Symphonic Metal. A genre that many pronounced dead and gone, yet you’ll still find tons of bands tilling these very same fields. In truth, the genre’s heyday was in the early ’00s, up to the early ’10s. After that, too many clones and soundalikes appeared on that limited territory. So much so, that today even the biggies of the genre experience identity crises that make some of them increasingly reluctant to go for innovation. And so, some cling to their past successes instead.
This – in return – leads to brutally bland material. Reheated all over again, with huge loads of additional bombast, theatrics, and cinematic elements. In other words, the refreshing and invigorating energy of the genre’s early days left the building and replaced itself with some sort of metal sloth. One whose only purpose of existence is keeping the money machine alive. Which, of course, is a fine strategy. We all need to eat, right?
But still. Sometimes a lone band stands out from the mean masses of grey symphonic staleness. The Greeks of Fortis Ventus kinda sucked us into that vortex of theirs with their newest record Vertalia. And that is astonishing in and by itself. You see, since the early works of Diabulus in Musica hit the soggy bottoms of our review pipe, the RMR team here grew somewhat of an aversion to Operatic Metal. In other words, some bands have trouble deciding which way to turn. Metal or opera, and often the operatic parts leave a lot to be desired for.
Yet here, a band appeared on our radar that made us harken back to the early ’00s when that type of Symphonic Metal was all the rage. And indeed, Nancy Mos sports a vocal style that often resembles some sort of mix of Simone Simons (Epica) and Tarja Turunen (ex Nightwish) combined. But whenever George Halliwell steps in for vocal duty, things change. The two vocalists project a symbiotic stage that I have seldom heard in that genre.
In other words, when listening to Vertalia, this distinction between early Nightwish and The Phantom Agony-era Epica was never far away from our thoughts. To that, Fortis Ventus throws in a distinct air of Disney-like sugary cinematics to make Illuminata pale with envy. So, what else is new, right? Well, the orchestration is strong and syncs perfectly with the more metallic parts of the record.
Yet again, same as others in that finicky genre,1) the electric guitars tend to disappear into the mix once the compressors fire too much. Vocals on top, then classical parts, and then – some keys and the eventual riff. No discernible bass, somewhat generic drumming, and very little in terms of solos. And this pains my metalhead’s cold iron heart, of course. It’s a fine strategy yet again but it almost made me loath to call Vertalia metal at times. Almost.
I guess, the sublime orchestration pretty much saves their metallic bacon. That’s often top-notch songwriting of classical elements that perfectly fit with the modern plugged items. And that again combines with an often deliciously gothic and melancholy mood. One can almost feel the baroque tableau they’d be able to project onto clips or lush live shows.
Ultimately, this record might not be to the taste of die-hard metalheads. And it’s a good thing that band didn’t give in to the urge to exploit their Power Metal connections more intensively. In other words, it’s better to have less Kamelot but more of the biggies of the symphonic side in their tune. And for that, Vertalia truly shines. A Symphonic Metal record that thrives on outstanding orchestration and a vocalist with true promise. That the record is based on a novel written by the aforementioned George Halliwell only adds to a pretty neat flow and – surely – coherence. An astonishingly powerful debut album for a previously unknown band.
|1.||And I’m looking straight at you Within Temptation.|