Like Arjen Anthony Lucassen and Christofer Johnsson, French maestro Pierre Le Pape surrounds himself with a cast of many and goes down the symphonic rock opera route with various singers from both the sort of bands that you might well associate with the genre along with voices from the more extreme side of things. You don’t need to run off in horror at the thought of this, I know that recent Therion and Ayreon albums have been a bit on the stodgy side of things (that’s putting it politely) but as far as Melted Space’s fourth full-lengther is concerned it weighs in at quite a conservative and accessible 47 minutes. I was drawn to the last album 2015’s The Great Lie as it included both Attila Csihar of Mayhem and Niklas Kvarforth of Shining. Neither are included here but there seems no shortage of others willing to take their place.
Pape has arranged what we hear and plays keyboards along with 4 other band members and The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. This should give you some idea of the scope of this album as well as the eccentricity and ambitiousness behind it. The ten songs themselves are arranged like a performance with the vocal cast taking up their own parts such as Chaos, Space, Harmony, Time, Air, Water, Fire, Death, Life, Earth and Pain. Yep it does all sound a bit Terry Pratchett doesn’t it? So there are two ways you can go into this. One is with the booklet open in front of you as you follow the participants word for word or on a much simpler level just listen and go with the flow. I have found myself doing a bit of each on listening to this.
After a moody and atmospheric instrumental intro is dispensed with the first voice we properly encounter is that Catherine Trottman who plays Chaos with massive Mezzo soprano flair, we well and truly shatter the optics running and the music flows around the high hitting notes in style. Others come in and we range from power metal croons of Space, Pape himself and the gorgeous tones of Harmony, Clementine Delauney of Visions Of Atlantis. There’s spoken parts and plenty of flowing harmonies to engross yourself in and you know you are in for an epic tale already. There is a certain amount of pomposity to be expected like the cheesy guitar lines starting ‘The Meaning Of This Place’ and the first vocals of this one sound like they are uttered by an evil warlock rasping away. Fire is in fact Black Messiah (yep I’m not sure either) but as misplaced as he sounds the 4 vocal ‘elements’ combined together certainly make for a gorgeous song and you will probably be playing air guitar and crooning away with them come the second listen. Death sounds a cheerful chap when he comes in on the next number and it’s none other than Øyvind Hægeland (Arcturus) who trades off with Time courtesy of Sakis of Rotting Christ and Life Silje Wergeland (The Gathering). Would I be right in thinking that with those names thrown in the cauldron you want to hear this now?
Beasts and beauties are in no short demand. There’s everything from swirling keyboards to near blast-beats all wrapped up in a rich cinematic style like a battle between angels and demons. Next we have a man (for it is his dawn) and he is Jeff Scott Soto so we are in safe hands at the birth of humanity. This one has plenty of choppy riffs and heavy metal, power metal and opera fans are all going to find themselves enjoying the varied sounds and voices. There’s a particular favourite singer of mine waiting to take a bow and that is Dark Tranquillity singer Mikael Stanne who is Lie, still that’s n not going to stop me believing in him as he takes centre stage aptly on ‘Trust In Me’. As the song cleaves in and races off it musically does sound a hell of a lot like his day job too. It’s all about Stanne and Soto on this one and they trade off in style as the music bounces away. Regrets see the Elements joining forces and I have not yet mentioned Air Guillaume Bideau (Mnemic, Scarve), Water Lucie Blatrier and Earth Ailyn Giménez Garcia (Sirenia).
I think you should have the main thrust of what to expect for this leaving me to listen to the harmonies and read through the story on the rest of the tracks. The ambitiousness has paid off here and this should appeal to a lot of people due to variation of styles and the fact that although at times overblown this is not as indulgent to the scope it becomes unwieldy. The question remains what next, a stage play, a full novel or even a comic book? There are all manners of ways that Le Pape could carry on from here but I expect he is already thinking of cast and crew for album number 5. Whatever he does it’s bound to be a musical feast.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)