Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Alpine Fault - Iraena's Ashes (2011)

This is the year I intend to be good and keep up with finding and reviewing new music, and what better way to start with one of the best bands I've heard in a long while.  Alpine Fault is from New Zealand (a first for me) and their debut album, Iraena's Ashes, is a concept album inspired by the true story of the mysterious disappearance of Iraena Asher.

Now, I'm a sucker for real life mysteries, and when I checked out the band's website and read the background of the album, I started digging into the Asher case (how many truly educational metal albums have you heard lately), and while knowing the story is not necessary to appreciate the CD, it really does enhance the themes of loss and melancholia that weave throughout both music and lyrics.

Musically, they cover a lot of ground. There's shades of Fates Warning and Dream Theater in there (it especially evokes similar imagery to the "Scenes from a memory" release), and just enough Opeth to provide contrast.  In less capable hands, the violin playing could have become a gimmick, but the band integrates it so well that it just seems...right.  One talented violinist achieves more than an entire phalanx of synthesizers.

While Nadia Vanek's vocals are near perfect, the big surprise is Ant Royle (guitars and vocals), who has a great voice himself--plaintive without over-emoting.  Together they manage to wring every drop of pathos from the music.  The guitar work is stunning--as complex as you'd expect from a prog-metal band, but as with the violin there's no sense of flashy gimmicks.

Top it off with some amazing cover art, courtesy of  Lady Symphonia, and a kick-ass first video directed by Adrian Pagano, and it's really, really hard to believe that this is a debut effort.  If there was any justice in this world, Alpine Fault would be huge.

Here's the video for "I'll See You Soon", a wise choice for the band to introduce themselves with.

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