Review by Vard Aman
Onatra was founded in 2009 in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, and is the brainchild of drummer/composer, Marta Medler; and despite being a somewhat troublesome child at times (breaking up and reforming), Onatra has made some fairly sizable waves in the Female-fronted Symphonic Metal pool. When you hear them, you’ll understand why. They describe their sound as “Modern Symphonic Metal” but you might as well read that as “Symphonic Metal”, because that’s really what it is: good, powerful, multi-layered Symphonic Metal that you can both listen to with your ears and feel with your diaphragm. I have no idea where the “modern” part comes into it, not by its genuine definition (modern as opposed to what? Old fashioned?), and certainly not by its weasel-word definition (no something-core or screamo here). I should add here, however, that Onatra are by no means ordinary Symphonic Metal; they have a distinctive “oomph” that many of their compatriots in the genre lack (but “oomph” in no way equates to “modern”).
In January 2012, Onatra released their debut EP called “For Your Soul”, consisting of three songs. All three are examples of excellent compositions and display great musicianship, especially instrumentally: powerful guitars and drums interlaced with intricate symphonics (and other bits). Musically, I can’t fault any of this and I can’t praise it enough, so I’ll just say “do yourself a big favour and listen to it” and talk about the vocals instead. On this EP (and the following single), Onatra was fronted by Iryna Vitiv. She is not a bad vocalist by any means, but against the backdrop of the power and the stand-out quality of the music I can’t help but feel she is just a little out of her comfort zone. On the title track, “За Твою Душу” (the only non-English track), her voice has a rich and powerful feel to it, and is her best performance on the EP. On the other two tracks she seems to lack the same confidence, and the main reason for this I think is that the other two songs are not suited to her voice or to her style of singing – her vocals are too mono-dimensional. (That said; she excels in the whispered sections of “Shadows’ Steps” and in belting out the chorus). “With You” is the main culprit. In my opinion, this song should have been sung in Ukrainian or Russian, or the vocals should have been written in a way that would have better complimented the nature of the music – the first verse especially is a real anti-climax to the way the song built up from the intro.
“Lies” was released in June of 2012, consisting of two songs: “Lies” and “Butterfly”. “Lies” is a slow and brooding song, unlike Onatra’s other material. Iryna comes into her element here, delivering an excellent performance; this song, I suspect, being far more suited to her vocal style. The song does take a few listens to get into, unlike the other song on the single, “Butterfly”, which is instantly likable. “Butterfly” is a perfect balance between the brooding “Lies” and the “oomph” of the songs on “For Your Soul”. I’m not sure if both songs were meant to be singles, or if “Butterfly” is the No.2 track. If it is the No.2 track, then I think that Onatra probably got it the wrong way around. Iryna once again pulls off a great performance – she sounds like she is growing in confidence. “Butterfly”, as a composition rectifies, or rather reverses, the anti-climatic problems I had with “For You”; “Butterfly” builds and grows massively after what was a comparatively unpromising intro.
Now, remember that at the beginning of the review I mentioned that Onatra was a sometimes troublesome child? Unfortunately, just after the release of “Lies”, three of Onatra’s members left the band – or to put it another way: everyone left except for Marta. As I write this review, Marta is busy hunting for musicians so that Onatra can continue. So if you live in Lviv, and you’re a good musician who wants to be a dedicated part of an excellent Symphonic Metal band, one that’s a good deal better than most, please give Marta a shout (details on Onatra‘s website). I hope she succeeds because the music world would be a much better place if Onatra were still in it.
Oh, and before I forget, both “For Your Sour” and “Lies” are available for FREE DOWNLOAD from Onatra’s website…. Well? Why are you still here? What are you waiting for?
Rating – 87/100
Tracklist (“For Your Soul”)
- За Твою Душу [Za Tvoyu Dushu – For Your Soul]
- With You
- Shadows’ Steps
- Iryna Vitiv – Vocals
- Sergiy Vladarsky – Guitars
- Dima Dvugroshev – Bass
- Marta Medler – Drums