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Nion - "Witches Rune" (CD/EP)

Nion - "Witches Rune" CD/EP cover image

"Witches Rune" track listing:

1. Innocence (3:53)
2. Witches Rune (4:57)
3. Favourite (4:20)
4. Prayer (4:55)

Reviewed by on October 13, 2010

"'Instrumentally I can’t say enough good about this gothic power metal act, but I really wish they'd have found a different voice to take the helm as lead singer.'"

I find it fitting that German musicians Marzena and Siggi Schubler would choose Nion for their band name. Nion is the Celtic term for ash trees, which are believed to connect two worlds together, the seen and the unseen. After reading up on Nion's theater-like stage shows that often include belly dance routines by lead vocalist Marzena, I can understand why they like her being center stage. Unfortunately, when relying strictly upon the sound of their debut EP "Witches Rune," what is an asset live becomes their Achilles Heel. Instrumentally I can't say enough good about this gothic power metal act, but I really wish they'd have found a different voice to take the helm as lead singer.

One thing about listening to international bands is there are times when a singer's accent comes through in their lyrics. Typically this doesn't bother me, but Marzena's accent is so thick that you really do need the cd sleeve to know what she's saying. She has a relatively decent alto voice, but when she starts climbing into the first soprano range her voice becomes strained and sounds like she has a head cold. Fortunately she doesn't attempt anything higher than a D on the treble clef. Still, listening to her singing scales could be downright painful, and so is her vocal performance on "Witches Rune."

Dual guitars are provided by Siggi and Kai Stringer. There aren't any shred competitions here, but I like the way most of the songs have one fret frenzied guitar and one slow, almost lulling tug of the strings. This is best seen on the title track, where one is doing a Hendrix impersonation while the other powers along at light speed. The bass work offered up by Torsten Peeb doesn't really stand out, but you can hear it chugging along nicely in the background.

I do like the versatility of the keyboards provided by Zeus Konrad. From a lovely, mellow piano in the opening track "Innocence" to the harpsichord sounds of "Witches Rune," Konrad shows that when done right, keyboards are a great asset. And the drums provided by Marc Bollow are what you'd expect from a power metal act, but his performance on "Prayer" stands out as it approaches speed metal tempo.

My favorite track is appropriately titled "Favourite." This tune sounds just like a medieval waltz, and you can easily picture Siggi as a bard singing his tale to a room full of lords and ladies. It's a great example of musical folklore, but the heavy-ish guitar keeps it relevant. Marzena's vocals on this one are bearable too.

With their mix of Kamelot-ish symphonic power metal and a twist of gothic-inspired material, Nion definitely warrants a listen. As far as debuts go "Witches Rune" is one of the better ones, and good enough to convince me to take a listen to their new release "Firebird" as well. Maybe by the end of it Marzena’s voice will even have grown on me.

Highs: Great combination of medieval keyboards and power guitars.

Lows: Lead vocals drag down what would otherwise be a stellar debut.

Bottom line: An excellent debut, once you get past the vocals, that offers a hint of gothic, power, and symphonic metal set to a backdrop of mystical tales.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)