After frontwoman Heather Michelle left Helion Prime, I was admittedly a bit bummed out. However, I did not realize that she was working with an act by the name of Graveshadow, which is described as symphonic metal albeit with a slightly harsher element in the vocals. For the most part, Michelle sings; but there are several moments where she belts out some blood-curdling rasps, which I didn’t even know she was capable of given the work in Helion Prime. Now I’m not sure if this was one of the reasons behind her exiting Helion Prime, but I will say that the work here is pretty damn stellar all things considered.
Musically, I’m reminded of a mixture of gothic metal with extreme elements like Graveworm or early Sirenia and power metal that I’d consider close to Seven Kingdoms and in some cases, Iron Maiden. It just depends on the track. I will say that “Doorway To Heaven” caught me from the beginning, and sounds as good as “Drake’s Equation” or “Stargazer” from Helion Prime. Naturally, these tracks are a mixture of light and heavy vocals, so there isn’t really a cut on the album where Michelle starts and begin with full-on death metal, but I will say that there are some superb vocal touches utilized on the title track which I found quite mind-blowing. The very last couple of lines there seem to go hand in hand with the admittedly heavy breakdowns and make me smile at the same time. It’s very similar to what I’ve done in Torii, but also reminds me heavily of The Atlas Moth (I really loved Coma Noir) which is not a style that you’d expect this band to dig into; so hearing it done with as much power and emotion as featured on the cut is something amazing. The production might be a bit raw, which doesn’t help the power metal portions; but makes all the difference during these much heavier and often unexpected sections. This essentially balances power and death metal together in a way that many bands fail to get right. I’m tired of hearing death metal vocals thrown directly on top of overactive pomp, with the rest of the band powering through at twenty-thousand miles power hour with no real rhyme or reason, and that’s virtually every song on the “power/death” album. It’s great to hear a band that hasn’t musically forgotten about classic gothic metal like early Tristania and early Theatre Of Tragedy, which is what makes a cut like “Gates” stand out much more than acts who would have relegated to clean vocals throughout. Then you have “The Unspoken” which seems to have a touch of mid-era Arch Enemy flowing through it. “Return To Me” and “Slave” are both cleaner affairs, without the heavy punch returning until “Liberator” but it’s good to see that there are some straight-forward cuts, especially considering the balladic nature of the former, where a grand guitar solo is orchestrated just perfectly.
I do feel that in more places than one, I have a very difficult time hearing Aaron Robitsch, possibly due to Colin Davis’s mastering. Though he plays in Vile and has mixed over a hundred albums, I just don’t think the mixing here was either all that great, or the source waves were difficult to work with. Did Aaron Robitsch not record his keyboard samples loud enough? I can’t really fault Davis if that was the case, but I know that I would have at least used some sort of effect to raise the keys in the mix and they should be as audible as the guitars. The keys here should actually be as loud as the bass and on-par with the guitar, not thrown into the back somewhere. It seems to me, that every time other instruments are being utilized other than the keys themselves, they get drowned out. I mean, aside from light hums, Robitsch may as well junk all of his keyboard samples for the album, because they’re often indiscernible. Seeing as this is supposed to be a symphonic metal band, it’s a bit odd when the damn synths are barely audible in the mix.
But this might not actually be Davis’s fault. As I continue to look at the staff, I find that (as much as I love Night Demon) Armand Anthony is responsible for the mixing here and he doesn’t really any other bands to his credit, other than Night Demon. You know, I really wish that I could have heard these waves, because I think other than the vocals (which were mostly crisp and clear) there’s a real sense of blur that shouldn’t appear on this type of album. Yes, it is a dark, deathy, gothic sort of disc – but there’s also a lot of brightness to be had which I think should have been glossed. Heavily glossed. This album sounds like the demo versions of the Helion Prime tracks included as a bonus on the AFM reissue and that’s not the kind of performance that you want to market – not with this kind of band. There are a lot of bands that do well with a rough and raw production, but the approach here is much too classy and focuses on a symphonic power style which truly would have benefitted with more glaze. I think the whole thing needs to be redone with better clarity. It’s 2018 and you have one-man bands that are able to replicate far better productions with cheap laptops and programs that they probably pilfered from The Pirate Bay. So we really shouldn’t have this kind of issue with all of the technology available to us.
The record sounds like it was recorded back during the heyday of gothic metal, but is mixed with the high clarity of Michelle’s vocals, which are often mix-matched. Even so, the end product is still quite listenable and maybe in another twenty years, someone will fix it. Give it a listen at the link below, as it is impressive nonetheless.
(11 Tracks, 54:00)
Purchase HERE (Bandcamp)