Album art can certainly set the tone and expectations around an album. A quick look at the cover for Enlighten by Sleeping Romance instantly sends my mind to a gothic, dark medieval setting and that is the right place to go with this release. Recently signed to Ulterium Records, Sleeping Romance from Modena, Italy has released an epic symphonic metal album that is very impressive for a debut.
Being from Italy, my first thought was that this may be an album similar to that from Mourn In Silence, which I really liked as it is a blend of gothic, symphonic, power and black metal, but that is not quite where the sound of Sleeping Romance is. Those familiar with female-fronted symphonic metal bands like HB, Within Temptation, Delain and others know what to expect from this genre and it is all here. This is symphonic metal that borders on hard rock and power metal at times. At times, the songs do seem a bit too formulaic for my tastes as most start with an orchestral intro with beautiful clean vocals and then the “metal” parts of the song kick in with much of the verses consisting of just drums and bass with the vocals at the forefront. There is nothing wrong with this formula especially when done as well as it is here, but this does introduce a bit of predictability to the album.
Any review of this album simply has to have some lines devoted to the vocals of Federica Lanna. Throughout the entire album, her vocals are one of the standout qualities of the album. At times, quiet, at other times soaring, but always fully in control with a great range and tone, these are the vocals designed for this genre. Now, given the implied darkness and gothicness depicted in the album cover, I was expecting a bit of a darker tone from the vocals but they are somewhat surprisingly bright, complementing the music very well. Quite a few other bands choose to employ some unrestrained, strained screaming female vocals or employ some deep guttural male vocals to provide a contrast to the clean vocals, but Sleeping Romance have chosen to highlight Federica’s vocals. I would have liked to hear the vocals move a bit more toward the edge of being out of control, but that’s just my personal preference. With the lush orchestral arrangements often being in the forefront and dominating the sound, having the vocals remain restrained works well with the overall sound.
In terms of overall sound on the album, the production quality is very high and the emphasis is definitely toward the symphonic and away from the metal. In fact, I found myself thinking some was definitely more power metal influences at times as well. Some of the songs instantly reminded me of Evanescence with the use of certain keyboard effects and those would be hard to miss for anyone familiar with that band. Despite some similarities, the overall sound of Sleeping Romance is a bit brighter than Evanescence and others in the genre, not just the vocals as mentioned earlier, but also the instrumentation both the metal and symphonic. More of a light of dawn feel than a darkness of sunset feel, if that makes any sense. There were moments that surprised me a bit as well. For instance the song “The Promise Inside” starts out with some of the Evanescence sound and feel and then morphs into almost a power ballad in the chorus that sounds strikingly like that from the song “Alone” by Heart in terms of tone and phrasing. Thankfully, the song has much more to it than that including a string section in the middle and later in this song I found myself liking how the drums by Francesco Zanarelli carried parts. “Devils Cave” certainly starts out as the darkest and heaviest track on the album, and carries that feel through much of the song with a hammer-like driving guitar, bass, and drum beat through the verses, which picks up to a gallop in later parts of the song. Vocal tone is a bit darker here through the verses as well and is more along the lines of what I was expecting after seeing the cover. All in all, this song is a good example of an epic symphonic metal song due to the seemless combination of orchestral and metal elements, seemless transition between them, and the back and forth shifts between styles. For example, midway through the song there is a symphonic interlude with some spoken word from Federica that shifts into some beautiful clean singing and the return of the metal elements and one of the few guitar solos on the album before returning to a true symphonic metal section.
Despite some of the songs leaning toward the formulaic, Enlighten is a great debut album of symphonic metal that highlights both the phenomenal vocals of Federica Lanna but also the intricate symphonic/orchestral arrangements of Federico Truzzi and makes a great addition to the genre.
01. Hybrid Overture
03. The Promise Inside
04. Soul Reborn
05. Free Me
06. December Flower
07. Finding My Way
08. Passion Lost
09. Devil’s Cave
Federica Lanna – Vocals
Federico Truzzi – Guitars and orchestration
Francesco Zanarelli – Drums
Lorenzo Costi – Bass
Nicholas Bonavoglia – Guitars
Record Label: Ulterium Records, Nov./Dec. 2013.
Video below ‘”Enlighten” [album teaser]