Sunday, February 3, 2013

Alpine Fault - Iraena's Ashes (2011)

This is my newest CD*. So new, in fact, that I received it three days ago and only listened to it today for the first time - I was saving it until I worked my way through the alphabet for the first time.

You've probably not heard of Alpine Fault - unless you have a facebook page and similar interests to me, and clicked on the promotion link when it appeared in your adds feed. That's what I did - and I would like to report - that sometimes those adds are very useful!

Alpine Fault were formed in New Zealand, like the right-lateral, strike-slip fault that runs the length of both our islands. They now make their home in Brisbane. With any luck, they might be performing when I head that way later this year (*fingers crossed, pretty please*). They combine classical music and metal, with operatic female vocals, melodic male vocals, and the occasional snarl or scream. For a band that have only been around for seven years, their sound is very polished, very complex and very, very good. They have recently replaced their vocalist, so it shall be interesting to see how she differs from the singer on this album, Nadia Vanek.

"Iraena's Ashes" is something of a concept album, based on an incident that happened in Auckland, in 2004. A young schoolteacher/model named Iraena Asher called the police expressing fears for her safety. Instead of sending a police car, a taxi was sent instead. To the wrong address. Iraena was then found wandering by a couple, who took her into their home for several hours. At sometime after midnight, she left and was last seen, semi clad, walking towards the beach. When approached by others, she ran away. She was never seen again. It is suspected she drowned, although her body was not found. She suffered from bipolar disorder. This album is a tribute to her and follows the themes of loss and separation, love and death. It is a beautiful, moody album.

The cover is hauntingly melancholic in shades of blue and grey - a woman stands alone, looking down and into the ocean. She is off-cetred, to the left, further enhancing the atmosphere of sorrow and loss. It is beautifully rendered, flawlessly professional. The interior holds more of the spectral sea, rocks merging from its treacherous depths. Further through, and the band stand in the whispy fog, their small figures looking lost and alone against the vastness of their environment. Their poses look almost amusingly forced, their expressions alternate between moody and bored.

The opening track, "Into the Night" is infused with heavy guitars, intermingled with violins and with Nadia's sweet voice like a melancholic wail. Male vocalist, Anthony Royle, joins her on the chrous, his voice performing the "Beauty and the Beast" counterpoint. This is the song about walking into the sea, and the tumultuous nature of the music corresponds with the heaving, confused emotions of the lyrics. It fades on a heart-rendering, wailed, note of despair.

"Above the Storm" brings in the violin and gentler guitar, before falling into a steady, haunted rhythm.The tune is tinged with desperation and despair. The violin adds a fragile thread of loneliness.

Strumming and violin again lead us into the mesmorising "I'll See You Soon"

A heavier song, tempered with mourning violins, is "Mourning has Broken (sleep)" here the vocals are exclusively male and the mood flavoured with anger.

"Requiem" is bewitching. With its spectral murmurings of the ocean, over the gentle intro music; forlorn vocals and haunting lyrics.

A largely instrumental piece, "The Watcher Beneath" allows the violinist full scope, creating a mood of misty haze, hanging in sullen clouds over the dark and treacherous depths of the ocean. Beneath lurks the unknown.

Insanity and aggression seems to be the theme of "Severance" with the music becoming a frenzied, untamed beast.

"March of the Tides" is a beautiful violin instrumental. I do not think I have seem a symphonic band in which the violin is as integral as in Alpine Fault. It adds a special, haunting, mesmorizing tone and an element of mournful longing.

"Under a Dying Sky" is as haunting and forlorn as you might expect from the title.

I've only listened to this album maybe two or three times now, and I can already say - with assurance, that I am a big fan of Alpine Fault and that I am very, very keen to see them live. They are performing in Auckland later this year - as part of AetherCon 2012 (although I would not consider them particularly steampunk, but who cares?) but not sure if my budget extends to taking another overnighter up to the humid city for another concert this year. Still, as they now hail from Brisbane and we will be headed that way later this year, maybe I'll luck it. Anyhow, with sounds like this - they're going to go far and should be around for some time yet.

Let's give them a 10/10.

You can buy Iraena's Ashes from here: Alpine Fault's website

* Note for my sole reader: My second-newest I shall be reviewing when I reach "D"

1 comment:

  1. Love the reviews. Looks like I might have to nab myself a copy of this title after all - they used to appear in my add stream on Facebook quite a bit as well.

    Looking forward to 'D'.