UPON WINGS are from the United States, and describe themselves as a female-fronted operatic rock band with metal and classical influence. There is a lot of commercial rock sentiment that outflows from the overall sound of the band. For me they are a mix of bands like Firelight, Epica, HB, NightWish and others of that vein.
“After creating the idea for UPON WINGS, classically-trained mezzo-soprano Anne Autumn Erickson entered the studio with Michigan-based, Grammy-nominated engineer Glenn Brown to put the ideas onto tape. The result is a collection of music with strong Euro-classical ties, including UPON WINGS’ debut single, “The Dream (I’m Only Happy When I’m Sleeping).”” – Biography of Upon Wings
Afterlife the new EP from UPON WINGS brings a commercial orientated brand of rock that is infused with metal, and made complete with classical and operatic influences. The new EP features many names that one might be familiar with, from guest vocalist Brett Hestla (Ex-Creed, Dark New Day), who was also involved on production.
“Kid Rock recording engineer and Grammy-nominated mixing engineer Glenn Brown mastered the single, while Brett Hestla (ex-Creed, Dark New Day) provided guest vocals and production talents. More metal assistance for the upcoming EP came from producer and guitarist Kevin Jardine, best known as the guitarist of Canadian nu metal giants Slaves on Dope, formerly on Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne’s Divine Recordings label. Drummer Peter Tzaferis also contributed to the EP.” – Biography of Upon Wings
There are a lot of bands that have this familiar sound that has a female fronted singer that combines operatic rock with pop gothic sentimentalities through a blend of rock and metal infusion. One cannot deny that this formula has worked going on a number of years now, and many have made it into the pop charts, followed by many fans and the such, but does this sound have what it takes to keep this brand going into the future, and more so does the band itself have the chops to carry this brand of product going into the future without becoming a cliché or a copy of another band. You can pack an album with an all star community of musicians, but it’s no guarantee that the album will be a success or if it would be any good. So when bands dangle names in front of me of the so called rock stars they are collaborating with, I remain calm, until I have taken a few scoops of the pudding for the proof is not in how it looks, but how it tastes, how it is digested.
Front woman Anne Autumn Erickson might be a classically-trained dramatic mezzo-soprano, and her lyrics might take listeners down a path of heartfelt introspection, pain, joy and faith, but that all said, does the album having staying power, or is it one for the shelves to collect dust?
To follow massive symphonic acts like Evanescence and Nightwish, you’ll need to really come through hard and strong with something entirely fresh and new, or you’ll be quickly passed by the loyal followings of such bands.
The first problem I find on the release, and it niggled me throughout it does not have a completely organic and natural feel to it, and kind of comes across a tad generic in places. The songs have very little variation, and this isn’t no NightWish or Epica unfortunately. Its symphonic rock does not punch enough, and the gothic glances don’t necessarily add any push to the release. I think this genre has had some great bands that have built reputable and steady careers from, but it too is in the danger waters of becoming another bloated and diluted genre. If you looking for the next NightWish or Evanescence, this isn’t it. You basically get the full picture in the first song of what you can expect throughout. A song like ‘Take Away’ might have say some radio attributes to it with its poppy sound whilst a song like ‘You Are My Weapon’ leans towards a more post rock / grunge vibe that is retro-fitted with nu metal attributes. All together fair songs, but nothing that’s going to stop the crowd in its tracks for. I am not taking a jab at the musicians, as I can hear there is skill evident throughout, it’s that if they are to break through into the A squad groupings of this genre they are going to have to come to the table with a better game plan.
I love operatic vocals, and I love female rock vocals in music, there is often more levels of intricacy in the range, and classically trained Autumn Erickson armed with her dramatic mezzo-soprano vocal range performs impressively superb throughout, making a song like ‘The Dream’ a unique piece, adding a dramatic haunting flavor to the song that would otherwise come across a tad bland. I think a future suggestion would be to develop their sound around that song, and go for a more theatric approach, which would compliment Autumn’s voice more me thinks. Look without seemingly completely slating this release, there is potential here, and by no means a write-off and ‘Afterlife’ will form a divided congregate of individuals concerning its relevance and future. You either gonna hate it, or love it. The fear is can they make it as a band, because there needs to be changes to really develop the sound and totally utilize Erickson’s voice to the fullest, and to overhaul a product once it’s been released is no easy feat without ruffling a few feathers.
I think they need to put forward a battle plan of where they going with this, and draw in those individuals that can help them achieve those dreams and plans along the way. People who can catch their vision, and help articulate it, and focus it so they come out stronger, leaner and guided. For me ‘Take Away’ and ‘The Dream’ I would say are the stronger songs, and certainly more input and development around the focus of those two songs should harness a stronger product for future projects. If those two songs were the only songs I had to review, this review might see a 7 or 8 out of 10, but really listening to it a couple of times, and as you have read my commentary thereof, I can only bring myself to giving it a 5 out of 10. It might be a personal thing, but I have been involved in music for about 25 years in various capacities, and have collected a sizeable collection of music over the years too that runs into the thousands, so I have heard thousands of bands in my life time, and I do believe the rating is fair, and my hope would be if the band reads this they choose to see the encouragement in my review, and take time to refocus and develop the sound so a guy like me can eat his words and be blown off my feet.
Written by Donovan de Necker,
2) You Are My Weapon
3) Take Away
4) The Dream
Record Label: Sword of the Spirit Records, March
Anne Autumn Erickson (lead vocals)
Glenn Brown (keys)
Kevin Jardine (guitars)
Brett Hestla (guitars, drums, guest vocals)
Peter Tzaferis (drums)
Interview with Anne Autumn Erickson, check it Sept. 2012
Video below ‘Afterlife’
Video below ‘The Dream’