You thought Amaranthe overdid it with three vocalists? Then how about four, with even more pop in the mix? Less is more, kids, and so let’s add to subtract.
Exit Eden is a band consiting of four talented vocalists (Amanda Sommerville, Anna Brunner, Marina La Torraca, Clémetine Delauney) whose names are mentioned with such bands as Avantasia, Visions of Atlantis and Kamelot. Their inclination is towards the symphonic, and they’ve got the pipes to match. They are backed by different session musicians, if Discogs is to be believed, who are more anonymos than the Nameless Ghouls of Ghost, because everywhere you turn, the band is said to consist only of our leading ladies.
Rhapsodies in Black is the debut album of the project. It is unfortunately also a covers album. I say unfortunately, because not everybody can pull an Apocalyptica, and Exit Eden sure don’t. The album consists entirely of pop covers, most of it being modern, post-2000s pop. It’s a gutsy move, because contrary to what you may think, even a cover song is difficult to pull off, let alone a whole album of them. It has to be distinct, but it has to be recognizable as a take on the original, and the way to accomplish that is to put the band’s identity into the mix. It’s been done before, and 80’s and 90’s pop seems tad popular with the metal crowd – I will add a list to the bottom for reference.
Now, forget that their debut doesn’t have one original song on it, it’s also lackluster in arrangements. It’s just your run-of-the-mill, vegan-meat-and-potatoes “symphonic” “metal” with all the production gloss and “classical instrumentation” that you didn’t know you wanted. It even has a choir section for some of the songs which, in band with four good vocalists, seems unnecessary, but the problem is that having four people do the vocals doesn’t add much to the mix. It introduces a bit of dynamism to the vocals, but it’s not needed. Nobody has to their own backing vocals, but why have four “lead” singers and a choir and then have them do backing vocals? To be fair, the choral sections where the four sing in unison are pretty damn good and they reach the level of a solo Tarja Turunen vocal track. That might seem harsh, but while good, the unison doesn’t really add all that much.
Not to belabor the point, but the biggest pitfall of Exit Eden is that it lacks an identity. The project doesn’t have an original bone in its body, and this lack of originality could have been covered up by a better selection of songs to cover (though not helped by the fact that they couldn’t come up with a single original song here) but it still doesn’t make up for the fact that they have no identity of their own to mesh the songs with. Rhapsodies in Black basically sounds like Spice Girls without Ginger who have a “metal” backing band who use pop sensibilities and the pre-existing fame of the songs featured to exploit a sense of familiarity to cheat bringing an identity to the table. It’s not gimmicky, it’s a gimmick, period. The album itself is a gimmick. The formula gets old quickly, the disparate moods of the songs steamroll over any semblance of flow and make the album look like it’s an identity crisis in song format, and more than once (Frozen and Skyfall) the covers pale to the originals, or, in the case of Paparazzi, other covers (I’m sorry, but Machinae Supremacy did that song as a throwaway bonus, and they did it better.)
So, what does it all add up to? Easy – Rhapsodies in Black is not a good album. It’s boring, the songs are made into cringe-worthy versions of the originals (whether you liked them or not is a different story altogether,) the number of vocalists is excessive, the production is too glossy and so hollow, the music is uninspired, and the whole affair is boring. This marks the only time when I can’t recommend the album I’m reviewing to anyone. Best pass.
Marina La Torraca