As our musical frontier has slowly slipped into the gothic galaxy, more and more bands have begun to emerge, most of which seem to be fronted by a female singer. The likes of Nightwish, Within Tempation, and Lacuna Coil have all found themselves in the bestseller line, some cashing in on some big contracts and some big cash. In the 90s this sort of thing was really pigeon-holed, for the most part spending valuable years just simply trying to find an audience. Now the musical boundaries have expanded, the fans have slowly evolved into real "listeners", and beyond that corporate America has grown to love this type of sound, evident with the blockbuster Evanescence and their landing on just about every soundtrack gig in Hollywood. For me personally, I have never quite captured that need, that expanding sense of atmosphere and dark melody. I've focused my "beyond normal metal" mentality towards other bands hovering at the extreme borders of metal, the acts like Sentenced, Darkseed, Sarnath, Amorphis, and most recently Embraze. Now, however, I've found myself caught up in this dark castle of gothic elements, really captured by this rather moody soundscape through the efforts of Armageddon Music recording artist Vanguard.
Hellsinki's Vanguard have just released their debut record "Succumbra", a very addictive record that absolutely burns with the brightest light, a beacon in the night that really captivates the listener and moves their minds into a whole new dimension. This band is comprised of seven members, two of which are lead singers. One half of the vocals is covered by female vocalist Suvi G, an angelic voice that does everything just right. The second half of the vocals is potrayed by J. Grym, who manages to mix his tools up a bit, calling on a black metal scream, a deathy growl, and a clean voice as well. The band also add in two unique musicians, a cello player in Aapo Romu and a piano player in Lari Kuitunen. The band finishes up with Tipi on drums, Mikko Seppanen on guitars, and O.D. on bass.
In the 90s I remember buying a Theatre Of Tragedy record and being completely blown away by the "beauty and the beast" aspect of the band. I really enjoyed the angelic vocals mixed with the deathy growls. All of that backed by the most atmospheric of piano melody made Theatre Of Tragedy a very unique and entertaining band, going beyond Saturday night experimentation and fitting snugly in my playlist for months. Now that same sort of admiration has returned with Vanguard, a band that I hold in high regards simply because of their excellent mixture of musical genres. With this band we get the forward, up front guitar riffs that border on the same pattern and sound as another excellent Finnish band, Sentenced. But going beyond just that one element, these band members captivate their audience with a whole host of other measures. The vocals are a fine mix of clean, almost operatic female vocals, the most soothing of metal registers in my humble opinion. Those vocals combine nicely with the rough, extreme male vocals, with the combination and mixture never becoming confused or disoriented. The two play well off of each other, each giving the other plenty of time to finish the verse and allow time for the piano, cello, and other instruments to build melody and atmosphere before switching gears.
This certainly isn't an album that you will want to play as your aggressive choice, but at times the band can get fast, displaying a good amount of groovy riffs that are very frigid in their doom and gloom despair. Tracks like "Asylum" and "Bitheon" keep up a good mid-pace, allowing vocalist J. Grym to add in most of the intensity through his rough vocals. The more melodic material seems to keep Suvi G. at the helm for the majority of the track, evident on cuts like "Homecoming" and "Wurmtod". But most of the songs combine the two and allow time for faster parts as well as more ambient sections, with the tracks structured to allow plenty of time for piano, cello, heavy riffs, faster riffs, spoken passages, female vocals, and male vocals.
Fans of the gothic scene, including bands like Lacuna Coil, The Gathering, Theatre Of Tragedy, and Nightwish, will enjoy Vanguard. With this genre so hot right now I would imagine that it is just a matter of time before this young act reach the right audiences. For now the band are on a great label, but at some point the group will need to get more exposure in other areas, with festival appearances and radio essential in the band's success. For now "Succumbra" is here to please fans of this particular style, and in my opinion Vanguard have created one of the finest albums of this whole genre.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia.
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