Stream Of Passion

The Flame Within

Written by: BL on 16/07/2009 02:27:10

Stream Of Passion was originally conceived by Arjen Anthony Lucassen who is also mastermind behind the dutch experimental / progressive solo project Ayreon. He wanted to start a more straightforward symphonic metal band unlike his ambitious main work and sought little-known musicians to form the base around a singer he had showcased on Ayreon's "The Human Equation" - one Marcela Bovio. The story onwards goes that after putting out an album composed mostly by Marcela over the internet due to how far apart the band lived together, internal problems caused Arjen to leave the band behind. The band now reside closer together and as such, continue on without their founding father. I wasn't sure what to expect since the symphonic metal genre can be plagued with indistinguishable bands and often a lack of real ambition or heartfelt emotion (and I mean the real stuff).

Fortunately a couple of listens later and I feel I can leave that uncertainty to rest as for the most part, "The Flame Within" is a competent, a very pleasant and enjoyable record for fans of the genre. But it isn't perfect though and won't win any awards for originality either. Songwriting is of a good standard throughout as the various parts of songs transition without a hitch and the way dynamics are handled are impeccable pretty much on every song. Some songs do have far too similar formulas of actual structure though: usually either a big symphonic intro with guitars, strings and piano, then quiet parts, some buildup before closing OR a quiet intro and then a big eventual build up into a crescendo. This does mean that out of 13 tracks, I deemed 5-6 of the songs slightly too filler and predictable for my liking. The other 7 main tracks vary from quality filled big numbers like the opener "The Art Of Loss", to the ballad-esque "Run Away" and the rocking "Games We Play".

Musically the guitars tend to be rather basic in just being there to provide rocking rhythm work, though occasionally a soaring guitar solo will pop up here and there. If the guitars are basic, the pianos and keyboards are far more attention grabbing with some beautiful melodic work ("Run Away" and "Now Or Never") as well as some albeit subtle but technical bursts (the solos on "Let Me In" and "A Part Of You"), further helped by some good synth and string work in the ambient backing section, partly handled by singer Marcela as she plays the violin (and when it comes in it sounds pretty good). The best instrumentals in a symphonic metal band won't mean squat if there are bad vocals though, which is thankfully far from the case here. Marcela Bovio has a voice in the vein of singers like Floor Jansen (After Forever) and Amy Lee (Evanescence) with hints of Anette Olzon (new Nightwish) and Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) though only softer and not without such an operatic spin or power bellowing element, so nothing unique though she sings superbly here and her voice is soothing and beautiful when she hits the higher notes in particular. Even in the most fillerish of songs she can provide a little bit of sparkle to keep things going, and like the music, she handles her dynamics well.

A few downsides worth being aware of other than being slightly familiar territory and the filler is that songs can do without some of the padding in length - almost every song is over 4 minutes and I feel some of the weaker ones might have worked had they been written with a more "short but sweet" ideal in mind. Tempo will usually stay in a comfortably mid paced range (but not always), perhaps even more variety would have been welcome. Other than that though there isn't much else I can particular say since the band don't do much else wrong. If you like symphonic metal or female vocal driven metal then this is getting a recommendation from me and is worth checking out.

Download: Now Or Never, Games We Play, My Leader
For the fans of: After Forever, Evanescence, Kamelot, Within Temptation
Listen: Myspace

Release date 29.05.2009
Napalm Records

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