I’m sure you figured it out from the cover art: yes, it’s me again, and I’m reviewing yet another female-fronted symphonic metal band. Why am I doing this to myself? How did I offend Steel Druhm, and when will he let me off the hook? All excellent questions for another day. For now, let’s focus on Nevaria, a Bavarian group releasing their debut full-length, Finally Free. I have to admit, I have reservations aplenty, but I see no reason to let any of them stop me from experiencing what looks like it could be a great album. So I fished it out of the promo swamp, and made a startling discovery: Nevaria, a female-fronted symphonic power metal group releasing their debut in 2019, sounds pretty much nothing like Nightwish.1 In fact, they sound refreshingly like themselves, a new band seeking to take the European scene by storm.
Nevaria don’t employ overblown orchestral elements, no instrumental openers or conclusions, nor does singer Tanja Schneider (ex-Dawn of Destiny) have a tendency towards dramatic operatics. Instead, Markus Spiethaler (keyboards) alternates between basic strings and simply playing the piano atop Kim Wölfel’s guitar riffs. Schneider’s voice is light and direct, with a catchy, poppy edge to it that essentially makes her the “missing” overblown symphonic element, which works really well. I love the style and delivery of these two musicians, which make tracks like “Finally Free” and “No Mercy” highly enjoyable, where, say an Epican delivery of the same songs would work… but it would also be over-orchestrated and unbearably theatrical. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual in the genre, and sets the stage for an enjoyable listen.
Finally Free is billed as a fairly serious album thematically, but for the most part, it’s an upbeat, memorable listen. A lot of songs are written with catchy choruses that take heavy advantage of Schneider’s ability to sing high, infectious vocal melodies, while guitar solos are frequent companions to the journey. In addition, she sings earnestly, and with a clear affection for the music, which is ever a welcome bonus. Given these elements, songs like “Wind,” “Drowning,” and “Black and White” are pretty much all great, and I can’t get enough of piano playing in metal music. I do wish that the guitars were given a bit more prominence across the album, though—Wölfel does not spend the album mindlessly chugging away, but rather brings a number of interesting riffs and leads to the table. Unfortunately, he does spend a fair amount of time buried beneath the vocal and string elements of the album, which takes away a bit from the “metal” of it all.
While catchiness and pop are rarely bad things in symphonic metal of any kind, that thematic disconnect does impact my enjoyment of the whole. I can’t help but feel that Finally Free would benefit from a better-explored analysis of its dark subject matter. “Leaving You” is a good example; it starts off acoustic, slow, and menacing. Eventually, it transitions into a very hooky chorus that includes references to “speechless terror” that seems like an odd contrast with the melodies of the song. “Black and White” has an even more somber acoustic opening and a much catchier chorus. It feels at times that Nevaria can’t quite stop themselves from creating hook-filled, catchy music. Again, this is not by itself a bad thing, and I think they have a great sound—but it does get a bit repetitive, and creates a strange contrast between the music of the album and its thematic goals.
With all that said, it’s a lot easier to not complain and simply enjoy Nevaria and Forever Free for what they are: enjoyable, refreshingly different, and well-produced symphonic power metal. With a clear sound, some real talent, and a ton of good ideas, you could ask for a lot less and still have an enjoyable debut on your hands. Nevaria is indeed a (finally) free group, and I for one am excited to see where they fly to next.