It was a blow hearing that Stream of Passion were splitting up earlier in the year. Not only are they one of the best bands in the symphonic metal scene on album, they’re even better live, one of the most energetic and fun bands I’ve ever seen. Alongside the announcement that they were doing some final shows, including the DVD recording in Amsterdam two weeks ago, a UK tour and a final farewell show on 28 December in Utrecht, to help soften the blow singer Marcela Bovio announced she would release a solo album this year. Through crowdfunding, she managed to get to an amazing 448% of her target and the result is the the ten track album Unprecedented.
The new album has nothing to do with metal, so one shouldn’t expect any similarities to her work with Stream of Passion, Ayreon or The Gentle Storm. Instead the album is solely recorded with her voice and a string quartet, for which she wrote all the arrangements, and as she played violin live and on album with Stream of Passion its a style she embraces perfectly.
Marcela shows a side of her voice that we haven’t seen a lot of before on opening track Hey Amores with operatic styled vocalisations bringing to mind Dead Can Dance legend Lisa Gerrard, albeit tinged with her instantly recognisable accent, over dark and dramatic strings. The song brightens up, with a Spanish sounding folky melody played on the strings and her singing beautifully in her native tongue. One notices a great range in dynamics in both the strings and her voice, singing softly and prettily at points before bursting forth into powerful crescendos.
Throughout Unprecedented the string arrangements are simple but effective, allowing her voice to take centre stage but providing a great backing track that accentuates it in both melody and mood, and there’s always space in the songs for the instrumental melodies to shine. Three of the tracks are in Spanish with the remaining seven sung in English, and any Stream of Passion knows that she sounds beautiful in both languages. Her vocal approach for the most part, other than the operatic styles on Hey Amores and Stars, isn’t much of a departure from the way she sung with Stream of Passion (which is a good thing) but she sounds just as at home singing with her string quartet as she ever did with her old band – where previously calm and crescendos came from having two guitars, keyboards and drums, they now come from the mood and dynamics of the strings instead – you don’t just find yourself waiting for the metal parts to kick in and one falls in love with her new style from the first song.
Barring some rather jarring scratchy strings on Dime, there’s not a bad track on the album which flows brilliantly from its start to an end that seems to come too soon. Found! and The Treasure Hunter are quite sweet and upbeat, where Saboteurs and Hay Amores are more moody and dramatic, and The Cartographers has some of her most powerful vocals on the album. The two main highlights though are Powerless and Stars, the soft melodies and vocals on the former are gorgeous, with the most memorable chorus on the album, while the latter has her singing once more in her operatic style, a style she sounds perfect for, singing both powerfully and expressively, with a great trill to her voice. It’s a shame we get to hear that style so little on the album.
Unprecedented is a great album and those mourning the loss of Stream of Passion will find lots to enjoy in Marcela’s new endeavour. Moody and melodic strings match her expressive voice well and it’s bound to be one of favourite releases of 2016 come the end of the year.
Listen to Found! on youtube below:
So far there are only two upcoming solo shows for Marcela Bovio, and the remaining final dates for Stream of Passion are also shown below: