Sunday, March 23, 2014

Otherworld | Leah

Leah is an up-and-coming symphonic metal solo artist who I stumbled upon while browsing through Amazon. She has only released one full-length album so far, Of Earth and Angels, but she's most recently released a small-scale album called Otherworld, which was only released digitally. Even though this album may be categorized as symphonic metal, it's really peaceful. Leah's use of Celtic and folk influences make it different than what's typical of the genre.
Sounds of  rain with hints of thunder begin our journey into Otherworld before a soothing piano part enters. "Shores of Your Lies" is a beautifully flowing piece; a most unusual way to start an album nowadays. Leah's voice is ethereal without trying too hard, a very natural, almost Earthy tone. Her voice and the instrumentation put together create a very relaxing, yet very powerful sound, and it demonstrates a lot of talent. The general songwriting of this track (particularly the piano line) is outstanding; it's classical music that found its way into modern song structure. After almost five minutes, the piano stops with a bang and a clap of thunder, thus cuing in the rain effects heard at the beginning of the song.
"The Northern Edge" changes the pace as it brings in the symphonic metal style. Still, it isn't too intense either; even when the instrumentation gets heavy, the vocals allow us to relax. "Surrounded," which I tend to prefer over "The Northern Edge," also starts out with a more mellow sound, reminding me of summertime, but it doesn't take long for the guitars to kick in for the chorus. When Leah goes into her upper register in the chorus, her voice really reminds me of Liv Kristine; those high notes are lighter and shrill, yet still strong.

"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" takes us to the softer side of Otherworld once again with an interesting spin on the poem of the same name by Mary Elizabeth Frye. This song is the reason I started listening to this album; I performed a choral arrangement called "In Remembrance" (which is part of Eleanor Joanne Daley's Requiem) a little over a year ago, and it was based on this poem. So naturally, I was curious to hear Leah's rendition. I must say, this song is fantastic. The harp shines as the lead instrument throughout the song, and overall, "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" is the most Celtic track on the album. The classical elements are front and center, and as usual, Leah's voice is very pretty; she goes from her chest voice to her upper register in such a smooth transition.

The albums ends with "Dreamland," which features Eric Peterson. It starts out quite soft with the harp in the spotlight once again, but Peterson's entrance reminds us that Leah's here to make metal music. As Peterson hisses, Leah's backing vocals are haunting and really add to the song. In the following part, the way her vocals are layered to sound a bit echo-like are just as entrancing. "Dreamland" is a very dynamic end to a dynamic album: There are heavier moments, there are soft moments. While that's generally the case for every album, Otherworld has a perfect balance of the two.

I find myself preferring the two ballads, "Shores of Your Lies" and "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep," over the heavier songs, but I like the heavier ones too. They don't stand out quite as much to me as the ballads, but they're still really good. This little album as a whole is impressive; I wasn't totally floored with epicness or anything like that, but it's good stuff to say the least. Leah brings a mellow element to her music and it definitely works.

Any fans of symphonic metal that haven't checked out Leah's music yet really need to work on that. But if you enjoy Leah's music and have some extra money, you can donate here at Indiegogo to help fund her next album, which she's making without a label. I'm certainly interested in hearing her future music; she displays a lot of talent, and I'm curious about what other directions she'll take it.

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