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Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Elyria - Reflection And Refraction


Elyria is a female-fronted progressive metal band founded in 2012 and based in St. Gallen, Switzerland. It was originally meant as an experiment between guitarist Oliver Weislogel and vocalist Patricia Cooney with the purpose to catch Cooney’s lyrical texts in a progressive musical framework in order to translate them into catchy songs. This combination is a tough one to execute as it is, and the fact that Cooney is a classically schooled vocalist with a fragile, clear sound makes things even more difficult to blend. Elyria definitely did not choose the easy path here by any means. Either way they persisted and it wasn’t long before for bass player Stefan Mankiewicz and drummer Sasha Kaisler joined Elyria on the complicated path of progressive music. Considering all this they couldn’t have conjured up a more suitable title for their first full-length release: ‘Reflection and refraction’.

The first impression of ‘Reflection…’ isn’t too good, it starts off with a rather mediocre instrumental intro called ‘Open portals’. Intros however, are just as much an indication of the (quality of) rest of an album as they are not, and luckily the latter is the case here. The hour of music succeeding this somewhat false start has much more body and volume, starting with ‘The vigil’, a song that clearly shows the potential the combination of Elyria and their musical path have. The combination of progressive metal with profound, artistic lyrics packed in quicksilvery, frail, at times almost operatic female vocals turns out very good. Complex rhythmic structures with different levels of variety and speed swirl around Cooney’s vocals to create a vibrant overall sound. There’s an equally important role for guitar, bass, drums and vocals and all rhythmic lines, though very different from one another, enhance and complement each other. Add to that the occasional original and well-executed solo, and the image of what Elyria is all about is complete. With such complicated constructions it’s almost inevitable there’s a collision here and there, and that indeed happens on ‘Reflection…’, in ‘Blind’ for example, where the symbiosis between music and vocals gets disturbed a few times. These are only minor distractions, and even though it obviously would have been better if they hadn’t been there at all, they do not significantly influence the overall impression.

Considering their relative short existence and the fact their only previous feat of arms is an EP with six songs that are on this release as well, Elyria did a pretty good job with ‘Reflection…’. Yes, the vocal lines seem to follow a different rhythmic path than the music at times, which causes a collision here and there, making it sound a bit out of sync, incoherent if you will. Yes, that incoherence broke my focus a couple of times and that is a disadvantage. Only a slight one, though, and one that is more than compensated by the beautifully composed song structures. Where prog can drown itself in its own complexity, Elyria manages to keep their complicated songs quite easy to digest. Songs like ‘Beyond earth’, ‘Faceless’ and ‘Dreamwalker’ are excellent examples of this. Not all songs are complicated, though. The beautiful ballad ‘Virtues’ is a peaceful intermezzo in the otherwise lively, brisk environment of ‘Reflections…’.

Overall Elyria delivers a great album and they have a lot of potential left to grow into their music. There’s a few bands that, knowingly or not, have left their impression on Elyria’s music. I definitely hear some Stream Of Passion, some Imperia, but never too distinct, which is a good thing of course. The name Dream Theater comes to mind a couple of times as well, but again not too distinct and the fact Elyria has a female vocalist is a huge difference, both in sound as in experience of the music. Despite the references to the aforementioned bands, they are in no way comparable to them, in fact they have already managed to create a unique sound that, when distilled to perfection, has great potential. This could very well be a band to keep your eye on. Listen for yourself.

Written by Henric van Essen

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