Written by: Lord Hsrah
2020 has most definitely proven to be an immensely dreadful year--and that's saying the least in every way. It is in these times of turmoil and unrest that we often turn to the arts for comfort and solace and peace, to find an escape from all the chaos around us. And of all the arts and recreations, the one singular thing that lights our lives up is music, and, thankfully, for the power metal geek that I am, this year hasn't been short of providing power metal in decent abundance. Today I'm feeling like some driving symphonies, some operatic vocals, some ballads...and guess what! I have just the thing on hand that I'm looking for. Let's take a look at Northern Irish symphonic power metallers Ravenlight's first full-length album, Project Genesis.
Formed in early 2018 by vocalist Rebecca Feeney and guitarist/keyboardist John Connor, Ravenlight started strong with a couple of singles and an EP to their credit so far. Having taken care of the instruments and vocals, the duo brought on board drummer Michal Bugajski in 2019 to complete the lineup. Shifting gears and having decided to take the project to the next level, this year is when they follow it all up with their much anticipated first full-length record in Project Genesis, adding another chapter to their slowly filling up band journal.
Project Genesis is the perfect example of metamorphoses, of evolution when it comes to an up-and-coming band's playing, sound, and production. The album has a very distinct (yet familiar) sound that is quite akin to modern day symphonic metal, and the production too is quite superior, in contrast to their previous material, which was rustic, a bit crude and quite unpolished. This record has been well taken care of in the production department to really highlight how much the band has evolved, although the drums, quite admittedly, sound a bit odd and a little unnatural at times.
The album has an obvious emphasis on the keyboards, naturally, that adds a nice depth to the sound, and starts of with a great symphonic section in the opening track "The Circle". Connor leaves no shortage of keys throughout the album and for someone like me, who's a big sucker for all things melodic and symphonic, that aspect is a big, big plus. The keyboard sections have great diversity of styles incorporated, ranging from really ambient and mellow string arrangements to some accompanying lead lines to providing a solid backing to a certain song. Connor provides a nice balance of some simplistic strummed chord riffing and a nice breaks of ripping out a solo. Project Genesis, for the major part, features beautiful ballads--and what's more amazing than a symphonic metal album quite driven by the likes of bands like Nightwish? Because when Feeney's soothing and angelic voice sings those words, that's exactly what it sounds like. Connor and Feeney pair up really well when it comes to the instrumentation on the album, something I really like to see in symphonic music projects.
Now here's something: I always listen to an album a minimum of three times in different situations and on different devices before writing about it, to properly gauge how it really sounds and feels like. Sadly, for me personally, the album was a bit underwhelming given what I was expecting. My biggest point of criticism is that Feeney's beautiful vocals seem so weak and meek. When you look at other vocalists who have done similar stuff--and let me name a couple of em, outside of the mainstream ones that quite few people know about, like Aina (Blackthorn/ Russia) or Daisa Munhoz (Vandroya; Soulspell Opera/ Brazil)--you can hear and feel the power in their voices whilst still retaining that operatic style in their music. That, regrettably, is something that I feel is amiss here. Maybe it's something that's been done in the mixing, or maybe it's something else, but whatever it is, I felt it to be a great injustice to that lovely voice. Secondly, though Connor's keyboard work might be optimally done for the album, the guitar work felt quite unimpressive. Like, sure, there were a few really good moments, and that's pretty standard, but the way the compositions have been done are a bit off. I would've given 'em some leeway, but for a band that already had a couple of singles and an EP before this, it's underwhelming.
However, not all is doom and gloom with this one (if you, by any means, derived that conclusion from the previous paragraph). Some songs are really solid and they make the album so much more enjoyable. My two personal favorites are "Where The Stars Grow" and "The End of The World," which are songs that really stuck in my head, and that's a good sign. A song that can leave behind an earworm is a damn good song, and based on their previous works, I felt that this band has a lot of talent that just went missing on this album. Still, for what it's worth, it's a pretty good album, if you're looking for some good operatic, melodic, soothing, ballad-y power metal.
Ravenlight - Project Genesis will be independently released June 26th
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!