in my opinion they sound more like their Italian counterparts. ‘The Fall of an Empire’ is often overlooked, in favour of their debut ‘Of Wars in Osyrhia’. Elisa C. Martin (ex-Dark Moor) quit soon after their 2003 tour. She had brought a lot of attention to the band and gave them a distinct sound, so her departure could have been a huge loss to the band. Fortunately Elisa had little or no input into song writing. All songs are composed by Philippe Giordana and Anthony Parker (ex-Heavenly), and they took the opportunity to change things up a bit and evolve their sound.
The debut is a blend of Rhapsody (of Fire) and Dark Moor, and is just about as ‘flowery’ as power metal can get (no surprise for a band named Fairyland). Avid fans of Dark Moor may well prefer ‘Of Wars in Osyrhia’, for obvious reasons. Although still very much in the same vein, ‘The Fall of an Empire’ is more accessible for the average metal fan. It’s catchier, heavier and even more bombastic, and quite simply has more balls. If you compare the artwork of the two albums, a fantastical landscape and a gruesome battle against the undead, you would expect such differences in sound. The latter imagery may be somewhat deceptive, as this is not the aggressive onslaught that you may be led to expect, but it is nonetheless great cover art. Fairyland is much less ‘speed metal’ sounding than standard European power metal (Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian etc).
The replacement vocalist, Max Leclercq, is a very polished and accomplished singer and adds more of an edge to their sound. At times he actually sings in a very similar style to Elisa, but his stronger male vocal cords are naturally better suited to the new heavier sound. As good a singer as Elisa is, I find she can become boring over the course of an album. Max’s powerful voice is far catchier and more memorable. He has an impressive vocal range and bares similarities both to early Russel Allen and to Fabio Lione. His performance is one of the highlights of the album. A guest female vocalist makes a few appearances, singing the parts that would have been more suited to Elisa than Max. The two singers combined are more than a match for Elisa.
The guitars have become more prevalent, coming to the forefront for some of the heavier sections. Anthony Parker’s leads are impressive without ever becoming indulgent. Thomas Cesario’s bass and rhythm guitar are paramount to achieving this heavier sound. However, Philippe Giordana’s excellent keys are still the driving force of most songs. There are some great solos from both keyboards and guitars. The bass and drums are pretty fast for symphonic metal, but are rather secondary in the mix to the keyboard and guitars. This is probably both intentional and profitable to the atmosphere they have set out to create.
The song writing has also improved on this album, compared to its predecessor. The overall composition is exceptional. A good balance of soft, slow sections and fast, powerful moments prevents this 63 minute album from dragging. Orchestral interludes are well used, bridging the songs to help the album flow. The emotions of desperation and sorrow are portrayed well, both by vocals and instrumentation.
‘Eldanie Uelle’ is a particularly catchy song and demonstrates both the soft and the heavy sides of Fairyland at their best. ‘In Duna’ is closest to ‘Of Wars in Osyrhia’ era Fairyland, with all female vocals and the electric guitars replaced by orchestral instruments. This slow, graceful song is well placed, as it is followed by the 10 minute epic ‘The Story Remains’. This is possibly my favourite song on the album, and is for the most part more similar to Symphony X than to Rhapsody (of Fire) or Dark Moor. Although not perfect, it comes as close as anyone and rivals early Rhapsody (of Fire). This album is therefore essential to all fans of symphonic power metal. Unfortunately, all too many people are put off by the band’s name.