You gotta love Progressive Rock and Metal. If well cooked, adequately spiced, and served hot, these albums play metal magic on ye. And Stream of Passion‘s debut album Embrace the Storm does exactly that.
The record gorges almost irresistibly on Gothic and Symphonic Metal elements. Not to forget that Embrace the Storm features a double female front. Well, not exactly. Marcela Bovio is the official vocalist, of course. Yet for live shows, her sister Diana joins her. A true dream team.
The record saw the light of day under the direction of Arjen Lucassen. And as we all know, pretty much everything he touches in the prog arena is of pretty good quality. If you deduct some of the sins he committed with Ayeron, his overly ambitious scientific music project.
So, all of the tracks on Embrace the Storm have that undeniable meandering Lucassen sound to them. This trademark flavor with a slightly oriental taste woven into the fabric.
In an interview, Lucassen indicated that Stream of Passion came into existence to foster Marcela Bovio, whose many talents needed a platform. Or in his own words: “..to avoid letting a good thing go to waste…”. Ouch. Kind of a weird way to describe a talent sponsorship, ain’t it?.
Arjen Lucassen left the band after recording this album and playing a few shows together with Lori Linstruth – the female lead guitar player. And what a talent, too. The keyboard is very skillfully served by Alejandro Millan on this vinyl delight, always much in the background, never taking over. Millan left the band as well in 2007.
Embrace the Storm is artfully composed and flawlessly produced with a lot of Reveries End in it. You can feel the passion and the team-oriented approach. The record actually feels like the perfect storm. Not one element is overwhelmingly present with vocals that sometimes are dreamlike.
What’s more, the two guitars actually play with, as opposed to against each other. A conversation of stellar riffs and hot rhythms. Even the often somewhat simplistic drum work got on my good side in the end.
This is – by the way – one of the major positive points on this record. And then the stellar work on the keyboard kinda bubbles the surface of this specific soundscape. Again finely tuned and crafty as hell, against the backdrop of the ensemble. Well – hells bells – things just fit on this disk. Almost too well, actually, with nothing really out of place.
And the record is best consumed in one piece and by way of its structure best seen in concert. Stream of Passion clearly manufactured this album to please the crowd, a piece tailor-made for live shows. And it is a pity that they did not continue in the same vein for the follow-on albums. Because this kind of tune really fills the music hall.
Apart from a feeling of being over-engineered to a point, Embrace the Storm does not display any major flaws. Perhaps that towards the last third of the record, the song structure becomes a little repetitive. Also and connected to the former, some of the tracks display an undue length that they really do not deserve. And sadly this will knock a point off the rating – so be it.
No track is really bad and it will depend on preference and taste which one will go first. I can recommend Passion – of course, and Haunted – in a geeky kind of way. It is an irresistible mix between spoken vocals in Spanish and a refrain in English with melodic elements in there. A track with a truly Gothic feel to it.
Wherever You Are eerily mixes atmospheric passages with downturned guitar interludes and a solo thrown in. Embrace the Storm – the title song – again surprises with soft passages and harder ones.
Finally, Embrace the Storm – the album – displays a passionate and exuberant style. A happy jambalaya of juicy flavors that defies boxes, silos, and genres. Very difficult to place into this area or that, it just rockets ahead to passionate musical stardom.
It is this energetic authenticity that really delivers. Listening to the album for a few times, you will find yourself irresistibly drawn to it. Like a bee to honey. It WILL get under your skin and follow you around, mark my words.
Stellar performance, band, thank you very much!