Image © 1 Records 2005
Image © 1 Records 2005
(21 August 2005) Season's End are a Gothic Metal band from the Hampshire area of southeast England. Fronted primarily by Becki Clark's vocals, the lineup is completed by David Stanton (guitar, voice), Dave Smith (keyboards) and Paul White (drums). Tom Nicholls provides bass, and Daryl Kellie plays a second guitar. The band has now solidified into a permanent unit, and all six members will play on future recorded output. The band's sound is similar to Edenbridge (review) although Becki's vocal work is less theatrical than Sabine's.
We first reviewed their debut album album The Failing Light, released in a self-financed edition, in June 2004. In the meantime the band have signed to independent record label 1 Records. Though there has been no rerecording on the material first committed to tape in 2003, the label have brought in Adi Winman to remix the existing material. As a result, the album has also been re mastered. The excellent news is that our main problems with the original product, firstly that the vocals are too low in the mix, and secondly that the drum sound was poor, have both been corrected in this new version. The remix has also given a warmer sheen to the overall sound quality. This new version also arrives in a smart cardboard case, and includes a well-produced video for album highlight "Ghost in my Emotion."
The rest of the package remains as impressive as it did a year ago. Though clearly produced with a goth / metal audience in mind, there is enough here to interest progressive metal fans, with each of the six tracks on the album well over five minutes long. Lyrically, the band are impressive, weaving dark tales of lost and obsessive love. It is also gratifying to hear such natural vocals on a metal album. Becki sings in a warm, almost classical soprano, while David, who shares lead vocal duties, has an unforced, natural sounding voice. Their vocals combine beautifully throughout the album, often to spine-tingling effect. We were also intrigued by the use of instrumentation. Keyboards are very prominent throughout, and the guitars are never overdone; the metallic, machine-gun moments are used sparingly and thus provide genuine drama. Significantly, though there is plenty of melodic lead guitar throughout the album, there are few traditional "solos."
"Touch" opens with haunting strings, before launching into its metallic verse, with Becki accompanying her lead vocal with some soaring backing work. The mid section of the song is delightfully subtle, with some Steve Hackett style guitar, and whispered vocal, before a hugely dramatic ending. "Ghost in Your Emotion" is a standout track, an intense lead vocal from David giving way to Becki's second voice, and a crunching guitar riff, before the voices combine superbly on the second verse, and again on the wonderful chorus. The song finishes on a slow, sinister note. "One Sadness" begins with a terrific cascading piano riff, which gives way to guitar, before launching into something of a progressive metal tour de force, with both voices again combining superbly.
An orchestral keyboard interlude introduces the wonderful ballad "Innocence," with its lovely piano riff, and angelic, multi-tracked female voices. "Nothing After All" moves things up tempo again, Becki's brooding lead vocal on the verse against some throbbing bass combining with some aggressive singing from David on the chorus, followed by a vicious twin guitar and twin bass drum section. Album closer "Celestia" starts with a brooding, almost medieval sounding section, before opening out into another progressive metal workout, with David almost grunting at one point.
Having now seen Seasons End live a couple of times in the past year – and with their appearance on the main stage at this years Bloodstock festival eagerly awaited – it is clear that the band have moved on slightly from the music of this nonetheless excellent debut, recorded nearly 2 years ago and a couple of the songs now feel a little overlong. However it is also apparent that Britain at last has a talent worthy of comparison with the continental greats of female-fronted Gothic rock, and with proper worldwide distribution now available to them, they should soon start making the inroads that market. They certainly deserve it.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England