Label: Napalm Records
Release Date: 25th May 2018
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Despite its rich history and rising popularity in the world of rock and metal, I’ve still yet to discover a symphonic metal band that’s completely sold me on the genre. Germany’s Midnattsol are next in line to try and win me over with their fourth studio album, The Aftermath.
For the unaware, Midnattsol were formed in 2002 by Norwegian vocalist Carmen Elise Espenæs, and aside from keyboardist Daniel Fischer, the rest of the band has seen its fair share of turbulence with several lineup changes over the past few years. Most importantly, in December 2017, the band announced they’d added a second vocalist in Liv Kristine, older sister of Carmen and founding/former vocalist in Leaves’ Eyes.
The concept of two contrasting singers bouncing off one another to variate their sounds and styles really left me intrigued going into the record. Opener ‘The Purple Sky’ quickly lead me to disappointment however, as both would rather replicate and overlap one another than offering any attempt to stand out. Most of the time I failed to realise there even was two vocalists present.
Carmen delivers her lyrics in English, but also in her native tongue, Norwegian. Sometimes this switches mid-song, as it does in ‘Syns Sang’, but instead of making me applaud the variation, it left me losing focus far too often. Lyrically, my understanding as to where the lyrics originate are typically that of Norwegian folk tales. ‘A hidden scar, how could it go so far/ The comfortable frame, alive and aflame’ is a prime example, but they’re so basic it leaves little substance worth ever going back to.
‘Herr Mannelig’ offers a much doomier approach to their style, and was a welcome shift in direction as I got to the halfway point of the record. ‘Evaluation of Time’ as an instrumental track is shamefully one of the few points where the guitar work is allowed to shine.
It’s at this point where you realise the self indulgence in the vocal department has hindered The Aftermath, two brilliant guitarists are far too often buried in the background to ensure the vocalists get the biggest spotlight. The keyboards are also frequently lost in the mix, meaning any attempt to sound grandiose or theatrical falls flat once you’ve grasped how imbalanced the production is.
I wasn’t expecting The Aftermath to completely turn me onto a genre that I’ve failed to fall in love with for years, but my disappointment comes from not wanting to recommend this to people that truly adore this style of music. Promising concepts on paper leave very little to be delivered in reality, and quite honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever revisit this.
The Aftermath is out now and is available to order via Napalm Records
Recommended Track: Evaluation Of Time