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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: Fading Azalea - Maze Of Melancholy


Fading Azalea… Why on earth you would name your band after a plant? I’m pretty sure many of you, if not most, must have had this very same first thought. However, it’s not that peculiar when you consider the fact the Azalea is symbol for femininity and romance and Fading Azalea has been formed by a single lady. Combine that with the symphonic progressive metal with a dark edge to it that this band produces and the name makes a lot more sense all of a sudden. Of course I am assuming here, the name might have been chosen because of one of its meanings as a girl’s name as well. Not that it’s a big deal, it’s all about the tunes anyway. It might very well be they feel the same, because there’s not that much information available about this Gothenburg, Sweden based band. Formed in 2013 by singer-songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist Olivia, it’s current line-up remains pretty much a mystery. Judging by the line-up used for recording their debut called ‘Maze Of Melancholy’, drummer Kristoff (who replaced Alexander in 2016) and bassist Johan are the current members alongside Olivia, but it never becomes clear if they truly still are. A modest contribution to this release comes from the vocal chords of Rafael Basso from Unlit Face. This release is the band’s first test of competence the world gets to judge. Clocking well over an hour there’s an awful lot to judge, at least time-wise you get plenty bang for your buck. Whether you also get that music-wise of course remains to be seen.

‘Maze Of Melancholy’ opens with ‘Reverie Funeste’ (disastrous daydream) an instrumental intro that is best described as a soothing, atmopheric piece of music. There’s really not that much more to say about it. Pretty much the same can be said about the first minute of the next song, ‘In The Name Of Justice’, although now the atmosphere has subtly darkened, a distinct sign it definitely won’t be all smooth sailing from here. Proof of that isn’t far away, because right after that minute an impressive grunt complemented by an aggressive, slightly unnerving musical frame blasts from my speakers. Not exactly what I expected to hear from a symphonic, progressive metal band, but it turns out this song is the stranger in our midst. The grunt, whoever is responsible for them never become clear, dies along with this song, only to return briefly in ‘Burning To Ashes’, while the unnerving feel fades to an intermittent role far in the background. However small that role may be, every time it’s there it manages to cause a threatening undertone in the music, creating an ominous, oppressing feeling that is almost constantly present in the back of your mind. As if something alarming is about to happen.

The rest of this album is filled with a variety of songs that are more along the lines of symphonic metal with at times a progressive edge. Although there’s plenty of rougher parts in almost every single song, I feel it’s more an atmospheric album than a true metal release. The symphonic side of the music predominates, which is probably a good choice considering Olivia’s voice. She has a great operatic vocal range, where I got the feeling her ‘regular’ clean vocals sounded a bit strained, unnatural at times, as if she’s a bit out of her comfort zone and had to force her voice into submission in those parts. It doesn’t happen a lot, and it certainly isn’t a huge disadvantage if you ask me, but it’s there nevertheless. However, and I’m once again assuming here, both Fading Azalea and Olivia are young, it could very well be Olivia’s vocal performance still has to, can and will grow significantly in time. If anything the potential is there.

Apart from this minor point of criticism, if you can call it that to begin with, I can only be deeply impressed with what she is capable of. Apart from the rhythm section and a part in composing she is responsible for just about everything else that is Fading Azalea and their music. She appears equally at ease on lead guitar as well as on rhythm guitar and spicing up the songs with an at times stellar keyboard performance doesn’t seem to be a problem for her either. The songs themselves, though not particularly original style-wise, are very well composed and vary from dark and rough around the edges (‘In The Name Of Justice’) via pumped up metal (‘Flames Of Death’) to a genuine ballad (‘L’ombre Derriere l’ame’, which means the man behind the soul). On top of that they contain just enough variety, style breaks and surprises to keep them interesting throughout the entire album which, considering its length, is a considerable achievement. To finish it all off, last but not least of course, the guys from the rhythm section provide a solid backbone for every song, making it safe to say there’s not much wrong with this album.

Like I said, I heard nothing drastically new, but in my opinion that is not always necessary. You can create great things from what has already been invented simply by cleverly dosing and composing, and that is exactly what Fading Azalea has done with ‘Maze Of Melancholy’, which turns out to be a fitting title. If you’re looking for raging, fierce, more extreme forms of metal this is not what you’re after, but at far as I’m concerned playing this is certainly a well-spent hour of your time. Music to be enjoyed at any given time.

Written by Henric van Essen

Fading Azalea Official Website
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