Another day, another cool musical find here at A&GS. Out of nowhere I got a CD in the mail, something that always makes my day. That CD was the self-released debut from HELIOSAGA entitled Towers in the Distance. Now here’s the thing: this type of operatic, symphonic metal can be very hit or miss with me. There are bands like this that I love and bands of this ilk that just sound so over-the-top I fall to the ground and belly laugh. Well I am happy to report in the case of HELIOSAGA, no laughter here, just quality songwriting and a record that keeps it interesting throughout. And here’s why…
For starters, let’s talk about the voice of Chelsea Knaack. She’s classically trained, but doesn’t spend the entire record hammering us with all those “Look what I can do!!” vocal histrionics that drive me batty; a trap way too many vocalists fall into, oy. On the opener “A Tower so Tall” Damien Villarreal’s guitars/keyboards and Jordan Ames’ drums build a solid foundation upon which Knaack lays down her smooth-sounding vocals. There’s no doubt in my mind she could overpower anyone in the room, but why bother? On second track “Scarlet Sphere” you really get the feeling this band has gelled because everything is so balanced and catchy enough to stay with you after it’s over and the solo burns brightly. “Lost” is an exercise in power and speed, just in case you weren’t sure if HELIOSAGA meant business, because they certainly do.
After three rockers right off the bat we slow down for “Hideaway” a pretty ballad on which Knaack’s voice rises to the occasion and beyond. The song also has a distinctly Euro feel to it, which is odd because the band hails from Minnesota and Texas! The coal-burning riff machine is fat and full for “To Heal All Wounds” another one that bears repeat listens, and some beautiful work on the keys opens up “Hunter’s Moon” before some intensely-chugging guitar lines swoop in to crank up the heavy. On paper “Memorativa” should be your basic mid-tempo number, but the melody is so strong that it is anything but.
Familiar territory is explored on both “Luminary” and “Edenscar” and not coincidentally they were the two that weren’t as good as the rest. Small blemishes though, because the near ten-minute closer “All Souls” is without a doubt THE strongest cut on the disc. It is progressive as all get out and the instrumentation is outstanding, taking the listener to many different places along the way, going from a place of speed to an atmospheric island just like that. All told, I definitely enjoyed Towers in the Distance. I don’t listen to a lot of this stuff for a reason, but HELIOSAGA is a band that has been getting a ton of play here at A&GS HQ. You can get the album HERE right now, so check it out.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “All Souls”, “Hideaway”, “To Heal All Wounds”, “Scarlet Sphere”, “Memorativa”