Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Riverlust - Innocence (EP) (2012)

Hungarian symphonic metal band Riverlust have had more than their fair share of trials and tribulations. Formed in mid-2008, then known as Leaf Storm, they have only three of six original members still in tow. Lineup shuffles not withstanding, the now fully formed and fully functional six piece are wasting no time making the most of their new found unity. On their debut EP, they go beyond the standard, almost too common, female fronted metal into more unique territory. With two guitars playing melodic, yet powerful riffs, a madman behind the drum kit, and a growing voice at the helm, "Innocence" may be the right way to launch themselves into the spotlight.

Despite a snare drum that sounds like that of Lars Ulrich on "St. Anger," the intro track "Never Ending Fall" is a beautiful beginning. With rich symphonics accompanying that tin can beat, it leads flawlessly into "End Of Innocence." There are imperfections in the mix that make it seem overly crowded at times. But as vocalist Zsuzsanna Paréj enters, everything seems to materialize into a well rounded attack. Pairing her voice with guitarist András Barta's frightening screams in the chorus is a perfect use of contrast, reviving that beauty and the beast dynamic that has work so many times before. But even minus the vocal leads, the band do an excellent job thundering ahead at break neck speeds. The drumming matches the intensity of the guitars, coming together in a flurry of activity that might leave you dizzy trying to keep up. The closing of the track is the prime example of the "big finish" style, surely the closer of any live show.

With things now in full swing, "Razor's Edge" sees the band in a more pleasing balancing act. Paréj shows her mettle, carrying much of the weight in the verse sections, with drummer Attila Pécz hammering out a busy collection of kicks, snares and toms. Once again, the occasional growl heightens the overall arc of the track, giving way to a perfect dueling solo that is both daring and cohesive. Rather than disrupting the track with an extended show of talent, they craft a short section to accent things. The final ten seconds alone are a triumphant finish. With a keyboard and clean guitar intro, "The Curtain Falls" feels every bit like the show stealer it turns out to be. The light use of synthesizers in the background is just enough to register, without leaving a film on the track itself. What you have is a ballad, of sorts, that strays away from the traditional structures. Yes, Paréj's voice sees center stage more often than not. But the separation comes in the way the instrumental plays out, never relaxing and settling into a generic beat. In fact, Pécz may prove to be too dynamic at times, rivaling the guitar work in both speed and tone.

The same can be said for "Melodies Of Life," which boasts a heavy back beat that is far from the typical, watered down "kick kick snare" that usually accompanies female fronted metal. The guitar work varies, sometimes adopting a thunderous gallop, and other times darting up and down the neck in a whirlwind of distorted notes. For the first time, the bass shines through, laying down a rattling line as Paréj gets mixed results in her arias. She hits the most difficult notes, while sometimes faltering on the more accessible parts. But for the few stumbles along the way, "Passage" is a track that you won't soon forget. Barta sees an increased vocal role, screaming and growling his way into her frontal lobe, while a pulverizing drum beat bears down on you. When you think the foot is off the gas, thanks to an airy keyboard solo, you are thrown head first into the best fretwork on the album. The rolling double kicks that carry you from solo to bridge shake your speakers before coasting into the outro, one that sees Paréj let out one final high note.

Minus a few technical flaws, Riverlust have a lot to be happy about. For a band that has been changing and growing every step of the way, this debut is a strong one, and a good measuring stick to where they are going. With a little more focus on the balance of sound in the recording process, most, if not all, of the glitches can be corrected. The six tracks on "Innocence" represent a starting point, or a baseline for years to come. if they continue to grow as a band, there is no telling how far they can go. With "Innocence," they prove that they are on the right path to success, even with a few stumbles along the way.


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