Aonia – The Seven

Band: Aonia
Album: The Seven
Release Date: 23rd October 2018
Record Label: Independent

I have known about Aonia for a while, and I featured them in my Bloodstock picks for the Hobgoblin New Blood Stage in 2018. However, I was sadly unable to see them. However, I did get the chance to see them for the first time supporting Imperial Age at The Hairy Dog in Derby. After Aonia’s set I went to speak to Melissa who I had interacted with online a few times via the Ostara Metal Facebook page. We had a lovely chat and Melissa very kindly offered me a free copy of Aonia’s 2018 release The Seven to review.

As is customary with any symphonic metal band, the first track, Sold My Soul, begins with a lot of strings, and the composition is very classical in nature. There is some uplifting spoken word from Melissa, and then some beautiful guitar work. When the vocals kick in, the only word to describe them is angelic. Jo and Melissa’s voices work perfectly together. The high notes are hit but without the shrillness you sometimes can get with soprano vocals, there is still some power and grit in there behind them. However, it does sound to me like there’s something missing from the mix, and this continues throughout the album.

Violet Hours continues the album, with a lot more keys work, and some more great guitar work. The track has a more headbanging feel to it, with a bit more grit and power. We enter a dream-like state with keys and guitar in Wake Up, Lucretia. For the first time we hear male backing vocals. The chorus is full with male and female vocals, and the male vocals become harsh at times. It’s another powerful track.

Still, I Rise features the vocal talents of Blaze Bayley, and has a heavy start. Male vocals dominate the verses, and a mix of male and female vocals sing the choruses. The song is a catchy anthem with a lovely guitar and drum interlude. Keys, with blasts of guitar and drums, introduce Siren’s Lament, there are headbanging sections and lighter, more symphonic sections.

Eye of the Storm has a calming intro with the sound of water and a buildup of the instrumental. The main body of the track is a headbanging track, with a harmonised guitar solo and a keys solo. Once again there are only female vocals. The true anthem of this album is Heartsword! It starts with a fist pumping triumphant intro, good enough to headbang to. The lyrics are typical cheesy power metal themes, there are instrument buildups with bass, gritty guitars and clean keys. There are also guitar and keys solos, and even harmonised keys and guitar work.

At The Masquerade has a more sinister feel, beginning with guitar. The chorus is catchy, and the keys and guitar end up having an almost sci-fi sound to them. There is a long guitar solo and long instrumentals. This track in particular features the vocal talents of Jo and Melissa over each other and almost competing for dominance. The penultimate track is also the ballad of the album, it’s definitely a “lighters in the air” track. There is a keys solo, and the track does get a little heavier as it progresses. However, I am not quite sure that the keys sound fits well on this track.

Finally, we play Hyde and Seek. A woman is clearly scared, there is heavy breathing, panicking, and finally a scream. It almost sounds like a bit of a riot outside. There is an immediate sinister feel, and a build up of tension, with the pace of the strings and guitars quickening. The full instrumentals remind me of Storytime by Nightwish. The sound is a little bit fuller, and there are overlappng vocal melodies again. There is male spoken word, and a tense instrumental. The piano, bass and acoustic guitar build the tension again before the full band comes in with vocal harmonies.

Normally, I would say I’m not a massive fan of female vocals in metal music. The main exception for me is Nightwish, who are one of my favourite bands. However, I did enjoy this album. My main issue is that there didn’t seem to be enough bass and lower register sounds in the instrumentals. For me personally, if you have high register vocals, you need a bit more power and grit in the lower register instruments to balance it out a bit. In a live performance, you do hear this, so I have a feeling that this is a mixing and mastering issue rather than an issue with the band itself, but for me it needs to be looked at in future albums. Having said that, the composition is wonderful, Jo and Melissa’s vocals are absolutely flawless and incredible to listen to, and live they put on a magnificent performance. I will definitely be taking another opportunity to see them live in the future, and I would suggest that if symphonic metal is your kind of thing, that you should do the same.

Verdict: 7.5/10

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