It’s actually taken longer than I thought it would, but years ago when I heard that fabulous Northern Kings debut it crossed my mind that surely there had to be a female counterpart out there at some point – it made total sense. Well, it had to be done properly and with the talent involved in Exit Eden, now is the time. The similarity to the idea of Northern Kings can’t be ignored – four vocalists with differing styles giving the Symphonic Metal treatment to well-known pop songs. It needed Exit Eden to have four great voices to make this work and it does, with the four singers, all fabulous, do have different vocal approaches and varying levels of experience.
Amanda Somerville has had so much to do with the vocals of so many prestigious bands in the last 10 years (including her own), and is such a respected alto singer, that she really needs no introduction. Clemantine Delauney too is building a name for herself in Symphonic Metal circles due to her recent work with Serenity and Visions Of Atlantis showcasing her varied vocal leanings. Marina La Torraca has recently used her operatic talents with Avantasia and Anna Brunner, a relative newcomer, is the line-ups ‘hard rock’ voice. As I write this there is no concise track-list detailing who did the originals of each track anywhere on the internet, so seeing as earlier this year I ruined any feeble amount of Metal credibility I was clinging to by sharing my knowledge of Kajagoogoo in a review for The Mute Gods, it might as well be me that takes one for the team as it were. So here we go – we have 11 tracks getting a Symphonic Metal makeover, 4 from the 80’s, one from the 90’s and the rest since the Millennium.
First up is ‘Question Of Time’ (Depeche Mode), quirky like the original, benefiting here from increased orchestration, a big production and guitar replacing the originals prominent synths, it sets the scene nicely and gets things off to a bombastic start. ‘Unfaithful’ (Rihanna) is a great arrangement and a good introduction to the band – it’s the first choice for a video clip so check this one out for yourselves! ‘Incomplete’ (Backstreet Boys) is a big, grandiose Power Ballad on here, which I’m sure is a vast improvement on the Backstreet Boys original that I have no inclination to sit through (I have to draw the line somewhere…). ‘Impossible’ (James Arthur) is one of the better tracks produced by an X Factor winner (though to be fair the competition isn’t queuing up…) and like the previous track shows that if a song has a memorable vocal line, a braver arrangement can really bring that to the fore, thanks to the treatment it gets from Exit Eden.
Five tracks in and a song I always thought deserved a Metallic mauling was ‘Frozen’ (Madonna) and on the whole this version is what I hoped for. Personally I’d lose the techno-style sample that builds on the verse and they have flattened the slight eeriness of the original, but the introduction of down-tuned heavy guitar and massive chorus production more than makes up for it. ‘Heaven’ (Bryan Adams) get’s a slightly more Hard Rock/Metal updating with sympathetic rather than dominant orchestration, which works well for this track. Firework (Katy Perry) is undeniably a comprehensive pop song in it’s own right and really all it needs is just “heavying up a bit”, which Exit Eden do admirably and manage to capture the optimism of the original really well. Skyfall (Adele) is of course a Bond theme, already full of drama and orchestration so the work is already done for this one – just stick some guitar on there and ramp up the operatics and orchestration another notch and there you go!
‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ (Bonnie Tyler) probably didn’t need covering…but then it seems wrong not to! Musically it’s everything you would want a 2017 Symphonic Metal version to be and though I think I miss Bonnie’s gravelly tones cutting through, the different voices sharing the melodies on this up-date give it another interesting angle. The guest male vocal actually comes as a surprise amongst the wealth of female voices, but it fits nicely…and has a bit of gravel to it – maybe in tribute to Bonnie as it was the only part of the original that wasn’t her? There’s more than you initially think going on in the original of next track ‘Paparazzi’ (Lady Gaga) as there is in many Gaga tracks and Exit Eden really wade into this one, picking out all the elements they want, including introducing a fabulous down-tuned guitar riff as it’s core. It peaks with a suitably huge chorus that might give Gaga even more Metal orientated ideas after her appearance with Metallica last year. Proceedings are rounded out with the much-covered-by-Metal-bands ‘Fade To Grey’ (Visage), which although it manages to be heavier than Atrocity’s well-known version, it seems to lose a bit of the songs trademark dark mood, but the arrangement brings it into line with the rest of the album very well.
But what about the vocals? It’s a band featuring four Metal vocalists Andy, what about the bloody vocals?!!?? Well…if you like the idea of the tracks above getting the Metal treatment and like the idea of four note perfect female voices nailing every line then surely it’s much better that you discover who sings what, where and how for yourselves! This is a covers album aimed at all ages which is a clever move, with the right exposure the tracks on offer should gain Exit Eden plenty of interest from young and older – which is the idea! It’s hard to see how any of the tracks included on this album could have been given a better Symphonic Metal work-out which is a testament to all concerned. And aside from it being an incredibly meticulous and professional album, it’s damn good fun too!
(8/10 Andy Barker)