Voices of Destiny is a German symphonic metal band putting out their third record in 2015 (well, 2014 for Europe, but for some reason we didn’t get the promo). Since you’ve most likely never heard of them unless you’re buried deep in the belly of the symphonic metal scene, the best way to describe them is to say that they have a brand of music that’s a combination of the modern beauty and the beast style we all know and have mixed feelings about and, well, “core.” After putting out a pretty good debut in 2010 (From the Ashes), they followed up what was a bit more of a straight record with Power Dive in 2012. On Power Dive the band introduced Deadlock-like breakdowns, but still managed to produce a pretty good record with singer Maike Holzmann’s unique soprano doing a lot of heavy lifting. While they weren’t quite taking the symphocore scene by storm, Voices of Destiny had two decent-to-good records under their belt and seemed to have some promise.
Then tragedy struck. What horrible destiny befell Maike I can’t be sure, but I assume that she was hit by a truck and was replaced with Ada Fletchner at the very last minute before the release Crisis Cult. Why? Because Crisis Cult has struggles, but the absolute weakest link is the new front woman. Though, this wasn’t immediately obvious when I popped on Crisis Cult to give it an initial spin. In fact, opener “Wolfpack” is also the record’s absolute peak, and I thought “Hey, this sounds alright!” While Ada’s harmonies are a bit off, the growls and thick guitar work made me think that the record as a whole could have some real promise—especially when the chorus kicked in. The track is slick, with cool harmonies and a great keyboard arpeggio underneath, and a Nightwish or Epica vibe that—being the poseur I am—I like.
Voices of Destiny show flashes of being a band that has potential. Every song has riffs or ideas that I like. The opening riff to “The Easy Prey” sounds heavy and driven with great keyboard melody, while “To the Slaughter” has great modern death metal riffs, and Lukas Palme’s death metal vocals are beefy and tough. The production is of the modern Swedish deathpop fare like Scar Symmetry and all the bands with similar sounds, but here it is tight and works well for them. Unfortunately, though, the record is basically an unmitigated disaster from the third track onward. While there are moments of clarity or decent ideas, every song is seemingly marred by something stupid, half-baked, rushed or are just plain poorly conceived. The aforementioned “To the Slaughter” starts off with dubstep nonsense and has straight up out of tune vocals. “21 Heroes,” which bursts out of the gate with fire, is subsequently drenched in cold water by absolutely ridiculous spoken lyrics, while Ada doesn’t have the power to carry an otherwise decent chorus and the whole song collapses in on itself.
And not to harp on the vocals too much—I feel a bit guilty, frankly—but “At the Edge,” a pretty banal ballad as it is, actually features such audibly tuned vocals that you can hear the vocal distortions. “The Great Hunt,” which brings the record to thankful close, features a vocal monologue at the end that is 100% Grade A nonsense, starting with sentiments about how we should all love each other, and then ending with something about fight or flight responses and the ridiculous and outstandingly trite “Are you a sheep or a wolf?” Wut? Did anyone bother to take the 5 minutes necessary to read what they’d just written? You realize that English is a language that people actually speak, right? Our words mean something and when we string together sentences, they represent entire ideas! Using “cool words” and tough sounding phrases does not poetry make. The real icing on the cake, however, is that the end of the track “Stormcrow” features the worst breakdown that I have ever heard in my life. I am not exaggerating: the absolute worst breakdown I have ever heard. It is embarrassing.
Honestly, Crisis Cult is the kind of stuff that record labels are supposed to curate out before it ever hits the reviewer’s ears. That an album was recorded doesn’t mean that the label can’t shelve it. In fact, it’s a fairly common occurrence at major labels to just let mediocre-to-crappy records sit on the shelf where they won’t hurt anybody’s career. Crisis Cult is amateurish, inconsistent, embarrassing and frustrating. Voices of Destiny went from being a promising band, to being a band that is obviously no longer ready for prime time. While there may be/have been promise here, Crisis Cult is proof that while showing up may be half the battle, the other half is execution. And this was a rout.