Here is a pop/metal/unclassifiable album that, while it’s not the most memorable album even for that subgenre, is really enjoyable.
Once again, you must listen to this with an open mind, and accept that it’s more of a pop album with occasional guitars rather than a poppy metal album. And like I said, a lot of that album sounds like something done better by many others before. But Charlotte Wessels’ light voice has always been better suited to pop than symphonic metal, and most importantly, she has a very good selection of songs on this second collection of tales from 6 feet under.
We begin on a strong note with the two first tracks, “Venus Rising” and “Human to Ruin”. The first one is a pretty catchy self-empowerment anthem with cool industrial sounds, crystal-clear vocals and a sense of pride, advising the listener to follow the example of Venus, who could not be contained and could always rise above. The second one is more guitar-based, has a great energy, catchy choruses and choirs. “Phantom Touch” is another nice guitar-driven track with a slightly sinister riff and a loud, almost screamed chorus that shows some real anger. That’s what happens when she’s really pushing her voice all the way. I could also mention the guitars and keyboards track “A Million Lives” and its catchy chorus. This one is somewhere between the poppy tracks and the more metal-leaning ones.
Like I often say, this album is pop metal in a good way. This is proven in “The Final Roadtrip”, a pretty catchy and joyful synth-based track with wistful lyrics about dying. However, “Good Dog” is kind of an odd experiment, mostly consisting of a keyboard melody with guitars that occasionally come and go. It may be a little too soft for a song about calling a guy a dog. But we must look at the songs that happen to share titles with famous pop songs: “Against All Odds” is a ballad with an acoustic guitar, vocal echoes and almost lyrical singing, about starting a new life. It showcases the theme of hope through hard times that runs through the album. “Toxic” is the angriest track on the album, with angry whispers, dark industrial sounds, crystal-clear singing for lyrics that attack celebrity gossip-obsessed media, and a bridge that explodes into guitars and growls before one last chorus. There’s a real sense rage at not just specific people and things, but at society itself in this song.
We get more of that in the last two tracks. “I Forget” is more about disappointment at oneself, and more melancholic, with strings, acoustic guitars, choirs and ethereal vocals. “Utopia” has a nice melody and electronic sounds, and it sounds very sweet for a song about the end of the world, and maybe the possibility to start again after the end.
I think I enjoyed this album more than I expected. Charlotte Wessels can do much more with her voice, and with programmed drums and guitars than I thought, and most of the songs are better crafted and more memorable than what I’ve heard from Delain. But Delain fans could definitely enjoy that album, because it still has catchy and emotionally open songs, and Charlotte Wessels’ charming voice. It’s the former singer of a poppy symphonic metal band embracing her pop side, while keeping a metal backbone. And it’s a mostly successful experiment, aside from a few generic ballads, and “Good Dog” which is the only track that doesn’t seem to know what it’s going for. But to me, what makes the album so compelling is the sense of hope remaining despite all the hardships. This is what will make listeners from all kinds of musical backgrounds enjoy this album, and what makes these songs so good.
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