A while ago I found myself enjoying an album called ‘Tears of Lust’ by a little known band called EnkeliNation, and this opinion was later reinforced by strong showings at the Bloodstock and Dames of Darkness festivals.

Fast forward to 2016, and founder member and front woman Elina Siirala was invited to join the ranks of Leaves’ Eyes following the departure of Liv Kristine. While this was obviously a great step up for Elina, I was selfishly a little disappointed thinking that it would mark the end of Enkelination, but I need not have worried…..Angel Nation is a continuation of Enkelination, still with Elina at the helm, still with the same musical personality and exemplary classical yet ethereal vocals and pulsating symphonic metal.

It turns out Angel Nation is actually the English translation of EnkeliNation (Finnish), and while changing the name is probably a matter of practicality, it also coincides with a fresh sound and a huge step forward for the band with ‘Aeon’ and so feels appropriate. Furthermore the album sees guest appearances from Jukka Pelkonen (Omnium Gatherum) and Merit Palas on Violin (Elina’s mother!).

Things get under way with ‘Burn the Witch’, complete with all of the pomp and bombast one might expect from a symphonic metal band, not a million miles from the aforementioned ‘Tears of Lust’ release, but things soon start to diversify, slowing down a little on ‘Blood Is On Your Hands’, showcasing Elina’s vocal prowess a little further.

While she is “classically trained”, her voice remains distinctive, and is easy to distinguish from her peers, and this becomes even more apparent during the opening of ‘Wonder Who You Are’, when Elina is singing with minimal instrumental accompaniment, leaving her voice sounding vulnerable and powerful at the same time, before the rest of the band join the party.

‘Free’ sees the band experimenting with beauty and the beast style vocals, juxtaposing Elina’s angelic voice with harsh growls. This isn’t groundbreaking, but it is effective nonetheless and breaks up the album nicely. ‘Enough is Enough’ continues the momentum with a high tempo, almost pop feel, and Elina singing in a more natural key before a dramatic change in pace with ‘Music Plays’, which is an emotional ballad with violin taking centre stage next to an extremely powerful, passionate performance from Elina. To my ears, the vocals were a a little buried towards the end of the song and could have done with more prominence as this is an outstanding vocal performance.

Fireflies and Destination follow with the more familiar driving symphonic metal style bring the album to a close.

This is a big step forward for Angel Nation and could be the catalyst to break into the higher echelons of symphonic metal.

(8/10 Andy Pountney)