Neopera - "Destined Ways" (CD)
"Destined Ways" track listing:
1. The Marvel of Chimera
2. A Call to Arms
4. Destined Ways
5. Falling Water
6. The Greed
8. Last Pantomime
11. Song of Revenge
12. The Unspeakable
Reviewed by CROMCarl on August 7, 2014
From the Northern Germanic realm of Hamburg comes Neopera, which forges a union between Gamma Ray bassist Dirk Schlachter and Dark Age guitarist Jorn Schubert. The union is yet another foray into the “genre of overabundance” – symphonic/gothic metal. While I can certainly pick apart the various influences brought to the table from the various musician backgrounds, there is not much to distinguish this band from so many others. That is not to say this is a horrible release by any means, the musicianship is actually top notch, as one would expect given the acumen. “Destined Ways” presents some interesting tracks that surface in the first couple of listens, but it lacks the interest level and memorability that sets the sound apart from many others.
Some of the most enjoyable parts of Neopera are represented in Thorsten Schuck’s smooth, slick baritone vocals and Schubert’s excellent lead work. Nina Jiers has a fantastic soprano, sounding very similar to Simone Simons (especially on the slower parts in songs like “Falling Water”), but it just doesn’t change the fact that a general overuse of operatic vocals sounds so very tired these days. With exception to a few of the greats (Xandria, Epica, Nightwish), symphonic metal needs a real jolt…an enema, if you will. The addition of grunts scattered throughout just isn’t enough, especially since that is an equally exhausted aspect. Fortunately, on “Destined Ways,” the grunts are literally the only thing reviving the listener from a tepid coma.
The best offerings on the album are “Remote” and “Song of Revenge” – bombastic upbeat winners with charging riffs and very tasteful use of all the vocal types. They come across a bit too similar to Leaves Eyes, though lacking the pristine expert delivery of their country mates. They are, by far, the strongest songs (most especially “Song of Revenge”). These are followed up by the second best track “Destined Ways.” Here is a perfect example of where Jiers’ overly powerful soprano style detracts from the nice mid-range riff. Ironically, the song also sports the finest Schubert solo on the album. As a sucker for a well-played ballad, “Falling Water” is where Jiers truly shines, though it does nothing to ratchet up the interest level. It is a beautifully played song…I just hope that months from now I can still remember it.
The majority album resonates like a hum, with occasional sections or time changes that spark interest. Songs like "Last Pantomime," "The Greed," "Equilibria," and "Error" muddle too much in mediocrity, with the latter two only puttering with flashes of brilliance. I don’t want to take away from all the work, orchestration, and intellect that went into making “Destined Ways.” The sound is fine, the performances are fine…it’s just the material seems bland and tired.
Had this been the late 90’s or early to mid-2000’s, Neopera would be heralded as pioneers. Unfortunately, in 2014, after countless acts have paved, trail blazed, defined, and overplayed, I’m afraid it is too little, too late. The greats of the subgenre will continue to astound, but unless newer acts find a way to distinguish from the crowd – or at the very least write exceedingly strong material – there isn’t a whole lot of room to breathe.
Highs: Some entertaining tracks with fantastic solos.
Lows: Most of the material is mired in mediocrity, a result of over-saturation in the subgenre.
Bottom line: Neopera travels the path, with "Destined Ways" that lead only to mediocrity.
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