Back in 2005 one of my friends recommended me the debut album of a part-Norwegian, part-German band called Midnattsol. Upon checking out the band I was surprised that they had a female singer as this friend is usually very close-minded to this sort of thing. There must have been something very different about the album Where Twilight Dwells for him to recommend it so highly. And there was. Oh hell yes there was!
Where Twilight Dwells was an album that mixed symphonic and gothic metal with folk melodies and an unmistakably Viking metal guitar tone (you know the one). It wasn't perfect but it was damn good, a thoroughly enjoyable listen from beginning to end with Carmen Elise Espenęs', the sister of Leaves' Eyes siren Liv Kristine Espenęs Krull, passionate and emotional vocals adding an undeniably alluring warmth to the songs.
In 2008 Midnattsol unleashed the follow-up, Nordlys and on hearing it my thoughts were that during the intervening years the band had decided to ditch everything that had made them unique. This was a little off the mark as the folk melodies were still present but it just didn't sound like Midnattsol. Carmen pushed her vocals to a higher range and lost the warmth that had infused the debut, the guitars lost their Viking bite and the band just sounded like a typical gothic band. Nordlys wasn't a bad album but I never took to it in the way I did Where Twilight Dwells. They had become 'just another' female-fronted metal band.
Enter 2011 and the band present the third album entitled The Metamorphosis Melody. Going by what I've just written this would have been a fitting title for the second album, but enough of that. I was eager to find out whether the band had rediscovered the unique elements of the debut or whether they had continued the way they had chosen on Nordlys.
The Metamorphosis Melody seems to actually bridge the chasm between the first two albums. Musically, the sound of the album is closer to Nordlys (which I hasten to add did have some good songs) but Carmen has reigned in her vocals to a level closer to that heard on Where Twilight Dwells.
I found this one a really enjoyable listen. The band's musical talents shines forth and the technicality of the playing seems, to me, to exceed that of the debut. Kong Valemons Kamp, for example, includes a stunning solo which utterly makes the song.
The biggest improvement is undoubtedly in the vocals though. Carmen is an incredibly talented vocalist with a penchant for injecting soulful emotions into the music. She did come under some criticism for her performance on the debut (which I obviously disagree with) so perhaps she was trying to prove something on Nordlys, to the unfortunate detriment of the music. On The Melancholy Melody she turns in a masterful performance full of passion and emotion that really grabs you and draws you in whilst also displaying her technical ability. Her voice fits perfectly with the songs crafted for this album and the overall experience is very rewarding.
Where Twilight Dwells will always hold a special place in my heart but I have to say that The Melancholy Melody is without doubt the band's best album to date. All of the songs are excellent and thoroughly enjoyable and so different to the majority of female-fronted symphonic and gothic metal bands that I have no trouble in recommending it to everyone, including the close-minded friend that told me about Where Twilight Dwells! A stunning blend of symphonic, folk and gothic metal within which even non-genre fans may find something to enjoy.