Ani Lo. Projekt – A Time Called Forever Review

I have an irrational aversion to bands that name themselves after people. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always fantasized about being in a band, and choosing a righteous name for said band is always one of my favorite parts of the fantasy. Or perhaps it’s because, in my mind, a great band becomes something greater than the sum of its parts, a whole that transcends any one of its members. Or maybe it’s because I believe that the Dave Matthews Band is the very worst thing that humanity has ever produced. Whatever the reason, all of this changed in 2018 when Michael Romeo’s solo effort came along and forced me to rethink my anti-eponymous band name stance by being an excellent Symphony X stand-in. So when I ran my dry, cracked, and bleeding hands1 through the bin and found a promo labelled “symphonic prog” by the Ani Lo. Projekt, I said a quick prayer to the gods asking them to let lightning strike twice.2

A Time Called Forever is the sophomore effort from the Bulgarian band that borrows its name from frontwoman Ani Lozanova. Ani Lo. Projekt offers up some of the symphonic groove metal plus the harsh vocals of Epica, the driving power/prog with soaring choruses of Theocracy, and a touch of the melodrama of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Unlike the voices leading many female-fronted symphonic metal bands, Ani Lo. Projekt is set apart by the lower register of Ani Lo. She bellows and wails like a fucking heavy metal vocalist, and only rarely (thankfully) dabbles in the extremely overdone operatic style typical of the genre. Lead single and title track “A Time Called Forever” is a great example of how the band sounds when things are clicking. Ani’s powerful vocals explore every inch of her range as multi-instrumentalist Jens Faber’s Middle Eastern intro melody gives way to a grooving main riff and the technical drumming of Konstantin Dinev (Kossy D.).

“Break My Chains” is a great varied track with a “Painkiller”-esque drum assault intro, power metal verse, symphogroove bridge, and syrupy chorus, and “Bleed” sounds like one of those deceptively heavy Theocracy semi-ballads. “The Letter,” “Don’t Leave,” and “My Misery” are all very good power metal barnburners, and it should be apparent so far that full throttle Ani Lo. Projekt makes me a very happy man. Unfortunately, there are a few subdued tracks that really drag things down a bit. “Back to You” is a benign, average ballad, but “Fly With Me” incorporates some theatrical male vocals and sounds like one of the sappy Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs that I always skip. And if that weren’t enough, closer “Walk Alone” shows up with its super slow tempo and Ani’s operatic vocals. After her many powerful performances earlier in the record, these sound extremely cheesy, and the track is a major buzzkill after the two preceding killers. Without these three cuts, A Time Called Forever would be 39 minutes of mostly very good material. Instead, we get a longish 52 minutes of mixed quality.

Speaking of mixes, the production is that of a standard, loud, modern power metal album. The guitars crunch crunchily and the drums thunder like thunder, and it all sounds pretty good despite the lack of dynamics. Ani’s voice is a big departure from those usually used in the style, and I really like the grit that she brings to the album. It’s painful when she drifts into opera territory, though, so hopefully the projekt’s sound will become more focused on the next go-around. Symphonic power metal fans should check out the title track, “Break My Chains,” “The Letter,” “Don’t Leave,” and “My Misery.”

With a few killers, a few good tracks, and a few head scratchers, A Time Called Forever is the quintessential “mixed” album. I really hope that the Ani Lo. Projekt will dial up the aggression next time, because that’s when they’re at their best according to my ears. Ani Lozanova is a fantastic vocalist, and I hope to hear something new from her soon.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Pride and Joy Music
Releases Worldwide: March 20th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. My obsessive coronavirus hand washing is taking a toll.
  2. You were told not to touch the promo without gloves. Now the AMG staff has to go back through the decontamination wire brush scrub gauntlet. – Steel
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