After Stream of Passion sadly called it quits at the end of last year, several of the members have already moved onto other projects. Marcela Bovio has already released a brilliant solo album, and with bassist Johan Van Stratum is joining Anneke Van Giersbergen for her new band Vuur. Vetrar Draugurinn is another post-SoP project, guitarist Eric Hazebroek forming a new band with Autumn vocalist Marjan Welman, Douwe de Wilde, who used to be in The Saturnine with Hazebroek, on bass, and Jim van de Kerkhof on drums. This first EP, simply called I is the result of a successful crowdfunding campaign.
The music on I doesn’t bare a great deal of similarity to the upbeat symphonic metal of Stream of Passion, or the gothic/atmospheric sound of Autumn, even if it sometimes does seep in. It has more of a Scandinavian sound, closer to the modern alternative rock/metal of bands such as Katatonia, one gets a Viva Emptiness vibe almost immediately when the electric guitars kick in on the first song Bleak Earth, while at some points on the EP there’s a slight doom metal sound to it that reminds of Lethian Dreams or Saturnus a little. I never got into Autumn despite a lot of tries when Altitude was getting good reviews when it came out in 2009, and have never been the biggest fan of Marjan’s voice. There’s no operatic pretensions to be found in her voice like a lot of bands in the scene, which is a breath of fresh air, and she sings in a nice clean style, but it’s lacking some kind of distinctive elements that make her stand out from the other vocalists in the scene. The music throughout the EP is always good, but her vocals let it down a little- she’s not a bad singer by any means, but her voice is in some halfway point between lovely and soft and powerfully epic, she straddles a rather ineffective middle ground, neither particularity pretty or powerful – except on Vigil (For the lost children of our Generation) where she sounds better than the other tracks, more emphatic in the powerful parts, a nicer timbre in the softer ones.
As aforementioned, the first track begins with a jangly Katatonia-style riff, which then leads into a chunky prog riff that does sound a little like those to be found in a Stream of Passion song. The bass can barely be heard, and the drums are quiet and tinny, but the great guitars more than make up for this, the doomy riff in the chorus is really heavy before going back into that energetic main riff. As previously mentioned the vocals don’t quite fit and let it down a little. The following two tracks are quite similar, with a great chorus on Vigil (for the lost children of our generation) where Marjan puts in more power and ends up sounding her best throughout the release, especially when followed by the softer verse. It’s the best track of the four. The last track Solis is entirely based on acoustic guitars, synths and Marjan’s voice, with nice use of cello also. It’s a pleasant song, the acoustic guitars and synths create a nice wintery atmosphere, but again Marjan’s voice just isn’t distinctive or powerful enough to really bring the song to life.
Another thing one notices is that the production is quite raw, which does sometimes hinder the music, this sort of music being more focused on emotion than heaviness it could have done with being sharper in the more metallic sections. Clearer drums and a stronger bass sound would’ve improved it a lot. And as Marjan does sound much better on Vigil… than the other tracks, one wonders if maybe a clearer production would really help for the others too.
Overall it’s not quite as good as expected, but the great riffs have had me coming back for a lot of listens so far, and if they tightened up the production I’d definitely be intrigued enough to listen to a full length release. I don’t know how far the appeal of this EP will stretch besides those who were already fans of Stream of Passion and Autumn, but the guitars are so good it’s at least worth a listen for any Katatonia fans.