I’d like to invite you to take a moment and look at that album art. While you’re at it, admire the album title and band name. And now that you’ve spent three seconds doing that, you won’t be the slightest bit surprised when I tell you that Italy’s Hidden Lapse play progressive power metal with symphonic elements.1 The band was founded in 2011, though Butterflies is only their second release. I think we’re all familiar with the trepidations that float around sophomore releases—and did I mention that this is also a female-fronted symphonic metal act?—around here, so I’m going to ask you to stop paying attention to the album cover and let the music do the talking.
Hidden Lapse portray a sound that reminds me of a heavier Delain. Or maybe a heavier Leaves’ Eyes. You can make of that what you will, but everyone involved with Butterflies is in good form; the players are skilled musicians, the production highlights their performances, and the master lets everything breathe comfortably. Typically, a project such as this one is carried by its lead singer, but the keyboards (uncredited, at least with the information I have available) on Butterflies are its true hero. “Third,” “Stone Mask,” and “Cruel Enigma” all begin with pianos or synth lines that are either eerie, intriguing, or simply beautiful. The symphonic side of Hidden Lapse seriously elevates this album, and is one of its primary strengths. Don’t get me wrong, Alessia Marchigiani is a talented singer, and I like the edge her voice gives the music. She certainly helps to set this band apart from their aforementioned contemporaries. But the keys do so much more.
Unfortunately, there’s a telling weakness to Butterflies that makes it hard to set it all that far apart from said contemporaries, and it lies in the songwriting. Hidden Lapse is more than just a keyboard and a female singer, but at times that doesn’t quite come across. The role played by Marco Ricco (guitars and male vocals) and Romina Pantanetti (bass) is minimal at best; the guitar work across the album largely consists of generic chugging of down-tuned power chords that add no real musical dimension to proceedings. Guitar-driven songs like “Dead Jester” and “Grim Poet” are ultimately forgettable, because there isn’t enough to distinguish the riffing between one song and the next. Although there is markedly more heaviness to Hidden Lapse than, say, Delain, that heaviness feels arbitrary for most of the album, and as a result, there really isn’t much to set them apart in a meaningful way.
Butterflies is adequate; satisfactory—generic. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a whole lot to distinguish it from a sea of stagnant symphonic metal, because the talent is here. When these songs work, they really work. “Stone Mask” is the first song to stand above the rest, thanks to its huge chorus and strong balance between guitar and synth work. “Glitchers” follows suit, as does “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome,” though the latter is a bit jumbled. All three of these songs have a grand, symphonic chorus in common that lets Marchigiani really shine, and it’s in these “big” moments that the band is at its best. That’s only three songs out of nine, however, and the rest simply aren’t memorable enough.
I almost didn’t review Butterflies. I began late, for one thing, after having been swept away by life in a rather stressful way. I’m not giving it a glowing recommendation or an amazing rating either. Knowing this, I was tempted to just drop it and go on with my next review. But every time I reach the end of the album, “Dust” just hits me. It’s emotional and poignant, and just a bit cheesy—but it’s good. It’s really good. And it makes me want to root for Hidden Lapse. There’s a strong album in this band. Butterflies isn’t it, though I’m confident that there are readers here who’ll enjoy it. But an album full of “Dust” and “Stone Mask” would be something pretty exciting, so I will be awaiting that release with bated breath.