Arven: Music of Light

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Arven: Music of Light
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Arven: Music of Light
Melodic Death Metal
Massacre Records
September 30th, 2011
Release length: 51:45
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Arven is a largely female Melodic Power Metal act hailing from Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Formed back in 2006, the group issued one demo back in 2008, and shortly after found a home for their debut full-length album through Massacre Records. With plenty of attention being placed on this group, and not just for the fact that it’s comprised of lovely ladies and one lucky male member. With much being said about this debut release, one can only wonder if it really deserves the attention being generated towards it, or if it really is just a deep down influence of gender in many male critic’s eyes.

Music of Light is a modern recording first and foremost. The audio here is pretty clear and crisp, but there’s a strong bass presence to it that keeps it from becoming sterile. The guitars feel pretty sharp on this recording, and mixed nicely with a strong, obvious bass presence that you can immediately pick up on and doesn’t dominate the album, allowing all three forms of guitars to work so well together that it makes the release sound a lot deeper for this cleaner quality. The keyboards here are used when necessary and do often come off more as a background presence, without really becoming the main atmospheric presence on the group, but rather an additional instrument to aid in setting the tone that guitars and drums are already establishing. The drumming here sounds fantastic as well with a strong, loud click to them with some tight snares and cymbols that add a nice rich and booming quality to the sound that fills the music nicely without really becoming commanding or over-the-top in any sense. Listening to “Music of Light” or “On Flaming Wings” will immediately cement the fantastic quality of this album and how much it really helps the more melodic aspect of the group’s Power Metal sound. It makes the perfect backdrop for the soothing female vocals here that work so well for the environment the band is setting of fantastical journeys, and the female background vocals that appear which come off more as a collection of vocalists and not just one, really adds to the passion and beauty of the material while still being restrained a bit in the background so as not overtake the leads.

All of that really just makes for a fantastic release as far as the sound goes. Musically, the band is pretty top notch in their Melodic Power Metal performances, and really leads to some powerful performances for a debut recording. The title track, “Music of Light,” starts up the album in one of those more passionate style songs as well, which is a bit of a gutsy move for a newer band, despite their reputation at this point. The song’s slower pace is clearly pushed more towards that epic, almost operatic type of sound, but without including the orchestral elements via keyboards or really pushing to go over-the-top. The restrained sensation allows the music to really weave a fantasy-based world that the softer clean vocals and background singers use to their advantage to make the song simply feel moving. It’s a fantastic start for the release, but it’s easily not one of the songs that makes a strong lasting impact here despite being a great experience. “On Flaming Wings” brings a bit of a faster, slightly upbeat performance with a heavier sound that feels a little more typical to the Power Metal style, but the vocal performances here are simply breathtaking. The chorus to this song is honestly so beautiful that every time I’m forcing back the tear that brings to my eye, especially towards the end when the band builds up on it and carries it on a little longer. The track’s melodic presence it just spellbinding and really just stays lodged in your brain even when the song is over, having the perfect combination of majesty and edge to it that this style, especially a melodic take on it, drastically needs to set itself apart from other acts.

But, after such a daring start to the album with the title track, and easily the most astounding track coming right after it with “On Flaming Wings,” does the rest even begin to compare? While some of the songs that follow don’t quite have the impact that “On Flaming Wings” does, many can easily trump the first song, such as the ballad “My Dear Friend.” The song’s additional traditional piano sound on the keyboards and haunting cello, another one of the standard orchestral instruments to do appear at times on the album such as the folk-driven whistles of “Music of Light” and the violin on “On Flaming Wings,” really enhances the saddened tone of this ballad track. While emotionally stirring, the song’s typical build from orchestral start to a more expected Power Metal performance against atmosphere setting keyboards may not be the most unique foundation, but over the song is very enjoyable and shows the kind of passion the group can bring outside of a traditional Power Metal setting. This alone is pretty impressive to hear, and shows the group isn’t a simple one-track pony as far as the style goes. While the song isn’t quite powerful enough to bring a tear to your eye, the environment this track establishes really can just play on your emotions and set a depressing tone in the listener similar to that of the track itself. And, well…that’s about it.

While Music of Light starts off quite dramatically, the material that follows those songs don’t really live up the impact those first two tracks have. This isn’t to say to album’s bad, because it simply isn’t. Nor are the following tracks filler. There’s still plenty of solid songs worth checking out here. “Dark Red Desire” is another enjoyable track that has the more mid-pace approach working for it that still holds some beauty, but it’s not really enough to make it stand out more then any other song here. However you’ll find more enjoyment with the Folk-heavy material here like “Raise Your Cups” which is a slower pace that will put you at ease and make you want drink along with the more joyous sounding track. “Midwinter Nights” also stands out a bit more due to this, except it varies between a slower and fast pace, with the latter coming in more for the bridges. The rest focuses on the whistles again providing that atmosphere with a subtle performance that feeds into a more Folk performance without a huge Metal presence, though eventually picking up into a heavier, chugging passage towards the end that doesn’t really do much to build into an epic, doom-like atmosphere to the track despite how it appears the band intended for it to go. There’s also “Ruined Castle” which is just a catchy song from start to finish, but again nothing too unique about it.

All in all, Arven have been receiving a lot of praise for their demo, as well as this debut full-length recording. Music of Light is a good album, there’s no denying that, and perhaps one of the better female fronted albums to have hit for 2011. But, it seems the band made a promise at the start of the album that the rest of the release couldn’t really keep. “Raise Your Cups” and on are all still good tracks, and “My Dear Friend” does make more of an impact then the rest of those songs, but when it comes to the start of the album, Arven sets the listener’s expectations high, but only carries through with solid material that doesn’t have the same emotional impact. Really, that’s the album’s only flaw, but for a debut recording it still speaks volumes about the band. The additional styles the group goes into, such as the ballad tracks and Folk material proves they have more going on then a strick Metal approach, and after one spin of Music of Light it’s immediately clear the band has a lot of potential to create stronger albums in the future then this one. Arven is definitely a group to keep an eye on, and if this is your style of music, then this is a release you really should pick up. Even though it ends up being an album you can put down, you can always come back to Music of Light for repeat spins any time.

01. Music of Light – 4:21
02. On Flaming Wings – 4:51
03. Raise Your Cups – 4:29
04. My Dear Friend – 7:02
05. World of Hatred – 5:20
06. Dark Red Desire – 4;13
07. Midwinter Nights – 5:02
08. Til Death Do Us Apart – 5:53
09. Ruined Castle – 4:04
10. A Stranger’s Story – 6:30
Overall Score: 8/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Massacre Records.