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Stream Of Passion - Embrace The Storm CD (album) cover


Stream Of Passion


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3.85 | 104 ratings

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4 stars It will be interesting to see how this project pans out over time, this arrangement with Marcela Bovio acting in the role of the angelic vocal muse for Arjen Anthony Lucassen. It is an appealing and promising combination, first heard on Ayreon’s The Human Equation, and fleshed out here with a dozen very solid works showcasing Bovio’s voice and Lucassen’s guitar and production skills.

The album has been called progressive gothic, goth metal, whatever. As with pretty much anything Lucassen attaches his name to, convenient labels do not do it justice. There are certainly metal tendencies, along with the pompous use of strings, piano, and Lucassen’s own excellent guitar, but this is not a metal album. It is certainly not a gothic one. The mood is rather dark and foreboding at times, but it’s just too hard of a reach to attach the kind of fatalistic and negative connotations of goth to a voice like Bovio’s.

What is served up here is a fairly unique sound, at least unique to the ever-broadening world of Lucassen. There are five things that make this album work (in no particular order): Marcela Bovio’s voice, Lucassen’s guitar, Bovio’s violin, Alejandro Millán’s piano, and Davy Mickers’ drums. I contend these guys could have been covering old cinema show tunes and they would have come off as brilliant given the makeup of the project team and Lucassen’s astute production skills. This is above all an extremely well- produced album, with crisp, clean sounds that come off as smooth as silk but undoubtedly required a great deal of patient work in the studio.

There are a few songs that stand out above the others, but none of them are wasted on the album or fail to stand on their own. The one that comes closest interestingly enough is the opening “Spellbound”, which sets the tone for the rest of the album but is itself pretty much unremarkable.

“Deceiver” has a straight-ahead and appealing rhythm that frames the guitars and Bovio’s voice perfectly, and the driving violin and piano make this a potential hit single straight off. Transitional tempo changes like the one leading into “I’ll Keep on Dreaming” serve to give the album more of contiguous body-of-work feel than that of a collection of unrelated songs (which on closer inspection is what it actually appears to be). The slower latter song itself transitions well into the syncopated beat and spoken-word Spanish lyrics of “Haunted”. This is a quiet but tense tune, just kind of fading away into “Wherever You Are” which itself starts off mildly enough but picks up steam with driving twin guitars and soaring violin before dropping away into “Open Your Eyes”.

“Open Your Eyes” has a similar arrangement to the two songs that precede it, but here Lucassen and fellow guitarist Lori Linstruth express themselves much more on guitar, and Bovio’s vocal range is really showcased well. This one ends with the only really abrupt mood change on the album, as one is expecting a musical explosion instead of the quick fade we get.

The title track includes the most extensive use of strings, with cello adding depth to the violin. This is one of the stronger tracks on the album.

“Breathing Again” gives heavy emphasis to Bovio, with soaring vocals accompanied by pretty simple piano and sparse strings, the only real instrumental meat coming on guitar.

The best is saved for last with the remaining three tracks. “Out in the Real World” is pretty close to the perfect song in my mind, at least as far as this group of musicians is concerned. The overall tempo is set by a driving drum beat, heavy bass, and a very aggressive cello, and is augmented by Bovio herself on violin and once again the twin attack of Lucassen and Linstruth with some excellent guitar. Bovio’s voice here is ever- so-slightly reminiscent of Tarja Turunen, but so much stronger and more emotive that the realization of the strength of this voice is a bit overwhelming. The cacophonous and abrupt ending is just beautiful.

The mood on “Nostalgia” is what one would expect given the title, slow, poignant, with plain and gorgeous piano and Bovio enhancing the experience by switching again to her native tongue. This is a short song but serves to give separation between the brilliant “Out in the Real World” and the also wonderful but more intense “Calliopeia” to close the album. This one is a heavier guitar work, but again the appealing tempo and very pleasant string arrangements.

Like I said at the beginning, it will be interesting to see where this project leads. This group has the potential for a long and very successful career together, and to leave a legacy of great music some day. But given the ever-expanding nature of Lucassen’s music forays, and the undoubtedly strong personalities and egos in this talented assemblage, it will be surprising if they manage to stay together long enough to put together even a couple more strong follow-ups to Embrace the Storm. Regardless, pick this one up and enjoy the experience while it lasts. Four stars.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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