Avalon - Eurasia

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Sensory
Catalog Number: SR3010
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:43:00

Avalon's Eurasia, which was released last year, is a really terrific album, beautiful, warm, full of texture and energy, great harmonies, lead vocals, instrumentation... just simply terrific. As you may have already read elsewhere (including these pages), the album includes a cover of Mr. Mister's "Kyrie" as a bonus track. Now, that isn't the strange thing, even though it might seem to be. That is, if that isn't strange enough, then consider this: although Avalon add punch to it and vocalist Chity Somapala doesn't really sound like Richard Page, this is another wise fairly faithful version. Listening to this at work, where I cannot, unfortunately, listen to anything too loud, I did a double take when I heard the track for the first time. I mean, it sounded much more faithful than a louder and closer listen reveals. Why spend much time on the cover tune? Because Avalon do little things with it, like adding accents that help it fit seamlessly into the rest of the music - it takes nothing away from Avalon being a great band.

So, on to the rest of the album. Everything seems perfect here. The production is, of course, stellar, but then I don't know if I've come across a badly produced album from Sasha Paeth. "Aurora" begins with a traditional Buddist chant that gives way to sitar phrase - I thought of George Harrison's forays on Sgt. Pepper's. Powerful metal takes over with "Burning Souls," complete with a sing-a-long chorus (I can see live show call-and-response already). Yes, there are hints of Dream Theater here, most noticeably on "Eternal Flame," but perhaps it is more characteristic of a genre than anything. A lyrical sitar solo by guest musician Roland Salim Köhler blends into a blistering guitar solo from Sebastian Eder. Jazzy percussion from Jacques Vontay opens "Temujin" for a few bars, before lightning quick guitars kick things into overdrive. Jag Panzer comes to mind, though Somapala has quite a different kind of voice from Harry Conklin (and yes, I'm quite Jag Panzer focused at the moment due to a recent little Illinois-based festival). Hmm...I think I have to namecheck Rhapsody and other similar Italian metal bands, too, as this is really a combo of both the classical and power metal styles. That the song is subtitled "The Precious Warrior" out to also give you some clue as to the kind of power I'm talking here - boastful battle rage.

One thing I've noticed on many releases of late is that the keyboards are mixed too high in the mix, drawing attention to themselves when they should be less prominent. The balance is perfect here for Jens Kuckelkorn. I bring this up, because I noticed them in a prominent position on "Eternal Flame." By the way, I mentioned Dream Theater above, but that's really just for the verses, as for the choruses you'll think of Dennis DeYoung fronted Styx. Somapala doesn't sound like DeYoung, at least not entirely. Honestly, there were times when I thought of the pop-rock The Outfield's vocalist Tony Lewis. But no, here it this music that is very reminiscent of Styx, sometimes with the harder edge Tommy Shaw gave the music, but also with a keyboard focused sound that DeYoung brought to it.

In contrast, we get the acoustic based "Save The Holy" which almost sounds southwestern, though during the instrumental interlude there is a, well, Eurasian feel to it. This is where the beautiful comment that started this review comes in - Somapala voice here is warm and very inviting. I hate to keep mentioning other bands or vocalists that come to mind, but um...well...I thought of Steve Hogarth a bit here, and thus, of more recent Marillion. Here I'll say your mileage may vary.

The power returns with "The Last Call." Though it isn't without its own subtleties, it makes the power choruses all that much punchier. I must also give credit to Petra Delorian, whose bass work gives a solid grounding to each track while also providing a great deal of the darker brush strokes...the sound is very rich and full, rounded. It doesn't seem so strange anymore for the female band members to be in roles other than vocalist, and I say this is a great thing.

The music is diverse enough and balanced enough that you don't get bored. Instead, you find yourself distracted into stopping all else and just getting into the album, anxious to see where the next track will take you, but also not quite willing to leave behind the track that's currently playing.

I'll talk about one last track, the instrumental title track -- wow. Fantastic. Great guitar leads from Eder, quite emotive and evocative, interesting percussion from Voutay...well, everyone is spot on! Very, very nice, classic ... I must also mention "The Painting" which is another understated, acoustic piece, reminiscent of the early track, providing continuity, but not at all like "Save The Holy." Light percussion and acoustic guitar provide the backdrop to Somapala's gentle and smooth voice. The song breaks for another scorching lead from Eder is featured here - classic. The closer "Somaruma," is a beautiful instrumental piece that lasts for two short a time. Acoustic and electric guitars play complement to each other, the acoustic in the lead, the electric filling the spaces in between...though focusing on one shifts the dynamic - they are that intertwined.

Recommended? Absolutely.

Aurora (2:11) / Burning Souls (4:31) / Temujin (4:52) / Black Hole Wisdom (4:27) / Eternal Flame (7:23) / Save The Holy Land (4:29) / The Last Call (5:19) / Eurasia (3:07) / The Stranger (4:59) / The Painting (4:09) Kyrie (3:29) / Semaruma (2:47)

Chitral Somapala - vocals
Sebastian Eder - guitars
Petra Delorian - bass
Jens Kuckelkorn - keyboards
Jacques Voutay - drums

Why Now (1995)
Mystic Places (1998)
Vision Eden (1998)
Eurasia (2000)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: March 21st 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.omegarecords.de/avalon/
Hits: 1121
Language: english


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