One of the great things about listening to brand-spanking-new music is that every now and then something arrives through the door that you have never heard of before ... there are no pre-conceptions of what to expect and it turns out to be a right better than anything you ever expected. Then again, some may reside in the “Probably Won’t Listen To That Again!” box after one spin. So, which category do you think Venturia would fit into?
Venturia were formed in France back at the turn of the millennium by guitarist Charly Sahona and drummer Diego Rapacchietti, with bassist Thomas James joining later along, and with a special guest from Adagio, Kevin Codfert on keyboards. To give the band a different edge, not one but two vocalists were recruited in the form of Marc Ferreira and Lydie Robin. Now, male/female split vocals are not a particularly new concept, being particularly popular in the Gothic field, but not quite so common in the Progressive Metal arena, where Venturia play their trade. More on those vocals later ...
The opening refrain of “New Kingdom” does not immediately hint at anything particularly different about Venturia, and certainly nothing that separates them from dozens of other Prog Metal hopefuls and Dream Theater wannabbees. There are the usual frantic, crashing drums, ferocious staccato riffing and fluid scales from the guitars, and keyboards stabbing furiously throughout the opening passage -- all essential ingredients needed for the Prog melting pot.
Venturia have, however, taken those essentials and given them an added twist. In Ferreira, they have a singer who, rather than attempting a James LaBrie or a Geoff Tate approach like many other bands of their ilk do, instead tackles things a little differently. The press release likens his style to that of Darren Hayes of Savage Garden, and incredible as it may seem, this is a pretty accurate description and one that works devastatingly well. Ferreira’s performance throughout this album is top notch,and he can veer from an aggressive hard-edged slant to something more mellow and rich, a feat perfectly demonstrated within just one verse of “New Kingdom.”
If that wasn’t good enough for you, then Venturia have yet another vocal ace up their sleeve in the shape of Lydie Robin. What a simply stunning, beautiful voice she has too, coming across as a mix between Kate Bush and Loretta Heywood from dance act Bomb The Bass. According to her biography this is the first time she has attempted to sing in a Rock environment, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. Maybe it is her enthusiasm, freshness and varied influences that brings the added dimension to this album.
What really stands out here is the interaction between Ferreira and Robin, the harmonies are at times a joy to behold. Rather than treading along the long worn, “male gruff/female clean" Operatic route, the two singers both have strong, clear, melodic voices. Check out “Words of Silence” for evidence. The beautiful acoustically picked intro with a particularly sweet Ferreira vocal before Robin joins half way through the verse all topped off by a haunting layer of keyboards. The tempo picks up after the verse with some hard-edged riffing, before returning to the mellower verse. In fact this song has so many twists and turns and so much to offer on each subsequent listen!!
“Take Me Down” is even better. Again, a simply wonderful dual vocal display, with a chorus so memorable it’ll stay with you for weeks. By memorable that does not mean a cheesy “Final Countdown” sort of memorable but more of a tune so exquisite, harmonies so tight and keyboards so atmospheric that you’ll want to play it again and again.
With “Fallen World,” Venturia evoke the finest moments of Conception and the long lost Raddakka. A cracking marching riff and pulsating keyboards drives this song along, topped off by the trademark Venturia harmonies. Sahona pulls out some fine guitar work both on electric and acoustically. At the other end of the spectrum follows “Walk onto the Daylight” which shows the more reflective side of the band.
“Dear Dead Bride” closes the album in full on Prog overload, an epic in the true sense of the word, which goes through the whole range of light and shade, and tempo and mood changes, which will keep more than satisfied.
In a crowded genre where everyone tries the same tricks, it is so refreshing for a band to come along and do something different. Having two singers of this quality is obviously Venturia's strong point, however the performance from the rest of the band is nothing short of breathtaking. To hear a Prog Metal band focus on melody and songs without sacrificing their musical prowess is another major plus point. The songs are varied enough and feature tempo changes galore and extended musical passages which never once outstay their welcome. The balance between accessibility and complexity is evident throughout. Where most bands extend things far more than necessary, Venturia trim off the excess fat and leave a lean, mean melodic masterpiece in its place. Codferts’ keyboards also deserve a special mention as they weave wonderful, atmospheric textures that enhance rather than swamp the overall sound of the band.
The New Kingdom is one of the best Prog Metal releases heard in many years, and might well be the finest debut album since Dream Theaters’ When Dream and Day Unite. If they can produce albums as consistently good as their debut, they will have a long and successful career in front of them. Quite possibly the new heirs to the Prog Metal crown. Simply awesome.
For further information check out:
Venturia Web site where you can download a rather excellent 5-minute medley from the album.
Lion Music Web site