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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Aina

Days of Rising Doom-The Metal Opera

Review by Mike Korn

On the surface, the worlds of heavy metal and opera would appear to have little in common. But dig deep and you will find a lot of common threads binding the two musical genres. Both thrive on the bombastic and the larger than life. Both often deal with tales of fantasy, revenge and violent passion. And most importantly, both share a kind of over the top exuberance that the mainstream music lover just won't understand.

The concept of a metal opera is not entirely unique, but Aina take it further than anyone thus far. More of a project than an actual band, Aina features contributions from over 30 different metal musicians. Like a Wagnerian opera, "Days of Rising Doom" unfolds a fantasy tale full of heroes and villains, blood and thunder, passion and power. It's undoubtedly inspired more than a little by Tolkien and is certainly pretentious and overblown. But repeated listens reveal a lot of musical depth and ambition. I found myself returning to the CD time and again and becoming swallowed up in the lush, overbearing concept.

The mixture of opera and metal is skillful. Different characters in the story are voiced by different vocalists. I sure wish they would have sent a lyric sheet with this one, as the story sounds very complex. Certain tracks are very metallic, in the vein of current European power metal, and others are almost entirely symphonic or melodic. "The Silver Maiden" is not metal in any way, but to balance it out, we have the raging power metal of "Naschtok Is Born" or "Son of Sorvahr". Often tracks are a combination of classical and metal traits. Give this one some time to grow on you and you'll find the story of Aina is indeed a compelling one!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Aina Overture
A powerful instrumental introduces us to the tale of Aina. A fast speed metal riff is overlaid with a symphonic instrumentation. It's a very cinematic sounding tune. A lot of the themes
and riffs heard here reappear throughout the rest of the album.
Revelations
This cut begins quietly. A children's choir adds a memorable theme to the male vocals as they set the stage for the story. It's not heavy metal at all, but a lush classical theme. Finally,
powerful guitars and double bass enter and the tune transforms into a catchy metal track. I really like the vocal lines here!
The Sliver Maiden
This cut opens with some Moody Blues style narration. Hardcore metal fans, you'll want to skip over this track. It's a gentle, lyrical ballad with a strong Celtic feel, featuring flutes and string. It's actually quite beautiful, with some wonderful female vocals, but it's not rock and roll, much less heavy metal.
Flight of Torek
This is very traditional sounding European speed metal, fast and melodic, in the tradition of stuff like Edguy and Stratovarius. It sounds a bit too familiar to me, like something I've heard before. The bluesy interlude in the middle with the distinctive vocals of Glenn Hughes is pretty cool, though.
Naschtok Is Born
This is an excellent heavy cut with a Middle Eastern feel to it. The guys who write this stuff really know how to come up with some unique and interesting songs. I really dig the heaviness of the verse riffing here and the rolling chorus. This is one of the album's best and most aggressive cuts, with vocals to match.
The Beast Within
Here's some more hard and heavy metal, with a dark feeling. Even though I didn't get a lyric sheet, I can tell the forces of evil are rising here! In every track, the vocals create a memorable motif that the listener can hook onto. The dark chanting sounds like something Tolkien's orcs would come up with.
The Siege of Aina
This is the most epic sounding cut so far, as the classical instrumentation plays a bigger part. It's a pretty progressive tune, featuring a variety of feels and tempos. That strong children's choir appears again. The track seems to be a dialogue between two of the villainous characters, each voiced by a different singer. It works really well, with one character exclaiming "Your doom is nigh but you see it not!". Later, other characters enter the dialogue, including a female enchantingly voiced by Candace Night. It's an amazing patchwork of various vocal themes that do indeed weave together like a real opera, only it's over a mostly speed metal background. This is a very advanced piece of music.
Talon's Last Hope
Breaking from the classical/power metal style, this cut is a smoky and bluesy song. Slow burning and featuring some tasteful guitar leads, this reminds me of prime Whitesnake or even later Zeppelin with a bit of an epic twist. Glenn Hughes' nasal vocals again come to the fore here.
Rape of Oria
This is kind of a spooky mood piece, with whispered vocals and ominous themes predominant. A low-key piano motif comes in to add to the gloom and then some female vocals enter the song. It's pretty mellow stuff.
Son of Sorvahr
You'll be hard pressed to find a catchier metal track than this. The simple riffing sticks in your brain like glue and the shouted vocals give it the feeling of a war march. It's a great power metal song!
Serendipity
This ballad strikes me as kind of insipid, but I have to admit it has a strong melody line. It's mostly performed with acoustic guitar, strings and flute. The kids' choir again makes an appearance.
Lalae Amer
This exotic cut has a strong feeling of the Middle East. One can almost picture the caravans crossing the desert. Female vocals chant a memorable "la la la" refrain that holds the song together. It isn't all done with traditional instruments, as you can hear some guitar riffing going on beneath the more classical instruments. There's an odd monologue in the middle that is completely in some made-up tongue like Tolkien's Elvish. I picture a Princess Arwen character making the speech. Overall, the song is a lively combination of ethnic and rock elements.
Rebellion
Now we get back to the meat and potatoes metal, which continues until the end of the album. This is straightforward power metal, fast and driving with a bit of Celtic feel to it. The soaring chorus is strong, but even better is yet to come.
Oriana's Wrath
This is a battle song! You can tell just from the music that the heroes are riding to war with the forces of evil! It starts with a magnificent, rousing chorus with strong female vocals predominant. This is stirring stuff! The track is fast and heavy, but the classical chorus and orchestral instruments add to its power. I believe Sass Jordan does the female type vocals. As opposed to the usual
operatic diva, she sounds more like an angry Tina Turner! It's a nice, original touch! Along with "Naschtok is Born" and "Son of Sorvahr", this is the cream of the crop here.
Restoration
This is a very odd but strangely effective way to end the story of Aina. An incredibly simple, thudding kind of riff forms the backbone of the entire track. The repetition would be rather dull,
except that snatches of themes from all the prior tracks fade in and out over its length. The result is a powerful recap of the tale that fades out gradually. Perhaps it will lead into a sequel?
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