Released By: Inner Wound Recordings
Release Date: October 27th, 2017
Genre: Melodic Metal
Elina Siirala – Vocals
Sonny Antoniou – Guitars
Julia B Cadau – Bass
Lucas Williamson – Drums
1. Burn the Witch
2. Blood is on Your Hands
3. Breathe Again
4. Wonder Who You Are
7. Enough is Enough
8. Music Plays
Back in 2014, I reviewed Tears of Lust, a pretty solid melodic metal album which had its own unique feel and it was my first time hearing Finnish vocalist Elina Siirala, who has since gone on to take over vocal duties for Leaves’ Eyes, after their infamous break up with Liv Kristine. While I look forward to hearing what Elina will do with her new band, though, I’m glad to see she’s continued with her main band, albeit with a slight name change. When the band first debuted, they were called enkElination, a combination of Elina’s name, the word “nation” and “enkeli”, the Finnish word for “angel”. Now for their second album, the band has decided to change their name to the simpler, more easily comprehensible Angel Nation, which makes sense, though I actually did like their original name more, because it was unique and managed to mix the singer’s name in there. Regardless, though, I wasn’t expecting a new release from them this year, so I was excited when I got the chance to review their upcoming sophomore release, Aeon, which is another great album that very much continues with the sound found on their debut.
For those who never heard Tears of Lust, it was a very atmospheric album which used keyboards as the leading instrument to create some nice backdrops throughout, and despite having operatic vocals it actually had very little to do with symphonic metal overall. Instead. It was more of a modern melodic metal album, with some surprisingly heavy guitar work times, and it had a nice mix of lighter hard rock influenced tracks to balance out some of the heavier tracks, as well occasional bursts of power metal. All that is true of this album, though I find the hard rock elements have been dialed back a bit, and the speedier sections have been increased, with many of the tracks being fairly up-tempo and also very catchy. Vocals are often the main focus on this album, just like on the debut, though the instrumental work is quite nice as well, with the keyboards, in particular, being very atmospheric and adding to the overall feel of the music quite nicely, while the guitars are generally heavy and thick sounding, with some nice melodic solos thrown in from time to time. On the production side, this album sounds similar to the band’s debut, with a rather raw sound overall, though every instrument can be heard clearly, and the slightly underproduced feel makes the heavier parts sound all the more powerful. As on the debut, the music often gives the feel of symphonic metal, but actual symphonic elements are used very sparingly, most notably on the ballad “Music Plays”. The songwriting this time around is consistently engaging, with a couple big highlights, and while there’s still room for improvement, none of the songs here are less than satisfying.
The most important aspect of this album is clearly the vocals, and unsurprisingly Elina sounds fantastic once again. She uses operatic vocals, but she usually stays in a fairly low register compared to other operatic singers, and her approach is fairly restrained, often sounding fairly light and very clear, so it’s very easy to make out the lyrics. She has an absolutely beautiful tone to her voice that comes through on every track, and even when she does sing higher than normal and go for bigger notes, her tone is still always amazing and clearly her biggest strength. There’s also one notable guest appearance on the album, which I will go into detail about below, but suffice to say it works out very well.
Moving onto songwriting, the album gets off to a strong start, with lead single “Burn the Witch”. After an extended intro featuring some atmospheric keys and haunting vocals, the pace picks up, and the full band enters in, though the keyboards still dominate throughout the track. There are some nice heavy riffs throughout, and overall the pace, while not necessarily fast, is pretty decent and fairly upbeat, leading into a very catchy and instantly memorable chorus where Elina’s wonderful vocals shine through. It’s a great start to the album and should give new listeners an idea of what to expect from the album, while also serving as an indicator of how the band’s sound has evolved for anyone familiar with their debut. Next is “Blood is on Your Hands”, a slower paced track which has a brief but very nice keyboard intro, before settling into a nice groove, with some heavy guitars giving way to Elina’s beautiful vocals, and overall it’s a fairly relaxing track with just enough of an edge to make it work as a melodic metal track, and it has another excellent chorus, as well as a nice guitar solo.
Things only get softer after that, with “Breathe Again” being a power ballad that serves as a nice vocal showcase. It has a really excellent, very beautiful solo in the middle, though the vocals are clearly the main focus of the track, and the last run through the chorus is especially epic and has some big higher notes. Next is “Wonder Who You Are”, which starts off with an extended intro featuring a nice use of atmospheric keys and a soft run through of the chorus, before the guitars kick in and the music speeds up, turning into more of a power metal influenced track. It’s the first real speedy song on the album and it has some nice instrumental work, to go along with a really good chorus and speedy verses. The following track, “Farewell” keeps the momentum going, being another fairly heavy track with an upbeat chorus, though it slows down during the verses and is more of a mid-paced track.
As we move into the second half of the album, we get the big guest appearance on “Free”, a track which starts off with some epic choir vocals, before speeding up and turning into another one of the faster, heavier tracks on the album. The opening verse has a melodic death metal feel to it, both because of the surprisingly heavy guitar work, but also because of some awesome death growls, provided by Omnium Gatherum vocalist Jukka Pelkonen, whose powerful, deep growls add an extra layer of intensity to the track during the verses. He also provides some brief but effective supporting vocals during the chorus, which is otherwise fairly soft and keyboard driven, enhanced by Elina’s beautiful voice, as always. This track is definitely one of the standouts of the album and works nicely as an experiment into a slightly heavier territory, while still having the atmospheric keys, wonderful vocals and melodic elements that work well throughout the rest of the album.
Staying in upbeat territory, “Enough is Enough” is yet another speedier track, though it has a lighter feel to it compared to some of the other tracks here, with the keyboards giving the song more of a playful feel, and this is the one track on the album where they can get a bit cheesy, though it works pretty well. The chorus is even catchier than normal, and the vocals are of course great as always, so it’s a fun track overall. After that is the softest track on the album, that being the piano ballad “Music Plays”, which is actually my favorite on the album. It’s the one track to make full use of symphonic elements, with some nice orchestral arrangements used throughout, and it serves as a wonderful showcase for Elina, who sounds amazing as always and goes for some bigger notes as the song goes on, really showing off her capabilities. After that, we move to the final two songs, with “Fireflies” being another speedy track with a fun and catchy chorus, while “Destination” starts off slow with an extended atmospheric intro, before settling into more of a mid-pace rhythm, with occasional bursts of speed as it goes on. It’s a solid track throughout, with another great chorus, and it gets pretty epic towards the end, with an excellent guitar solo and some great vocals on the final run through the chorus, closing the album out on a high note.
Overall, Aeon is another excellent album from Angel Nation, which continues with the melodic metal sound they established on their debut, while also including some more power metal influenced tracks, as well as a bit of melodic death metal on one track, thanks to some great guest vocals. On the whole, I find it to be a very entertaining and consistently engaging album, but there are only two tracks where I’d say I’ve fully blown away throughout, those two being “Free” and “Music Plays”. Still, it’s an excellent album overall and roughly on par with their already great debut, and it certainly serves as a great showcase for Elina Siriila’s beautiful vocals, and I’d highly recommended it for any fan of melodic metal.
Reviewer: Travis Green