When the whole “symphonic metal with opera vocals” thing hit the world with Nightwish, I was intrigued and quite receptive to the concept. I enjoyed their first few albums, yet within a scant few years, the deluge of generic female-fronted clone acts had me running for more extreme climes and rarely have I looked back. That brings us to Last Days of Eden, Spain’s answer to Nightwish. Chrysalis is their third album of symphonic folk metal and their sound predictably walks the line between Nightwish and the lighter side of Eluveitie. Led by front-woman Ani M. Fojaco, the band aims to lambaste you with bombastic, orchestral metal full of folksy bells and whistles, while Ms. Fojaco wails away with tasteful abandon. Though they often stray way too close to their primary influence, they know how to make this overblown style work, and I find myself grudgingly liking this album much more than I expected going in.
When I say Last Days of Eden sound like Nightwish, you need look no further than opener “Forevermore” where that band’s entire playbook gets robbed by Bill Belichick and copied down to the detail. It’s like a lost song from Imaginaerum and a good one too, with the orchestration in overdrive alongside heavy guitar riffs, creating a Sabaton-esque wall of sound for Ms. Fojaco to croon, trill and wail over the top of. It’s infectious and effective, however unoriginal it may be. The good times keep rolling on the outsized “The Roots of Life” where tin whistle blares away in non-shittyfluted ways as a counterpoint to crunchy guitar-riffs and souped up symphonic excess. The chorus is simple, even predictable, but it totally works. The band just knows how to make these kinds of dramatic, uber-theatrical soapers fly and they do so shamelessly.
“The Wanderer” dials back a bit for a more folksy feel that recalls Eluveitie, and “The Storyteller” is just a fun, super-catchy tune you’ll hate yourself for enjoying. “Heading for the Sun” is another total Nightwish rob job, but boy do they play it for all it’s worth. They even manage to make the nearly 10-minutes of “Aedea’s Daughters” fly by on the wings of poppy, saccharine sweet pomp and fluff, recalling the best days of Edenbridge. This is a very consistently enjoyable album, and no song stumbles, but whenever the male vocals come into play off Ms. Forjaco’s croons, bad things tend to happen as the guy/guys cannot sing. Luckily this doesn’t occur often and they wisely leave the vocals to their ace songbird.
With most of the songs in the 3-4 minutes range, they hit, hook and hightail it, leaving a positive impression. This makes Chrysalis feel like a lively, brisk listen, despite running 55 minutes. Sound-wise things sound quite good, though it can get a bit dense and crushing when the band kicks out the jams in full orchestra mode. Still, that kind of wall o’ sound is nothing new in this genre and I’ve heard far worse.
This is Ms. Fojaco’s rodeo and she does a nice job leading the charge with her smooth, quasi-operatic style. She can definitely sing and though her accent sometimes gets a bit thick, she has the necessary pipes and charm to put this style over successfully. The presence of a heavy, aggressive guitar tone makes this super light fare feel heavy enough to be taken seriously, and the orchestration, while omnipresent, is rich and restrained just enough to give the listener some freaking personal space. The effort to include folk elements via tin whistle, bagpipes and fiddles is also effective and gives the album a second layer of gloss that really benefits the material. Slick stuff here.
I took this promo with the expectation of being displeased, jaded and generally hostile, and got a boat-load of sugar sweet symphonic metal that makes me smile. That pisses me off to no end, but hey, props to the band for derailing my evil plans and forcing a solid score. If you’re hankering for a big old hunka Nightwish-core, Last Days of Eden have just what you need, and it tastes like candy butterflies. Yummo.