Released by: Rockshots Music Management
Release Date: June 10, 2016
Genre: Symphonic/Progressive Metal
Claudia Barsi – Vocals
Gianmaria Puledda – Guitars
Antonio Fiori – Guitars
Antonio Doro – Bass, Vocals
Giorgio Pinna – Drums
1. The Sorceress Reveals – Atlantis (Prelude)
2. The Land of the Wind
3. Stories, Songs and Celebrations
4. Divine Love (Interlude)
5. Divine Love
6. Fate and Destiny (Interlude)
7. Fate and Destiny
8. Gold and New Horizons (Interlude)
9. Gold and New Horizons
10. The Battle of Giants (Interlude)
11. The Battle of Giants
12. Tears of Fury (Interlude)
13. Tears of Fury
14. Zeus Unleashed (Interlude)
15. Zeus Unleashed
16. Atlas Condemned (Interlude)
17. Atlas Condemned
18. Our Atlantis (Interlude)
19. Our Atlantis
20. The Sorceress Reveals – Atlantis (Prologue)
Sometimes an album you had been anticipating for a long time with great expectations, can end up being a frustrating mix of everything you were hoping and just a little bit of something you would have never wanted, making it quite the challenging release to evaluate. A perfect example of this is the third release from Italian symphonic/prog metal band Souls of Diotima, titled The Sorceress Reveals – Atlantis. I was very impressed with their 2011 debut Maitri and couldn’t wait to hear more from them. With their 2012 release What Remains of the Day, they only impressed me further with their excellent blend of power metal and prog elements, combined with the very strong vocals of Claudia Barsi. Then in 2013 the band once again stepped up their game with the single “Sentence of the Blade, their most epic and cinematic track up to that point, and easily their best work to date. All of these releases showed the band is capable of doing something truly amazing, and so my expectations were very high when I heard they were working on a new album, said to be more ambitious than anything they’d done before. In 2016 that release is here, and while in many ways it has lived up to my expectations, if not exceeding them even, the album is plagued with one major flaw that initially brought the whole thing down for me, which I’ll explain in a bit.
First off, for those new to the band, Souls of Diotima started off as more of a power metal band on their debut, with light prog elements here and there, while their second release was a nice mix between the two styles, with much more complex arrangements and some very strong instrumental work, and The Sentence of the Blade took this sound further, while adding in more of a cinematic symphonic metal sound. With The Sorceress Reveals – Atlantis, the band has expertly combined the styles of those latter two releases, resulting in their most epic and cinematic album to date, with many extended sections where the orchestra takes over, while at the same time allowing plenty of room for the musicians to shine with extended solos and great instrumental sections. It’s by far their most ambitious release to date, which makes sense as it’s a concept album which tells a story centred around the myths of Atlantis, focusing especially on Atlas. Traces of their power metal sound can be found from time to time, most notably on “Tears of Fury”, though for the most part this is more symphonic/prog metal release. From a pure musical standpoint, this is easily their most accomplished work to date, with a lot of interesting stuff going on and a lot of layers to the music, while still being fairly catchy and easy to follow. The production is also great as well, and everything sounds wonderful, so no complaints there either.
Another area where the band has always excelled is the vocals. Lead vocalist Claudia has a very powerful voice, sounding much more aggressive and more emotive than the typical female metal vocalist, and on this album she’s as strong as ever. At the same time, softer tracks like the ballad “Divine Love” allow her to show the softer side of her vocals, which also works just as well, as she sounds very passionate throughout the album. Other tracks show more surprising sides of her voice, most notably on the track “Zeus Unleashed”, where she sounds rather quirky. I was initially surprised by that track, but over time her vocals there have grown on me. The track “Tears of Fury” also features some harsh vocals, and those are quite effective as well. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded hearing more of them.
So judging the album based on quality of musicianship, production and vocals everything looks great so far. Moving on to songwriting, then, to see if that one flaw I hinted at shows up. After a very brief intro track, the first full song “The Land of Wind” serves as an excellent opener, with a nice extended symphonic section at the beginning, before turning into a mostly mid tempo track, with strong guitar riffs and excellent vocal melodies. The chorus in particular is great, with little bursts of speed, and the solo section in the second half is excellent as well. This track is a good example of what to expect from the album, and the next track “Stories, Songs and Celebrations” mostly follows suit, with an excellent fast-paced chorus, though its verses are a bit slower and the track is a bit more progressive. Overall, another excellent track.
I have many favorite tracks on the album, but the one track that stands above all for me is “Tears of Fury”. It starts off slowly, with the growls I mentioned earlier being used during the verses, and they sound great, then the track speeds up for the chorus and Claudia takes over sounding as powerful as always. The track is mostly fast paced and has by far the best chorus of the album, and obviously the harsh vocals add some nice variety to the vocals. It’s one of the heaviest tracks on the album for sure, though “Fate and Destiny” is also quite heavy and has a great main riff, while “Atlas Condemned” is takes things to a whole new level, especially near the end when Claudia adds in some really cool screams, making it another big standout. On the softer side of things, “Divine Love” is a very nice ballad where Claudia’s vocals shine, and the guitar solo is very nice as well. “Gold and New Horizons” and “The Battle of Giants” are two more progressive tracks that alternate between heavy and cinematic at different points, with the latter in particular starting off very calmly before exploding with faster sections in the middle. The most unique track on the album is “Zeus Unleashed”. It has a very cinematic feel, with epic choirs in the background in the beginning and a major focus on rather strange but epic sounding orchestral work throughout the track. The most surprising thing about it, though, is how Claudia manages to sound extremely weird and quirky throughout the verses. It’s certainly a surprising track, but over time it’s become one of my favorites. Lastly, we have “Our Atlantis”, a rather calm closing song with a bit of a folk feel to it.
To recap so far, the album has excellent musicianship, flawless production, great vocals and consistently strong songwriting across the board. So what does could that flaw I mentioned possibly be? Well, one more thing we can cross off is the lyrics. The songs do a good job of telling the story, and I once again have no complaints. At this point, readers who haven’t heard the album may be wondering if this whole review has been intentionally misleading, and this “flaw” doesn’t even exist. Sadly, that is not the case.
One final thing to consider: I mentioned all songs on the album, but if you take a look at the track listing you”ll notice there are several “interlude” tracks. Now, these by themselves aren’t a problem, and in fact many of them are simply nice orchestral interludes that transition between the songs. The real problem lies with how the band chose to tell the story. Yep, by this point you’ve probably guessed it: They used narration, something I tend to dislike more often than not. The thing is, on tracks like the opening it works just fine in setting the story up, and even during the album there are points where the woman doing the narration does a fine job. What I don’t like is when the narration shows up in the middle of a song and instantly takes the listener out of the experience, just hoping it will stop so the music can resume. There are also points where the delivery of the narration is less than pleasant. The biggest example of this is “Fate and Destiny (Interlude)”, where the narrator tries to give a very dramatic and rousing speech, but instead it comes off as insanely cheesy and grating on the ears. Overall, the narration is more mixed than outright bad, but on an album where the songs themselves already do a good job of telling the story, I would have greatly preferred to not have the narration at all, or to maybe have it in the intro and outro tracks, but certainly not in the middle of the album or especially not during songs.
In the end, while the narration flaws I mentioned are rather annoying and prevent the album from being the best Souls of Diotima release as it probably should have been, The Sorceress Reveals – Atlantis is still highly recommended for both fans of the band and fans of progressive and symphonic metal who like a bit of a cinematic flair to go along with excellent musicianship and vocals.
Reviewer: Travis Green