Elvaron
Ghost of a Blood Tie

Here is something that is a little out of my wheelhouse, but considering my interest in keyboard drenched metal and the plethora of releases I’ve covered recently with said keyboards, this is an intriguing release that captures my interest here and there.

Elvaron hail from France and have 4 prior albums under their belts dating back to 1997. The style they play is described as ‘progressive thrash/power metal’. Something I would normally not really care for. But two things kind of got my attention on this conceptual album. First, the utterly lavish keyboards and piano of newcomer ( and clearly classically trained piano player) Shuguang Li really jump off the disc. These are completely over the top, epic synths, like Bal Sagoth  (check out 10 minutes into the last track)  or Andy Winter on steroids stuff. Second, the overall sound is just metal enough to keep me listening. The vocals of Matthieu Morand are gravelly enough (though with plenty of clean croons) and not too falsetto to keep things a little more thrash based, and too be honest he is kind of a background element as there is large chunks of mostly instrumental metal throughout  And then the riffs are pretty solid, if a bit convoluted and proggy and hardly catchy. So there you have it. Rush meets Bal-Sagoth.

The album jumps out of the gate with a 7 plus minute instrumental, “The Journey Within”, which should be another black mark for me, but that is what the skip button is for. But the 9 minute “Silent Windows” is where I start to get interested. It has a tone like a lot of Andy Winter projects (Winds, Age of Silence), but staggers and stutters with a more brittle, twisty prog spine, but there is just enough balls to be sort of thrash. There’s a large segment later in the track that’s purely instrumental, letting Li and Morand’s guitars be completely and utterly self  indulgent and it’s rather over the the top fun.

Some operatic female vocals interject between Li and Morand’s continual dueling on “A Price to Pay”,  while “From A Brother to a Shadow” is a more restrained track but still has a nice rousing little climax around 5 minutes in. Another 9 minute number, “No Town of Mine” is more of a ballad of sorts with a few harsher bursts arising in the choruses and around 7 minutes in, Li goes bonkers on the ivories. “Runaway in Fright” starts with some utterly gorgeous yet intense keyboards, showing Li truly is the band’s focal point, and probably why I’m still listening at this point, as the music itself is starting to show its cracks, though Morand matches Li not for note many times, his vocals begin to simply just be there with no real presence or need, are a bit off key (“Distant Shores”), and I start to wonder if Elvaron should in fact be an instrumental project.

By the time the albums’s 15 minute closer “The Man Who Wears My Face” rolls by, I’m about done, but it end up being the album’s most direct, simple and catchy track, though still ambitious and heavily reliant on Li, so I’m glad I stuck it out. I don’t know how often i’ll come back to this release, but Li is worth keeping an eye on so, then as long as he stays in Elvaron, they will stay on my radar.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
June 30th, 2016

Comments

  1. Commented by: Ace Barker

    Better heard not seen.


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