Image © Aftermath 2008
Meleisa McDonnell (vocals)
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Image © Aftermath 2008
(12 May 2009) Sweden’s symphonic metal foursome, Aftermath, have quietly crept their way throughout the metal underground over a highly productive and hard-working twelve month period, to focus on crafting an exciting and ambitious debut album, entitled Tides Of Sorrow. A female-fronted and vastly experience collective, led by the easy-on-the-eye American frontwoman Meliesa McDonell, who herself was close to joining forces with contemporary titans, Finland’s Nightwish, Aftermath announce themselves to the scene without any restraints or flashy promotional displays, using word-of-mouth and live performances as the focal approach in gaining interest and turning a few (metal) heads.
Accompanying the album is some interesting and fairly dark artwork, depicting a fallen teddy bear emblazoned with the message "I Love You" upon it, hinting at the lyrical and musical content existing within the nine tracks on offer. The overall feel of Tides Of Sorrow is an effective balance, however, between admittedly "self-struggling" lyrics and haunting keyboards / guitar distortions and a highly melodic, memorable and soaring songwriting style, with plenty of stand-out vocal moments and competent musicianship.
Filmic intro track "The Calm Before The Storm" feels exactly that - battalion drums, string keyboard patches and echoing male choir work creating a looming, eerie feel with a nicely written two-minute opening that closes with a stirring melody, mimicked powerfully in "proper" first song, "Broken Wings." Led by a simplistic piano / guitar chug verse / chorus delivery, McDonell’s vocals instantly display a fine range and suitable grace in balance with the heavier, metal backdrop, especially when it comes to the extremely catchy chorus and a drum-laden bridge.
"Dark Lady Anthem" hints at influence of power-metal kings Kamelot at their most Arabian with a song not quite as lasting or impressive as its predecessor, the chorus not nearly standing out as much, but the electronic blips and bleeps and overall toe-tapping pace keeps the listener entertained and highlights a well-rounded production mix, not to mention a sweeping keyboard solo courtesy of one Timo Hautamaki. "Returning To Live" has the atmosphere of a ballad, only with a crunchier, more electric feel. Slow-building, gradual verses full of longing vocals and finger-picked guitar work lead into a flowing chorus of a much more uplifting, hopeful tone albeit with still foreboding lyrics: 'When I remember ... I start to cry ..." Great stuff.
The synthetic keys and simple drum / guitar work means later-placed "White Swan’"holds a familiar structure to the earlier "Dark Lady Anthem" only this time around with a far superior chorus swirling with vocal harmonies and an interesting bridge, all frenetic keys and (unexpected) harsh vocals providing a tasty contrast to delicate female strains. Instrumental "Symphony Of Death" sounds like it should be a heavy as anything number, and that it certainly is – hugely symphonic keyboards and sweet guitar riffery backed by storming drums is the name of the game, with a few sprinkled melodic passages breaking up the meaty fray. It's nicely placed, effectively showcasing the technical skills of the band, bringing us to a pretty special conclusion, with a superb title track.
Only clocking in at four minutes, it feels far longer (in the best possible way) and is built around a tried-and-tested, though in this case ideal balance, of quite to loud, with a breathtaking chorus delivered with the backing of what sounds a hundred voices exploding out of the steady, softly spoken verses. A thrashy bridge with growled vocals freezes momentarily as a moving backing choir flows about McDonell's voice in a quite stunning moment, before it all crashes back in to action. The album's clear highlight, staying with you even as the meandering intro track wraps everything up with some piano sprinkles and gentle flute melodies.
Aftermath clearly are a band to keep a close eye on, if this invigorating and accomplished debut album is anything to go by. Featuring a vocalist of considerable talent, who in fact is a vital part of the "Aftermath machine" and offering up an enjoyable palette of classy
symphonic metal full of melody and memorability, the future is looking highly promising for these newcomers. This, for sure, is only the beginning.--Jim Hall in Derby, England