Inner Wound Recording
Release date: 05/10/2018
From the rugged coast of British Columbia, Canada, Celtic metal songstress, LEAH, is making waves across the globe. From ethereal ballads to folk-tales, mysterious world instrumentation and operatic blast beats, LEAH’s voice is a breath of fresh air among a sea of female-fronted rock.
LEAH’s upcoming album "The Quest" is gaining immense support, with a strong celtic and fantasy connection, some progressive rock elements, ethereal ambiance, combined with traditional symphonic metal, this is an album LEAH is very proud to present. The new album is a full-scale international effort by 9 individuals; returning from “King & Queens” is Barend Courbois of Blind Guardian on bass and Delain’s Timo Somers on lead and rhythm guitars and their former drummer Sander Zoer, Troy Donockley of Nightwish playing the pipes and flutes, and Chen Balbus of Orphaned Land on the Saz and Oud. The highly anticipated new album was mixed and mastered to perfection by Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Amaranthe, Evergrey), who is known for his crisp and heavy metal sound. The artwork for the album was created by the talented Jan Yrlund who completes the experience by adding perfect visuals to represent the songs and the journey they will take you on.
Edge of the Sword
Ruins of Illusion
Oblivion (Between Two Worlds)
Ghost Upon a Throne
The Water is Wide
The concept for this album is very simple: we're all on a journey, and sometimes we lose our way. There are adventures, wildernesses, treasures, monsters, looters, people out to send us down the wrong path. Through it all, we must grow in wisdom and experience, find our compass once again and find our way back to the true path in order to reach our full potential: our destiny.
We begin our fantasy journey with a 10-minute self-titled track “The Quest”, opening to the sounds of pipes and whispering echoing chants as we are entering this far fantastical land. The lead vocals take over, harmonizing with ethereal atmosphere coming from the string arrangements. The song does a perfect executed transition into the Celtic metal sounds of the oriental Saz/Oud playing along with the progressive guitars and heavy playing drums, the instrumental really puts a cinematic experience as Leah introduces us into our journey. Midway of the song we hear an explosion of a guitar solo performed by Timo Somers and the track builds up into this heavy and powerful song with flutes playing folk melodies that really sharpens the term “Celtic metal". Next is “Edge of the Sword”, opening with the sounds of bird's chirping and humming, giving listeners a nice visual as if we were walking around in an enchanted wilderness. 30 seconds into the song, we are struck LEAH's rock side, the bass and drums kicks in along with toned-down guitar strumming, we get an ethereal atmosphere when we get to chorus line, and by the second time midway of the song, we get on-beat cymbal clashing and heavier riffs. I love how the track intensifies as we progress through the song with faster-paced drumming and awesome guitar shred by Delainers Timo and Sander, and with the beautiful string arrangements and humming softens down the song as it ends. As the name implies, “Lion Aries” strikes you with loud and fierce guitar opening and thunderous drums, the vocals comes in gently as the song transitions into the Celtic melodies, a perfect volume where the voice is not drowned out by the instrumentation. The song goes more progressive as we get into the chorus with an interesting mix of oriental sounds, bringing more variety to this song. Leah shows some impressive versatility in her vocal range from soft and ethereal, to bold and booming. Next is power metal track, “Heir”, coming with the sounds of triumph as the new king or queen has be announced to the throne. The song emphasize the feel of “for honor and glory" with shining shreds and double bass drumming, but also the sound of royalty coming from celestial synths and string arrangements, given by the track’s name. There is as well a bit of folk implemented with sounds with rhythmic flute playing by Troy and the sounds of small cymbals. “Ruins of Illusion” follows in with tribal drum playing with ghostly like voice to that of Enya’s, but with more natural effect. A calm song that grows stronger with into a progressive metal track as it nears the climax with very strong riffs, massive drums, beautiful keys, and flute, definitely makes listening to the song again worth it.
“Labyrinth” comes in very smooth with tone down bass strums and flute playing, not too overbearing, once the soft vocals come in, it turns into somewhat like a lullaby with the string pizzicatos and the choir chanting in the tribal ambience. The melancholic lyrics is then supported by a rock-ballad instrumentation bringing the emotions of a lost wanderer in a maze as the otherworldly Celtic sounds sharpens the symphonic metal elements, making the song is really captivating towards the end. Echoes coming from “Abyss” opens our next journey in this album with the sounds of strumming from the lute instrument, Troy's pipes makes an appearance, coming in after the first verse giving of the true folk sounds. The eastern-influenced sounds makes another return in this track with Saz/Oud and blends in really well with the Celtic melodies, and the vocals is more expanded as Leah sings with more depth in the rhythmic chorus. When the song gets to it's heavier side near the end, the guitar solo and riffs, drumming, the symphonic choir gave me some quick flashbacks to Nightwish’s “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”, but Leah really beyond with the folk compositions than the latter (sorry Nightwish, I didn’t mean to call out!). Following is “Oblivion (Between Two Worlds)”, this a not a new song, but a remake of it that was originally released back in 2012, a very mystical track that started only with piano, now includes the vibrant flutes and velvety cello arrangements. The intro can make the listeners feel like you’re in a new mysterious world shrouded in the fog, the piano gives off a celestial atmosphere as the flute and the orchestral string trills swells up the verse as it transitions into a rock-ballad. The chorus is newly added to this track and really rhythmic as the flute shines out in the song and the guitar solo brings chills as it harmonizes with Leah's angelic voice as it ends the track. “Ghost Upon the Throne” is really my favorite track from the album, it immediately begins with the flutes coming in with beautiful melody with bass line, the heavy riffs and drums kicks in high and mighty as if the journey is nearing its end. The symphonic sounds does not hold back it's magical elements and melancholic lyric sung as if it was spoken of a ruler who has now been forgotten like others before them. Last track, “The Water is Wide” is different compared to the rest, no metal or rock elements here, somewhat like an acapella or a poem written as a song and some Loreena Mckennitt vibes, the track gives me visuals of a woman singing in a grotto as her voice echoes throughout the caverns. Nothing much to say about this short track, but it does bring me satisfaction to how the album ends.
My expectations on this album is exactly how I thought it would be. “The Quest” felt like a cinematic experience, venturing through a new and original enchanted fairytale by the songstress, but as my story on this album ends a new one will open, and I’m sure Leah will be very eager to hear her adventurers who will shortly join her on “the quest" and share their stories with her, because I really enjoyed mine. Those who like metal, fantasy and RPG gaming, will definitely see this album perfect for them!
This is another great album of 2018 that definitely deserves a 10 out of 10 from me!
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The Quest line-up:
Leah McHenry – vocals
Troy Donockley (Nightwish) – pipes and flutes
Timo Somers (Delain) – guitars
Chen Balbus (Orphaned Land) – saz and oud
Barend Courbois (Blind Guardian) – bass
Sander Zoer (ex-Delain) – drums and percussion