Volturian – Crimson Review

Growing up, metal was not a big part of my life. My dad definitely had a couple metal things in his collection, but he always preferred cleaner genres of rock and pop to any extreme stuff. My mom, who is big fan of show tunes and Broadway, also lacks a taste for the extreme. For a long time pop was all I listened to, and it was only by accident that I heard metal at all. During a short period where some metal made it onto Top 20 radio, I immediately fell hard for the crunchy guitar sound and double-bass runs. Years passed before I rediscovered metal and fell head over heels again. But that pop-fed foundation still informs my listening preferences, which brings us to Volturian’s debut record Crimson.

The brainchild of Frozen Crown’s Federico Mondelli and Sleeping Romance’s Federica Lanna, Volturian prioritizes fun over all. These tunes will get stuck in your head, you will kind of hate that they get stuck in your head, and you will be powerless to stop it if you give it the smallest opening. Crimson sounds for all the world like The Unforgiving-era Within Temptation played by Amaranthe. Poppy song structures and a ton of electronic bells and whistles exude whimsy and exuberance, with a touch of gothic overtones for flavor. Perfectly paced leads and delighfully chuggy riffs toe the power metal (“Between the Sleepers”) or Gothenburg melodeath (“Broken”) lines. This is a sugary affair, of that there is no debate, but I have a sweet tooth so I venture forth.

“Crimson Dust” opens up the record in the same way the bad guy in a cop procedural busts into a basement nightclub while he runs from the law. It’s short and sweet and I kinda love it. More electronics shimmy forward to bring first song proper “New Life” into being, and it sounds very much like Amaranthe. That I don’t immediately hear Elize Ryd thirteen seconds in legitimately surprises me, but Federica ain’t bad either. She’s got an airy, easy voice that comes with a charming Italian accent, replete with ESL lyrics to further drive home the point that English is not the band’s forte. These language issues run through the record’s entirety, but I found it difficult to care because the first six or seven songs make me too happy for my own good. The sparkling highlight of Crimson is “The Killing Joke,” which boasts the most addicting chorus on record and shows Federica exploring her deeper vocal range. Not far behind—both in terms of quality and track order—is duet “In a Heartbeat,” which immediately recalls Nemesea’s hypermodern In Control but features an immense performance by Frozen Crown’s Giada Etro to really sell it.

Although Volturian never loses steam when applying varied approaches to an historically limited blueprint, there is plenty of room for improvement. “Between the Sleepers” is a terminally boring track, with a nice guitar lick and not much else of note. The album also leaves me with a weird aftertaste by closing out with a cover of Roxette’s “Fading Like a Flower.” The cover is not bad, but it belongs somewhere in the middle and not at the end, especially considering that “Forevermore” suits the role of closing track much better anyway. I also expect listeners to bemoan the liberal use of downtuning across the board—although I like that sound—because it is the quintessential example of “sounds heavy but obviously isn’t heavy.” Additionally, while the lyrical awkwardness didn’t offend me, I can’t deny that it severely dampens the emotional impact of the record when compared to similarly poppy offerings like Mana, where suave lyrics cut deep when they need to.

In the long run, my experience with Volturian was positive. It’s fun, too commercial for most of you to even try it, and so totally my jam. I almost like it even more knowing most of you sad-sacks will hate it, but I also fully understand why metalheads hate stuff like this. So while everyone around me asks, “why in the hell do you like Crimson?” I’ll just keep on being my happy self, listening to this happy little album.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Scarlet Records
Website: facebook.com/volturian
Releases Worldwide: April 24th, 2020

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