Stream of Passion – Embrace the Storm
03/10/2005 § Leave a comment
Label: InsideOut, Sony/BMG
I was never too much of a fan of Arjen Lucassen. Even though he seems to have his finger in more pies than the entire Newcastle United fanbase and he’s worked with the biggest and most important names in the whole of Gothic and metal in Holland, it still took me a while to work out what the big deal was about him since albums like The Final Experiment and The Human Equation did little to float my proverbial vessel. So I was less than enthusiastic about his latest project, least of all because it’s called Stream Of Passion which, let’s face it, sounds a little bit dodgy. Definitely not something you’d want to get caught in, more like something you’d want to end up in a plastic cup.
But things seem to be going very well already for this group. They have managed to sign with Sony in Benelux and have a European tour in the works at the end of this year. Still, Stream Of Passion came out of nowhere for me. A few whispered words on forums and gesture mentions from the odd enthusiast did not do very much to install a huge sense of potential. Nor had I heard anything from Marcela Bovio apart from a short speck on The Human Equation.
However, all of my doubts were allayed within five minutes of hearing Embrace The Storm. This is not an album that gives itself away easily, it doesn’t bash you in its opening moments and foist its power on you straightaway. There’s no arrogance in the opening bars, no conceit. Conversely, it lets you in gently with the soft pounding of drums and Marcela singing dreamily over the top. In fact, initially it’s hard to know what you’ve let yourself in for here. Nevertheless, this is a promising start to the album. There are no choirs, no classical instrumentation. Clearly the intention here is not to be Gothic and not to confirm to any sort of pre-approved standard along the lines of the Within Temptation or Epica intros. One thing that is quite clear early on is the fact that Marcela in an incredible vocalist. She’s one of the best singers I have come across recently and she has a very smooth tone to her voice. There is no uncertainty to her sound and it’s great for the musical reins to be held by such a good vocalist since one doesn’t get worried about the music being spoiled by a momentary lapse of concentration resulting in a bad note.
The second track, Passion, is one of the best on the album, and I was totally blown away by the chorus. Not only for its power, but for how the vocals ride the instrumental tune perfectly – so fluidly over the jutting and buffeting of the power chords and the staccato stopping and starting of the main rhythm section. This is inventive music, but in its most bare and accessible sense.
The good music doesn’t stop there, either. The rest of the album has that rare ability to hold your attention marvellously – and so it should do since there are some really fantastic numbers here – Open Your Eyes has a beautiful chorus and the way it develops slowly in the five minutes open to it is quite impressive with Marcela controlling the whole number effortlessly and pleasurably. Out In The Real World has a fantastic string riff which is only played twice, thankfully, since anything more would be overkill, and it is an extremely strong number, its only shortcoming being that it’s a little short in time. But by far the best track for me is ironically the shortest – the wonderful Breathing Again, which is probably the softest song on the album, and though it may have the rubber stamp of ‘ballad’ surely imprinted on it, it manages to be totally filling and nourishing, carried beautifully by Marcela’s breathtaking vocals.
However, Embrace The Storm is not a total success since it doesn’t always hit the mark. The music is good, but there are dips in the album where some of the songs don’t quite hold the strength of the others. This is not to say that the poorer songs are obscure numbers which you may come back to in a few listens and realise you really like after all, it’s more that they’re a little flat. Strangely enough, it’s hard to know whether this is because they are dull in their own right or because some of the other numbers are of such a high quality that it puts them to shame. It seems one way that this could have been remedied would be if this album were a mix of accessible numbers and more progressive tracks since this would give a perfect mix, making it impossible to overlook any of the songs.
And I’m sure that Arjen has the ability to do it – I get a great sense of promise from this band. Though this is not strictly a debut album since all the other musicians are experienced, it’s a damn good project. I sincerely hope that Arjen concentrates on this and Marcela has the ability to juggle Stream Of Passion and Elfonia to both bands’ credit. Stream Of Passion has the ability to be a huge name in female-fronted metal and since there is no Gothic tag here, they would sell on the merit of their sound and talent alone, which they more than deserve to do.