(2017) Lost in Grey – The Grey Realms

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Artist: Lost in Grey
Album: The Grey Realms
Release: 03.03.2017
Label: NoiseArt Records

 

Lost in Grey is a newcomer to the Finnish metal scene, even if frontman Harri Koskela [Thaurorod] is not. This symphonic metal project tells the story of Lillian, who is running away and gets lost in a place called the Grey Realms. There she meets the rulers, Patrick and Odessa, and though the place seems like paradise at first, she soon becomes disenchanted with it and is forced to deal with the things from which she was fleeing. This musical sextet was formed in 2013 and now has their debut album out in two short weeks. With a lot of positive words being spoken about this band, it seemed like it’d be worth my while to give the album a listen. My only regret is that I didn’t have the album’s lyrics in front of me, as it’s hard to review a concept album without the lyrics to help delve into the story.

 

My first impression as the album started was that it might appeal to fans of Epica. It has that same feeling Epica’s songs often offer, cranking things up to 11 immediately and then turning it down afterwards (if at all). The first track, “Waltz of Lillian”, hits hard and fast with a bombastic intro and some operatic backing vocals, before it calms down (I particularly enjoyed that progression) completely to vocalist Harri Koskela, singing nearly alone but for some ambient music and soft keys. You can imagine him on a stage alone under a single spotlight. One of the female vocalists joins in, and then the music picks up very nicely. I’m not 100% sure what I’m hearing after the female vocalist departs, but it sounds like clean and growling vocals simultaneously. Symphonics, vocalists of all types and styles, and dynamics up the wazoo – if you’re into this type of heavy drama in your music, I’m already pretty convinced, based on this one song, that this album will be right up your alley.

“Road to Styx” starts off with some guitars that sound rather like (neo)classical power metal (Symphony X, Rhapsody of Fire, etc), but amps up with the symphonics and double-kick (by Joonas Pykälä-aho) pretty much instantly. One of the female vocalists – either Emily Leone or Anne Lill – is largely in charge of the vocals in this track, though she is frequently backed up by the growls, and they work rather nicely together; the wordless notes that Leone (I’m assuming, because she’s the operatic singer, right?) frequently sings in the background are lovely. There’s a pretty 80s-style synth solo around three quarters of the way through that was rather surprising, but not too out of place. Following this, the song goes into full theatrical drama with what feels like a medieval stage choir getting a bit freaky at a masquerade.

The intro to “Dark Skies” sounds potentially Asian folk-influenced, and the first verses are quite balanced between the music and symphonics in energy. At this point, I realized that without my speaker system connected, I was enjoying this album less than I had in the past – this album does very well with a proper sound system, and feels a bit limp played on laptop speakers. I’ll chalk a bit of that up to Aapo Lindberg on bass. There seemed to be a Tolkien reference, intentional or not (Misty Mountains) hidden in there, though I’m not sure to what effect. Lyrically, this song seems to offer a degree of temptation from the male vocalist. I’m not sure whether or not I appreciate the female vocalist’s attempt at vocal grit towards the end, as she drops it eventually (or it switches to the other vocalist, whom I assume is Leone as it gets a bit operatic) and it sounds a bit better from there on out.

“Revelation” has an ambient, whispering, folky intro, and I really like it. The build-up is perhaps slightly too instant and powerful, but I can’t dislike it because the folk elements in it are really great. If you want really strong growls combined with some pretty excellent double-kick, “Revelation” is a definite winner. The female vocals that start up the verses are lovely as well, and this song has begun to feel like my favorite from the album, at least at this point. The next part is taken over by the growling male vocals, which are also sounding particularly good in this track. Props as well to Miika Haavisto on guitars for this track, for the echoing effects and somewhat Blind Guardian-esque medieval sound blending with the straight-up classic electric guitar bits. Just after 5 minutes in, there’s a wicked slow dynamic, with some lurking keys, slowly building into something that picks up oh so gently when the vocalist joins in. Yeah, we’ll call this my favorite from this album.

“Revelation” transitions seamlessly into “The Order”, which has a definite theatrical vibe to it, bringing back that sensation of watching a play, particularly in some of the female vocals from Leone (I think) that sound like comments, as though you’re listening to a conversation. It also has nice Gregorian-style chants toward the end that are really excellent. “New Horizon” shows some folk influence as well in its gentle intro, in a more Viking metal style than the prior Asian-sounding intro in “Dark Skies” at least. This is one of my favorite parts on the album as well, sounding very mystical and somehow mythological. This is a very choir-centric song, but manages to not get too over-the-top.

The title track is also the album’s epic, clocking in at over 12 minutes in length. It opens with a gentle vocal intro with light backing instrumentals, with the vocals fading out, and the sweet instrumental bit is nicely highlighted. The hint of violin in the progression is really well-done as well. In particular, this is one song where I would’ve liked to know the lyrics, as I feel like something really interesting and climactic is happening in the story, at least based on the overall feel of the song. The long fade-out matches the intro as well, creating a full-circle track that feels very complete, with added folk elements toward the end. Feeling-wise, this could be the last track, as it does feel quite final. However, there are still 6 minutes to go in the form of “Silence Falls”, which has a soft violin intro and again flows seamlessly from “The Grey Realms.” The starting vocals reminded me strongly of old-era Sharon den Adel from Within Temptation, and all of the vocalists come together quite nicely in this track. Actually, this track winds the album’s energy down beautifully and works even better as a closer than “The Grey Realms” would have, even if I can’t comment on the story.

 

After listening through this album once, my first thoughts were that it was a very ambitious project, but perhaps had a bit too much crammed into a mere eight songs. Some of the songs are pretty over-the-top, but I’d be a fool to think there aren’t people out there who will totally love that (such as the aforementioned Epica fans). However, after a few listens, more and more of the musical nuances began to stand out, and I’d say, in particular, those who like really strong symphonic music will likely appreciate this. I complained a bit that The Holographic Principle was turned up to 11 the entire time and became overwhelming – this album doesn’t suffer from that issue, as the dynamics are pretty nice throughout. I’m a big fan of Michiru Yamane (who writes Castlevania soundtracks, if the name is unfamiliar), and there were parts of this album that gave me that epic, classical Castlevania soundtrack vibe. Overall, the quality of the album is pretty excellent, so if this sort of high-powered symphonic music is to your taste, I’d certainly recommend giving this album a spin or four.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars.

Tracklist:
1. Waltz of Lillian
2. Road to Styx
3. Dark Skies
4. Revelation
5. The Order
6. New Horizon
7. The Grey Realms
8. Silence Falls

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