Caamora - She

Year of Release: 2008
Label: Metal Mind Productions
Catalog Number: MASSCD1116DD
Format: CD
Total Time: 122:52:00

She is the epic opera composed by Clive Nolan and realized by Nolan, Agnieszka Swita, Alan Reed, Christina Booth and others under the name Caamora. From the opening notes, I knew I was going to like this; Swita has a beautiful, rich voice and Nolan's grand compositional style fits in perfectly. Of course, we already know what a fabulous voice Booth has from her work with Magenta and while fabulous may not be a word to describe either of Nolan or Reed's voices ? at least not in the same way ? they do a great job as well. She is a concept album of the highest order, a retelling of H. Rider Haggard's work She.

While the music itself is recognizably from the mind of Nolan, the differing textures make it not seem like "just" another Arena ? or Shadowland ? release. The music is accessible, the hooks memorable, but it necessarily has to be to draw you into the story. Those different textures include, naturally, the cast of difference voices ? none of which are asked to try and sing outside their comfort zones, which gives the whole production a very organic feel. But adding to the rich mix are the instrumental guests -- Mark Westwood, guitars; Scott Higham, drums and percussion; Alaster Bentley, oboe; Mark Kane ? horn; Hugh McDowell, cello; and former Arena mate John Jowitt on basses. Nolan, naturally, provides keyboards and orchestrations and there are, aside Westwood, Swita and Nolan, 7 singers that make up the The Choir. This group is asked to render the backdrop in a mix of classical, classical-tinged progressive metal, symphonic rock, rock and acoustic styles, mixing Western and Egyptian motifs. Sometimes all this in one track -- "Ambush," for example, mixes prog metal with AOR ? think Symphony X meets Asia. You won't hear too many solos, per se, but they all do outstanding work in setting the tenor of a scene ? as they should ? and although the vocals are front and center, it is a joy just to listen to instrumentation as well.

Examples of the marriage of music and setting include the progressive metal mix that comes to play in "The Storm," which lends itself to the lashing turbulence that is implied by the story. When our two heroes, Leo Vincey (Nolan) and Ludwig Holly (Reed) first meet Ustane (Booth) and the rest of her tribe, subjects of the Queen (Ayesha), as implied in "The Lost City" we get European sounding trumpets ? hinting at subjects of another Queen (but also at something important about where they are). Or the sinister procession of percussion that underscores the grisly "Fire Dance;" or the sparse, rumbling percussion, searing guitar and waves of keys that create the tension in "Cursed." "The Bonding" is romantic and seductive as Ustane gently entices Leo. There are also softer moments ? the acoustic based "Covenant Of Faith;" "Vigil" and it's counterpart "Closer" ? in each a character is near or at death.

I also want to make mention of "Shadows," which comes towards the end of disc one ? and precedes the sinister "Fire Dance"; here lyrically we get more insight about Ayesha. We see her in a new light, both as something darker and something tormented engendering fear and sympathy, the latter brought about the way Swita sings the line "I won't let you in, you know? I won't let you win, you know" with determination and the sense that's she's (or She's) trying to shore up her resolve.

This tale is told on two discs and includes a wonderfully rendered lyric booklet ? Holly's notes helping to fill in details of the story ? the songs hit the key notes, action ? but some of the background story can't be rendered this way. Illustrations are used throughout, a mix of photos and paintings, all keeping the early 20th Century setting in mind ? we are, from the point of view of Leo and Holly, in 1908.

The story in short: two travelers Leo Vincey and Ludwig Holly journey along the coast of Central Africa -- Vincey's search for adventure, riches and the truth of a tale of an immortal Queen -- only to be caught in storm and deposited on shore somewhere. They are rescued by a tribe of peoples ? including Ustane (Booth), who falls for Leo -- who take the duo back to their Queen (Ayesha, the titular "She," portrayed by Swita). Intrigue, violence and jealousy ensue ? Ustane and Ayesha fight for Leo's attention (but it is a one sided fight, as you might imagine). The trio of Leo, Holly and Ustane are attacked by followers of the Queen who have their own agenda; although rescued by the Queen's Royal Guard, Leo is injured. After dispatching of these rebels (a fabulous and powerful track "The Judgement"), in exchange from Holly a snapshot of the last 2 millennia that have passed, Ayesha agrees to heal Leo. Here she comes to realize he is the reincarnation of an Egyptian priest Kallikrates (or Kallicrates, it's spelled both ways in the booklet) whom she had loved centuries ago. Ultimately, determined for them to be together again, she entices Leo to enter the Fire Of Life with her ? Fate is cruel; the Fire of Life takes her life, though she vows to return to him...

I do find that there is a bit of awkwardness to "History," wherein Holly is summarizing the last 2000 years, in one lyric in particular, although I think Reed handles it well, blurring the transition of the last two words. But the rest of the lyrics flow naturally; and this isn't really a distraction, just one of those observations one makes when one is deeply involved in listening to a work.

I said above I knew I was going to like this from the opening notes. Of course, that's not entirely true, because, already familiar with Nolan's other work ? his own projects as well as Pendragon ? I went into this expecting to like it. So, did it meet my expectations? Is it engaging, well produced and executed? Yes, and exceedingly so. If you have liked or loved anything Nolan's been involved it ? and I do have that bias -- She will not disappoint. Nolan (and company) ? he who must be obe--- no, that would be laying it on a bit thick. Just saying that this is a well deserved 10, and one of the true highlights of 2008 should be enough.

(What's more, by the way, there is a live DVD of the group performing this work.)

Disc One: Act 1: Overture / Scene 1: The Storm / The Veil / Covenant Of Faith / Rescue / Scene 2: The Lost City / The Bonding / Ambush / Scene 3: Judgement / History / Scene 4: Confrontation / Vigil / Scene 5: Shadows
Disc Two: Scene 1: The Dance / Scene 2: Cursed / Closer / Disbelief / Murder / The Eleventh Hour / Scene 3: Resting Place / The Sands Of Time / Scene 4: Embrace The Fire / The Night Before / Scene 5: The Fire Of Life

Agnieszka Swita - vocals (as Ayesha)
Clive Nolan - vocals (as Leo Vincey), keyboards and orchestrations
Alan Reed - vocals (as Ludwig Horace Holly)
Christina Booth - vocals (as Ustane)
Mark Westwood - guitars
Scott Higham - drums and percussion
Alaster Bentley - oboe
Mark Kane ? horn
Hugh McDowell - cello
John Jowitt - basses
The Choir: Anoushka Reynolds, Jamie Fletcher, Tina Riley, Penny Roberts, Siohban Clarke, Agnieszka Swita, Pete Morton, Mark Westwood, Scott Higham, Clive Nolan, Daniel Holmes

Closer (ep) (2006)
Walk On Water (ep) (2007)
Embrace (ep) (2008)
Journey''s End - An Acoustic Anthology (2008)
She (2008)

She (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin VA

Added: July 5th 2009
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 3527
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]