Stop the presses; hold the fort, hell has frozen over. We actually have a really good female fronted Gothic sounding American release. Someone call my cardiologist, I’m having heart palpitations. Well, actually, I’m enjoying it more than I can possibly describe. Maybe there’s hope for a band from the northern part of the Western Hemisphere in a country not called Canada. And where are they from you ask? Oklahoma, not generally regarded as the hippest state in the union, and generally proud of it. Don’t ask me how it happened, it just did. Now I’m not saying I’ve never found anything to recommend in Oklahoma but strip joints aren’t generally a staple on this site, and that was the only high point in my experience with the Sooner state, especially that little redhead, er, ahh. . . . But, I digress.
Well, this strange phenomenon may have happened because some really good metal musicians just happened upon a really good vocalist. And she just happens to be a RUSSIAN. How’s that for irony? Oklahoma is about as far from Moscow as you can get, in more ways than one. The production here is an EP, a rather substantial EP with a total of 6 songs that serves as a coming out effort for the group. I generally shy away from American music but after a cursory listen here it was clear that this was a substantial sound, both musically and in terms of the vocalist. So let’s take a look at Angelical Tears.
The EP starts with No More. We get a haunting vocal intro that leads to crunching guitar riffs, it’s a strange blend of the American Great Plains and the dark Russian wilderness, which is pretty much what this production is all about. Just to be clear, our Russian vocalist, Julia Chikina, who is now Julia Flansburg, is the wife of bass player Glenn Flansburg, and our congratulations to Glenn on a fine acquisition. I can’t imagine a vocal that works better with a given sound. The song moves from that dark intro into the more metal delivery over those pounding guitars, augmented by a symphonic from the lovely keyboardist, Jennifer Corbin. Jennifer has to be the only symphonic keyboardist working in metal music in Oklahoma, and she’s pretty good. There is a limited male vocal, something on the order of a death metal vocal but not in the Morten Veland mode. It’s mainly there for emphasis. Chikina can hit the high notes and does so here on occasion, the guitars from the two guitarists ride over the drums and the bass as intended and we are introduced to something pretty much akin to the European Gothic motif. There’s quite a bit on line regarding the band, you might want to check here for some samples, I never could get their regular website to work.
The second track is Save Me. Again, some fine keyboard work to support the guitars, and those guitars do justice to this North American art form. Julie goes dark here, in the truest tradition of the Gothic message. She sings:
Sadness around me
It takes control of me again
It makes me helpless
I can’t break free, break free
I can’t hide
My soul is lost in emptiness
Because we can’t be
We’re losing ourselves, ourselves
The song is, as most of them are, a guitar based number. The bass works overtime, but the tempo alternates between crushing metal and the alternating softness of the seductive vocals. Julie can make the hormones howl.
Dreams is just that. .. dreams. Again, keyboards lead us into the melody, a softer direction takes hold and Julie again takes us down a dark and dusky road. The song addresses the fear of relationships, initially with a darker tone that leads to a more staccato drum line that leads the guitars into the metal. There’s not as much overlaying of the vocals in this production as we typically get with the Europeans and that may be an oversight. The limited glimpses we get in this song are outstanding. Wish there was more of it; she can do wonderful harmony when given the opportunity. The song concludes with more of the dark, sultry vocal, over a limited instrumental, all very nice.
Tomorrow Happens Now is the fourth title. It is drum driven, a harder design. There are two guitarists with AT, along with the bass, and they work together well, and that double duty is apparent on this number. Again, the keys provide a cushion, one that could be more interesting with more emphasis. There is a little here and it is a highlight of the music. But, it is the guitars that drive the AT music, and the bridge on this track is outstanding. At the conclusion of that bridge, Julia returns with her enticing vocals to make this a first rate metal production.
Darkness is another rocker. We get some interesting vocals over the guitars to start the number. This is the harder part of the AT sound. But, as the song progresses, we return to the dark interpretation of reality that is the focus of the AT music. You don’t often hear this message in American music, but it pervades the European sounds:
Darkness surrounds me
And holds me really tight
Rippling through my heart
It keeps dragging me down and down
Again, there are some strong guitar riffs to keep the song going. This hard guitar, blended with the sultry vocals is what makes the AT sound interesting. It flows through most of the music, and this track is no disappointment.
The final selection, Chasing Eternity, has to be the highlight. A tight keyboard introduces the song, and is followed by Russian vocals. Julie allows that she wanted to do some Russian lyrics to spice up the music, and just threw them into this song. And boy, do they WORK. This is absolutely the strongest cut on the EP, and the Russian lyrics go a long way towards making it that way. I don’t have those lyrics here in Russian, of course how many of you would be able to read them if I did, but the English translations are adequate. Just believe me, they sound better in the original Russian. Again, they look at life from a darker perspective:
I want you to be right next to me
But I’m still alone
It’s so hard to be far away from someone you love
And not know when you meet again
Your eyes are like a light that shines within me
But darkness eats my soul and you can’t find me
Angelical Tears presents a picture of what American music could be, if musicians would make the effort. The writing is solid, the musicians as strong as anyone, and the vocals leave nothing to be desired. Wish I’d have known about the band when I was in Oklahoma City, just think of the money I could have saved staying away from those other entertainment options. .. and I would have liked it a whole lot more.
9 / 10