Sunwalter – “SETI Evidence” (2013)

Label : Grailight Productions

Review by Vard Aman

2013 is off to a very promising start on the Russian/CIS Femme Metal scene with some great releases scheduled and some already released. Here is one I wasn’t expecting, so it came as quite a pleasant surprise (thanks to Olga Salikhova for pointing me in their direction). Sunwalter has been described as Extreme Melodic Metal, and their debut album, “SETI Evidence” has, as one might expect from the title, a Space / Sci-fi / Sci-fi fantasy theme to it. It’s more than just a theme however: “SETI Evidence” has a general Sci-fi feel and atmosphere throughout the album, and it’s not really something I can describe very easily, you have to hear it. Sci-fi themes and soundscapes have long been prominent in the realm of Progressive Metal – Arjen Lucassen‘s various projects at the forefront – but I suddenly find myself a little stumped when it comes to such themes and soundscapes in more extreme forms of Metal: “Nexus Polaris” era The Kovenant (then known as Covenant) springs immediately to mind (and what an album that was!); and less well known, “Beneath an Alien Sky” era Mindcrime (then known as Prometheus). Sunwalter‘s “SETI Evidence”, being a greater mixture of styles wanders somewhere in between those two, although mostly closer to the “Nexus Polaris” end of the scale. Sunwalter‘s vocalists, however, are much better than either of the aforementioned bands.

The vocals are shared between Alexio (the band’s founder and lifelong Sci-fi buff) and Natalia Sibilskaya (also in Pesante and formerly in Hidden). Alexio has no shortage of skill and versatility at his disposal – from clean vocals to spoken words, and from deep Death Metal growls to Black Metal shrieks. He even manages to sound like Nagash in parts (if we’re going to indulge in “Nexus Polaris” comparisons). Natalia comes from a classical background, but she seldom uses her operatic style on “SETI Evidence”; and I’m glad, for two reasons: 1) her normal “rock” voice is awesome, and 2) when she does at one point use her operatic vocal style, it has a huge impact (I’m not going to tell you where that part is, I don’t want to spoil it for you). So, we have two excellent vocalists using multiple styles and singing well thought out, well written and well layered vocals throughout the album. Musically, the album is just as varied so it’s hard to pin it to any specific style; there are plenty of progressive and symphonic elements to it, but mostly one could say that it does fall under the vast umbrella-term of Extreme Melodic Metal. While each song is stylistically varied, each song also fits comfortably into Sunwalter‘s unique style and formula. It is a style and a formula that made the album difficult to listen to at first, not through any fault of the music or the album, but because it took me a while (i.e. quite a few listens) to really figure out how to listen to it. That sounds odd, doesn’t it? Let me explain.

First of all, as I’ve already mentioned, it is obviously a concept album with a topical theme running throughout, and this carries over to the music as well – to put it another way, the entire album is a thematic soundscape. There are a lot of very strong and well written songs on this album (most notably “Roswell Incident”; “Supernova”; “Rotten“; and “Pandorum”). The album as a whole is very well written. But, and maybe this is just me, when I listened to the entire album from beginning to end for the first time, the songs began to mould into each other towards the second half of the album (especially after the super-catchy “Rotten”, which may or may not have had something to do with it). I also found the album as a whole quite relaxing and dreamy – unusual terms to apply to Extreme Metal, but much of that has to do with the kind of soundscapes the band creates: and that could come across somewhat relaxing and dreamy… until an asteroid hits you in the form of Natalia‘s sudden operatic vocal part in…. hehe, nope, I’m not saying. Anyway, after the first listen I remembered “Roswell Incident”, “Supernova” and “Rotten”, and the rest was just a gap in my memory that I couldn’t account for. (Abducted by aliens?) The best way to listen to this album I found is slowly, one song at a time until the individual songs became more familiar, and only then re-listen to the album as a whole. Also, to fully appreciate this album, you have to properly concentrate on it; the dreamy nature of the sound will very quickly turn it into background music if you’re multi-tasking (which it is very good for, just by the way; though I’m not sure that is any Extreme Metal band’s main intention). But if Sunwalter‘s main intention was to create an album full of vast and complex Sci-fi soundscapes out of some brutal Metal with beautiful vocals, then they have certainly achieved that. I can strongly recommend this album to every single Terran who appreciates good Metal!

Rating – 90/100

 

Tracklist

  1. T.S.F. Report # 1
  2. Roswell Incident
  3. Supernova
  4. Nibiru
  5. Rotten
  6. Phantoms of Mars
  7. Pandorum
  8. Sunwalter
  9. Battle for the Moon
  10. Alien Opera

 

Line Up

  • Natalia Alvane Sibilskaya – Vocals
  • Alexio Sunwalter – Vocals
  • Svyatoslav Zakharov – Guitars
  • Kirill Matyukhin – Guitars
  • Dmitriy Brazhnikov – Bass
  • Denis Demenkov – Drums

 

Links

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