Eleine – Dancing in Hell Review

Symphonic and power/symphonic metal are so hit-or-miss. Even when it comes to a couple of my favorites, I can love one release and loathe the next. That’s even when the most astute listener thinks the albums sound the same. It has to be the perfect balance of elements to catch my attention and keep me coming back for repeat listens. And, other times, I have to be in the right headspace. When I first heard Eleine’s new opus, Dancing in Hell, almost all those elements came together. Yet, when I listen to their two previous full-lengths, I feel very little. And that’s exactly what I mean. I’m not the genre’s biggest fan, but Dancing in Hell grabbed ahold of me and hasn’t let go in weeks. Its combination of soothing symphonic atmospheres, powerful female leads, and killer riffs make Dancing in Hell one of my favorite symphonic releases of the year. Not to mention, it’s the band’s best to date.

The band has found more and more success from their 2015 self-titled debut to 2018’s Until the End. The songwriting, production, and album fluidity have improved greatly. The band has also continued to expand on its imagery. After hearing Until the End, I knew that the band’s third release was going to be their make-or-break. Maybe it was hiring a new bassist and drummer that helped focus on their songwriting. Maybe it was their time spent on the road with Moonspell that helped hone their gothy, symphonic atmospheres and orchestrations. Whatever did the trick, Eleine is better for it. 

On the surface, Eleine is closest in approach to Epica. Both bands mix a female siren with male clean/growl support. They both know how to shred one second and tug on the heartstrings the next. Epica has never been shy of doing anything, and Eleine is finally up to the challenge. But Eleine is no Epica. Not by a long shot. And that’s OK. For instance, listen to Rikard Ekberg’s vocal contributions on songs like the back-to-back-to-back trio “Where Your Rotting Corpse Lie,” “All Shall Burn,” and “Die from Within.” Combining cleans with his Septicflesh-meets-Unleashed-meets-Lamb of God death barks, he and Madeleine “Eleine” Liljestam play off each other perfectly. The first track introduces something new to the Eleine sound: Dimmu Borgir-like orchestrations. “All Shall Burn,” on the other hand, slows the album’s pace with the same Moonspell-like attitude found in “Memoriam.” And the third song of the trio lives in the same home as a Cradle of Filth-esque beauty-and-the-beast number. This last song also calms and soothes you down where you need to be for the gorgeous instrumental closer, “The World We Knew.”

The heavier pieces live in the front and middle of the record. Of these heavier numbers, the best are “Enemies,” “Ava of Death,” and “As I Breathe.” “Enemies” kicks the album off with big atmospheres, melodic vocals, and decent solo-work. Yet, the song doesn’t feel it’s reached its full potential. What the band is holding back breaks loose on the other two pieces. “Ava of Death” and “As I Breathe” have addictive choruses and killer, headbangable riffs. The former has more of a Nightwish vibe to it, while the latter’s midsection breakdown shows the crushing Septicflesh side of the band. All three songs are simple, but it’s nice to hear a straightforward banger every once in a while.

After more than a dozen listens, Dancing in Hell still sticks with me. “Ava of Death,” in particular, is a track I could put on repeat for the evening. Not only does Dancing in Hell have those elements I can’t put my finger on,1 but the dynamic mix is a beaut. I can’t recall hearing much bass guitar on the band’s previous releases, but it’s sure as shit there on “Memoriam” and “Where Your Rotting Corpse Lie.” And those blastbeats on the latter song are icing on the cake. Liljestam’s voice is obviously center-stage in, but she finally has a lineup behind her that brings it all together. Few of you will agree with me, but I don’t care.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kb/s mp3
Label: Black Lodge Records
Websites: eleine.bandcamp.com | eleine.com | facebook.com/eleineofficial
Releases Worldwide: November 27th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. I know, how can I be so subjective?
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