Say what you will about Nightwishcore, but most of the bands following this insipid template have at least one thing going for them: a gifted, technically proficient woman on the mic. Regardless of instrumental quality, or absence thereof, the quasi-operatic skills of Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) or Floor Jansen (Nightwish) cannot be denied. So what happens when such a band fails to follow through on this trend and not only fails the songwriting and instrumental departments, but can’t even compensate with high quality vocals? My, that would be truly disastrous wouldn’t it?
I gotta give it to Brocelian though. Sure, they follow the Nightwishcore template almost to a T, including awkward symphonics and inappropriate keyboards, absent bass, flat uninspired riffs that are 90% power chords, and the ever-present pseudo operette. But at least they keep the songs simple and don’t attempt any 12 minute epics, with the full running time a merciful 37 minutes. Occasionally this approach almost leads to palatable melodies, such as the chorus to “Speed of Light” and… well, there’s that one. Gotta give ’em that one.
But that’s all. Vocalist Susan Noto is still among the best elements of the album, but that is not saying much; she either uses too much force, overshooting her target and missing her notes, or too little, making her sound whispy and powerless. Her non-operatic style has a thoroughly unpleasant timbre, while the operatic variant just falls short. But the blame does not lie solely with her. The band is quite inventive in messing up in a number of ways. “Now It’s Time” features a lead guitar lick that could have been nifty except no one tuned the guitar and it’s terrible. The nasal and off-key vocalist appearing on “Escape from Alcatraz” falls in the bottom half of a shitty karaoke, “Fire of my Heart” employs canned flutes from what I surmise must be a free Android app, and “The Signs” goes for the one-two knockout with Noto doing her worst Doro impression in between bouts of frantic violin from a 20-year-old keyboard.
But wait! Those violins are not actually synthetic! The band actually employs a genuine violinist, Kay C, but the production is so loud and brickwalled it may as well have been keyboards in the first place.1 They are not absorbed into the compositions either, but seem pasted on top. An obvious explanation would be her late addition to the band, but this symptom extends to most of the instruments, as each feels utterly disconnected from one another. The pace of the melodies does not match the rhythm set by the drums most of the time and it’s a maddening experience. J.K. Simmons’ character in Whiplash would make a guillotine out of cymbals if he had to hear this. Are they this appalling at timing live as well? And if this was all studio compositing, why did they give the job to a deaf guy with Parkinson’s? It baffles the mind and numbs the ears.
One week ago, I was still on holiday. With my choice of promos limited for this week, I decided a little self-flagellation would get me right back in the game. But I went way too far. Guardians of Brocéliande is a joyless collection of unforgivable flaws, a poorly played slog through the worst that Nightwishcore has to offer, without even the courtesy of good vocals to mitigate the damage. No one knows how to keep pace, no one knows how to keep pitch, and a pimply studio intern lazily threw the whole thing on a pile and called it a night. I need another vacation.