I rather enjoyed the debut from Israel’s Scardust, The Sands of Time.  It was a more progressive, Dream Theater tinged, complex take on the standard Delain/Epica style of female-fronted symphonic metal. It was highlighted by guitarist Yadin Moyal, vocalist Noa Gruman and young keyboardist/orchestral arranger, Alex Nichola. And once again on another concept/story themed metal opera, they take center stage on this impressive follow-up.

If you are new to this, don’t go into this expecting your typical symphonic cleavage core with bombastic choruses (though there are plenty) and catchy, sugary hooks, (ie Amaranthe) this is far more complex and shufty with lots of twiddly, noodly leads and time changes. Nichola delivers oodles of backing keyboards that are not full-on ‘orchestral’ in the traditional sense, but layered, classically inspired, intricate arrangements, bolstered by Gruman’s Hellscore choir ( who have served on albums by Amorphis, Therion and Orpahned Land) and once again the end result should have these guy in the conversation for brightest newcomer on the female-fronted scene.

The 53-minute opera starts with the rousing instrumental “Overture for the Estranged” and jumps into the first track  “Break the Ice” and “Tantibus II”, both songs I would recommend to sort of exemplifies the band’s uniquely choppy but still catchy, epic sound. “Stranger” is another early standout, with a more moody, ballad-ish delivery before the sprawling  “Concrete Cages” delivers a stellar 7-minute progressive masterpiece, aided by Patty Gurdy (who has helped out on Alestorm and Stormseeker albums).

If you want more traditional, verse-chorus numbers, rousing “Huts” (with a cool children’s choir) and fierce “Gone” deliver more standard structures but still manage to break rank when it comes to female-fronted metal tropes. Even more so for the loungy, smokey “Under” or sweeping, penultimate number “Addicted”. “Mist” rounds things out with a nice little acoustic number that revisits some of the albums earlier moments, allowing Gruman’s voice to soothe you to sleep.

Once again, Gruman is stellar, from evocative sopranos to the occasional feral scream/growl, she’s got incredible range and power that would see her as a household name in Europe if she chose pop music or some other more popular outlet. The same should be for the band as a whole, as if they were Finnish, they would possibly be charting in Europe with this kind of talent and output.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
December 4th, 2020


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