As you might know from reading my columns, or rather my alter ego Marty’s, I have a wee bit of penchant for female-fronted/vocals metal. After hearing several fairly rubbish attempts over the years there seems to be a huge outbreak of pretty amazing stuff. Here are a few of my favourites concentrating on female-fronted bands rather than lots of bands like Therion, Kamelot et al who have co-leads.

Illumination: Limited Edition

Alright we always knew that this lot was damn good but Illumination is their Once or even Ghost Reveries an album that completely sums up what the band is about. It’s a stunning goth symphonic metal tour de force that just gets better and better with every listen. While not as accessible as Nightwish, it rewards those that give it a chance.

This is one of those few amazing albums that is a bugger to review because it’s just that good. There is not a turkey on this puppy, even though the music ranges from almost Evanescence pop “Destination Departure” to heavy bleak near-death metal “In the Wake” (the bonus track). The band even drafted in Vorph when Osten’s vocals were not extreme enough.

If you are at all interested in female-led goth metal then you could do far worse than pick up this excellent CD. This will keep the goth and the metallers both happy in the clubs. Unlike many CDs I review, this one will stay on the iPod for quite a while. Within Temptation has had the gauntlet thrown down to them by these feisty Norwegians. This album deserves to be bloody huge!

Karmacode

This was predicted to be LC’s breakout album and what an album it is to breakout with. Now not just the secret of metallers with a tender side, they are getting loads of mainstream attention. It has to be said they deserve every moment of it. This is quite a good album with lots passion and feeling from all involved.

The edition of the CD I have comes with photos, a couple of videos, and a tour diary. Normally I am not too keen on covers but their cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” is simply a pleasure to hear. There is not a duff one in the other twelve either. Their excellent use of male and female voices means that Lacuna Coil is the band to take Evanescence fans to the next level. Just check out “Our Truth” if you don’t believe me. This is a stunning album and will feature on many people’s best of list at the end of the year.

Highest Hopes: the Best of Nightwish/+DVD

Now all of you know that I rather like Nighwish and fear for their future now that they have parted with their lead singer, Tara. This “best of” is a fitting tribute to the end of the era of a great symphonic goth power metal band with songs from all phases of their career. There is even a cover on here of Gary Moore’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” that I would argue is better than the original recording from the ’80s.

The female vocalizing on it is just stunning. The CD starts with the awesome “Wish I had an Angel” and ends with frankly stunning male-lead “High Hopes,” recorded live with serious Floyd influences. If you have never heard this band before, this collection is well worth checking out. It is, unlike many greatest hits, very much their best of… so far. Oh yes, and there is special DVD with three live tracks none of which are on the CD. This is an excellent package from an amazing band that hopefully will rise again soon.

Vinland Saga

Yes, I know I am a bit behind the times reviewing this set. But, at least, I have the pleasure of the enhanced version with its bonus track ‘Amelie’ (new version) & ‘Heal’ plus a video (Viking Wuthering Heights) for the cracking track ‘Elergy’ , an interview and a making of clip. The Viking theme and Mrs Krull’s lovely ethereal voice make for quite a pleasant heavy ride. They are set to have a new album out soon, one has to wonder how they are going to top this rather impressive CD. This is the sensitive, but not too much, side of the whole Viking metal genre. I found it the perfect accompaniment for reading Beowulf which I reviewed last week.

No not the sequel to Four Weddings and a Funeral but the new album from Sirenia a bloody impressive nine song collection of goth rock that sounds to me like Evanescence done properly with someone who can really sing. The only fault I have with this CD is that “the bonus” with the special edition is a bleeding poster and the radio edit of the track ‘My Mind’s Eye’ and video for said song.

Saying that the singer of this band does work well with the name of the band with her clear siren vocal qualities. This is a bit lighter than say Leaves Eyes or Tristania but it certainly has enough of an edge to make it of interest to goths and metallers. Well worth seeking out.

The Forgotten Goddess

This is a bunch of Americans trying to do the female fronted progressive goth thing and beat the Europeans at their own game. The band really works quite well on this disc, but there is really nothing that jumps out at you and blows you away. “Voices in a Dream” and “Expressions of Hesh” are a couple of tracks that do seem to stick after a few plays. Musically it’s rather modern riffing metal with touches of Dream Theater and the added twist of a sweet voiced songstress. Some of the European purveyors of the same music seem to work better with female vocals than this lot; their vocals can seem to be a bit too lush and fluffy, without enough oomph behind ’em.

This is a decent album, just not yet to the level of some of the similar style coming out of Scandinavia and Italy. One thing that can be said about this lot though is that they are not by any means Evanescence-clones preferring a goth metal, as opposed to pop edge, with plenty of blast beat drumming. The album is just missing that something I can’t quite put my finger on, which is a shame.

The Heart of Everything

Readers of this column will know I rather liked this lot’s last album and was worried they would have a hard time matching it. I needn’t have. If anything this album matches it for quality and there is a song on here that makes “Angel” seem a bit week. “What Have You Done,” which features Keith Caputo just stuns from the first listen. It’s goth-pop pomp at its absolute best. As if that was not enough, there is the absolutely blinding “Our Solemn Hour.”

There is absolutely nothing on the last Evanescence album which comes anywhere near close, and some have speculated that this song is WT laying the gauntlet down. Never mind the fact that Sharon Den Adel has probably the best voice in female goth metal completely eclipsing the vocals of Ms Lee. The vocalist can do sweet but also has enough grunt behind it to get out some wicked power. The band is providing music for the new RPG Spellborn as well as releasing a strong candidate for album of the year.

There is not one duff track on this CD, a powerhouse of the genre from start to finish. I will be amazed if there is anything this good for quite a while. Simply stunning stuff and essential if you like quality symphonic goth tinged metal.

You would think with Evanescence’s popularity there would be a huge rush of piss-poor imitators instead we fine there were a large group of bands doing a similar thing which never really got the push. Seeing the bar raised the have all released their best CDs of late blowing away the latest CD from the Amy Lee band.

More metal & hard rock reviews in this week’s Marty’s Music Meltdown.

If you like women in metal take a look at this festival found via the great site Metal Maidens.

Update: Rumour has it that Nightwish’s new singer is none other than the recently departed chanteuse of Tristania. Thinking vocally this would seem to be a logical move.

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