Fairyland – Osyrhianta Review

A lot has changed in 11 years since 2009. I was then a scrawny little loser with no idea about adult life or responsibility. In 2020, I’m now a marginally less scrawny, marginally less little, marginally less loser, with marginally more idea about adult life and responsibility. France’s Fairyland last released an album in 2009 and were already seasoned at that point, with a decade of releases under their belt. 2020 brings with it a release called Osyrhianta, a bombastic, symphonic power metal record. What does 11 years of development bring to the table?

Fairyland subscribe to the ‘start as you mean to go on’ approach. Opener “The Age of Birth” is typical of its genre in that it’s triumphant, overblown and features a resonant, Rhapsody-like spoken word passage. What follows is symphonic power metal with all the trimmings: fast guitars, double drum pedals, soaring solos, grand horns and melodic strings. I can already feel the noses turning so allow me a moment to clarify that this is power metal with balls. The tones are thick and the riffs (when discernible) are fairly heavy. The vocalist has grit and the drummer is acrobatic. Musically, Blind Guardian is not a far cry on account of this ‘power metal with balls’ approach. “The Hidden Kingdom of Eloran” is an early highlight, boasting a punchy, percussive introduction and a heavy verse which gives way to an excellent, soaring chorus.

I’m not one to typically linger on the vocalist in particular but the vocals are a real strength here. The principle singer is like an ESL Russell Allen, as his voice alone strongly recalls Symphony X; he has the range, depth and vibrato required to play his part. Particular passages through the record, such as on “Alone We Stand,” seemingly feature a different vocalist who has a similar tone but sings with even more grit at a lower pitch. This individual is also excellent and accentuates the ‘power metal with balls’ point. Fairyland benefits from two guys who can sing but don’t wail, which is a common pitfall of the genre. As if this wasn’t enough, choral, harmonized vocals are used to guild the bigger melodies but according to the one sheet these are performed by 3 members of the band. You couldn’t even accuse these guys of relying on a synthesized choir, which is innately more skillful and satisfying. Closer “The Age of Light” exemplifies all of these styles, plus the infrequent female singer, as the various approaches wind in and out of each other.

Moreover, these guys can actually compose. The orchestral elements are quite sophisticated, a point typified by “Mount Mirenor.” It’s a proper composition in that it flows seamlessly with smooth transitions, with an overarching tone and melody, but which allows different instruments to take the principle melody at any given time. Its second half progresses through a subtle but rousing violin-based swell and the female singer prettily adorns the strings. Gentle drums roll in and out but it’s otherwise devoid of metal. Though this is the most obvious example, such symphonic skill is apparent throughout the record.

I’ve thus far focused on the vocals and symphonic elements of Osyrhianta. Good though these are, they still fail to hide the somewhat limp guitar riffs. Though they breach the surface from time to time, and there’s a rumble in the mix indicating the presence of both the bass and lead guitars, they’re largely buried beneath symphonic instrumentation. This results in a number of tracks which lack distinction. There’s only one track with leads I really remember and that’s on the mammoth climax called “Of Hope and Despair in Osyrhia.” This features a strangely djenty chug but it’s memorable at least. At the other end of spectrum, “Across the Snow” is busy, but without a strong core guitar melody, it lacks direction. A number of the other tracks have all the strong elements noted above but feel like less than the sum of their parts without the distinction that metal guitars offer. A final note is that Osyrhianta also suffers from bloat. 10 tracks across 1 hour doesn’t sound dreadful but the lack of direction is exacerbated by tracks which feature too much content.

This may be the closest I’ve skirted to a 3.0 (a good album at this website!) without awarding it. Fairyland almost exhibit all the tools required for a remarkable slice of symphonic power metal but they aren’t quite used in a way which results in truly memorable songs. The lack of a hard edge offered by strong guitars will always hinder a metal record and the rambling song-writing undermines the advantages found across the vocals, orchestrations and core aesthetic. Still, Osyrhianta is a very positive step after 11 years away from the wheel.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Website: facebook.com/fairyland
Releases worldwide: May 22nd, 2020

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