Ruins of Elysium is a symphonic metal band with members from all over the world. Although a symphonic metal band in itself is hardly remarkable, there’s hundreds, maybe even thousands of them at any given moment, Ruins of Elysium stands out. This is due to the fact they have a tenor as singer, rather than the usual female, which is still a rare treat even though a few more similar outfitted bands have popped up since. Being formed in 2013 by Norwegian tenor (and thus vocalist) Drake Chrisdensen for this exact reason, Ruins of Elysium has embraced and adopted the bombastic music style used in video games which they combine with Drake’s distinct vocals. This creates a specific, rather striking sound that will be considered an acquired taste by many, but also helps to distinguish them from the ‘run of the mill’ (figuratively speaking of course) symphonic metal band. The lyrical themes are inspired by Greek mythology, but also by epic video games. Lately the trio, apart from vocalist Drake Ruins of Elysium consists of guitarist/bassist Vincenzo Avallone and drummer/keyboardist Icaro Ravelo, has been working on the band’s new release, their third full-length. It’s called Amphitrite: Ancient Sanctuary in the Sea and it contains twelve songs spanning a grand total of 113 (!) minutes. Quantity-wise this is definitely bang for your buck. Let’s hope the boys are equally generous for us quality-wise.
The start of album opener Alexiel – An Epic Lovestory holds no surprises with the keyboards and arrangements taking the spotlight right away as a somewhat ominous sounding intro opens the ball. The drums then enter the stage, also according the expectations after which the vocals make their entry followed by the string work. A classic, recognizable build up with a pleasant vibe to it. The vocals are remarkably fitting, though I did need a few seconds to adapt. As if he knew this would happen, Drake squeezed in a few surprising growls and to add another layer to the already intricately layered song structure they have enlisted the help of soprano Melissa Ferlaak, who is capable of hitting the real highs. The tone seems to be set for the rest of the album.
Indeed it is, although it still has quite a few surprises in store. A lot of the songs, though individually of course very different from each other, have the same basics: Intricately drawn out power metal-like structures with a tight rhythm section and frolicking guitar lines surrounding it. The vocals float around the rhythm with the keys and the arrangements as the connecting factor with the occasional solo as a mandatory addition. However, the use of traditional instruments from worldwide cultures, like in Book of Seals, break the standard, giving some of the songs a worldly atmosphere. To top it off they adopt some of the musical characteristics from different cultures and embed them into their songs which intensifies that experience even more. Try Okami, Mother of the Sun, a song to which Föxx Salema contributed, for a good example. Or The Ocean Is Yemanja’s with Rayssa Monroy and Zaiiah. All this makes for countless details, some very obvious, some so subtle you probably won’t consciously notice them. Nevertheless they all leave their mark on the song and even though there’s an abundance of said details, they are all carefully placed, making it an organic whole.
I think it’s safe to say Amphitrite: Ancient Sanctuary in the Sea, named after the queen of the sea by the way, is a highly varied album. Its core business is power metal based symphonic metal, but there’s much more to it than just that. The remarkable vocalist and the countless influences from worldwide cultures make this album stand out from the masses. The link to various video games is not overly present in my opinion although there are moments, like in the opening song. Like I said earlier, this type of music, extreme within its own borders, might be an acquired taste to many, but I am sure this particular album will appeal to equally many music fans. One point of criticism I do have though: At times the vocals are a tad out of sync with the tunes, breaking focus for a bit, like at the end of Alexiel – An Epic Lovestory and in Atlas. A minor nuisance in an otherwise truly epic release.
Here you can also read our earlier review of Ruins of Elysium’s Seeds of Chaos and Serenity.