Friday, February 8, 2013

Fairyland - The Fall of An Empire (2006)

This is one of the albums that have made me dedicated to this blog - I must have wandered into Real Groovy one day, picked out a bunch of albums by their covers; found this one, listened to it, liked it and bought it. Taking it home, I would have listened to it once or twice, put it in my CD rack and promptly forgotten about it.

It's a funny name for a band - bit sissy really, I mean - they're not even spelling with "fairy" with the more sinister/masculine "faerie" favoured by paranormal authors. And they are all male. Still, you've got to give them some cred for doing that. A little research - they're from France and they originally had Elisa Martin as their vocalist. That might explain the "fairy" (she's got a sweet voice) and also, alas, means that they would have been more awesome than. Elisa is the vocalist of Dark Moor. Dark Moor are beautiful. I now feel hurt. Why did you leave before this album was released? Is that another album I need to head out and buy? Their guitarist, Anthony Parker, is from Heavenly - another band I own a CD by. I guess the power metal world is a relatively small one.

Okay, I listened to a couple of the tracks on Youtube from the previous album, and they sound so much like Dark Moor that they may as well be that Spanish metal band. I suppose this is a little different. The vocalist, Max Leclercq sounds vaguely similar, but his previous band was known as "Magic Kingdom". What's with the silly names? I suppose we also have Powerquest and Dreamquest and Dragonforce (who are all awesome)... It's just one of those Power Metal things.

This is a band that have taken the fantasy elements to the high extreme (almost as extreme as Rhapsody). The cover decpits a mighty battle of heroically clad figures vs something green and orc-ish. Inside are portraits of each of the band members, rendered by the same artist. He has a slightly Japanese (but not manga) feel to his art, and our warriors are depicted with big muscules and relatively slender facial features. They all look vaguely similar - but that might be because they do in reality too. The vocalist gets a couple of scantily clad sword-wielding angel-nymphs in his panel.

In the centre is a plot summary - essentially it is a story about a land named, by the gods, as Osyrhia, in which lies 7 continents each was given a king and a special stone... There were wars and evil and although together these 7 magical stones could bring piece and power, their bearers were slain and turmoil raged. A young man has a strange dream and I presume sets out to unite the stones once more to protect the land and bring back the wealth now lost.

"Endgame" is a haunting opening, with percussive cymbals like raindrops and a rising swell of keyboards, interspersed with chanting. It charges into the symphonic "Fall of An Empire". With its power and force, it is definitely reminscent of Rhapsody.

"Lost in the Dark Lands" combines classical melodies with the rage of the vocals and the roar of the guitars. Lovely multi-layered vocals add to the swelling force, then the keyboards sing in victorious triumph.

The "Slaves Forlorn" chant their misery as they shuffle-march in chains. Sentenced to work in the evil king's mines, perhaps?

With a spark of life, we have "The Awakening" which declares:
"Mourning time has worn away..."
I am sensing some Blind Guardian vibes in this song, combined with the smooth, almost choral choruses. Leclercq's voice is more polished than Kursch's*. The percussive snow and the chanting voices add to the atmosphere.

Flitting, fleeting and exquisite, "Eldanie Uelle" brings a little peace and respite - along with the vocals of Flora Spinelli. It builds in power and surges in might, but never loses its spirit.

Back into the power and the might with "Clanner of the Light". Rampaging guitars, pounding drums, a high energy explosion of sound and war. It sounds as though the slaves have broken free. From the keyboards, it sounds like all has been succesful.

Haunting and beautiful, "To the Havenrod" leads the escaped slaves to sanctuary**.

Or perhaps not, for it appears that they may be about to liberate some of their fellows by charging upon "The Walls of Laemnil".

"Anmorkenta" strikes like a hammer. Pure power and aggression.

A sweet respite, "In Duna" with angelic female vocals and muted instruments.

"The Story Remains" draws us to the conclusion of this great journey and makes us aware of the sacrifices made. It has a few loud moments, but is mostly powerful but tinted with melancholy.

We fade out with the serene "Look into the Lost Years", with its delicate, elfin vocals and soft piano, a peaceful end to this album - but the story remains and I suspect the journey may continue in the following album.

(Note from my inner editor: there are many typos in the lyric sheet - don't they hire proofreaders? If they do, they're not doing their job!)

Overall, a pretty fine example of Symphonic Power Metal, reminscent of Blind Guardian and Rhapsody. Not overtly inspiring or original, but the inclusion of female vocals do add a nice touch. Far more powerful and epic than the band name might suggest.

I rate this album 7/10.

 * Sometimes I prefer to use first names, sometimes surnames. I admit to being completely inconsistent. It basically depends on how interesting the person's first name is and how easy the surname is to spell.

** I'm making this all up and not fully interpreting the lyrics, the text is small enough to strain my eyes and I find it more entertaining to not have to decipher the cheesy storyline, but invent my own based on some of the lyrics and the general atmosphere.

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