VANGUARD – HYDRALCHEMY (SHADOW WORLD RECORDS 2009)

REVIEW BY ISMO KORHONEN / FEB 2009

Vanguard from Finland made their big breakthrough back in the year 2004, when they won a band competition held by the biggest heavy metal festival, Wacken Open Air. As a reward the band got a possibility to play a gig at Wacken in the same year and also twelve months later on the very exact happening. Vanguard’s debut album “Succumbra” was released in 2005 via Armageddon Music, but due to the company getting splitted into two small independent record labels, Shadow World Records made it’s move and signed the band. Now in 2009, Vanguard releases their second album “Hydralchemy”.

It’s obvious that Vanguard’s influences are in gothic metal, but the essences of dark- and doom metal are also pretty high. So the musical landscape is emitting crystal clear dark light, but still the songs are mainly quite melodic and profound. The lyrical policy goes so that the female singer Suvi G. is doing most of the job with her clean vocals, whereas J. Grym is responsible for the masculine growls to keep things well-balanced. Both singers are doing their tasks better than ok; an important aspect of Vaguard is the fact that both singers’ vocal parts are balanced succesfully and neither makes the other one feel lesser than another. Thumbs up also for A. Romu, who is the cello player of the band – as a spice of the musical layers, the cello parts are truly great and form a necessary part to keep things much more interesting and organic.

The first time on the musical ride with Vanguard was quite a tough and painful experience. All of the songs seemed the same as the one you had just heard. Luckily patience will be rewarded once the listener is capable to hear and see all of Vanguard’s musical layers.

As an easy going song “Spellbroken” is quite easy to accept as a nice and powerful tune, but it surely took a while to see all the potential hidden in the other songs – vice versa the softer tracks like “Scion” and “Untold” are really atmospheric, clear and easily admitted, even by those who spend most of their time hiding in the dark corners of their flat listening to much more gloomier stuff.

Vanguard isn’t, per definition, most suitable for people who mostly listen to all the other female fronted metal bands like Nightwish, Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation… although the chorus line in the song “Scarlet” sounds like straight out of Sharon den Adel’s mouth. The style is much more rough and independent compared to the previously mentioned bands.

The most rewarding part of the album is the cover song “Black no.1” that’s originally performed by Type O Negative. At first there were shivers of a feeling “can this be good at all?” – but luckily it is. The Vanguard version is, in fact, superior to the original; Nice cello additions, vocal work from both singers and the strong and agonizing atmosphere are keeping the spirit alive until the very end of the album.

Hydralchemy is a really good album, but it still lacks something. The wild guess would be, that the band needs even more variety in their songs to keep the whole package interesting from beginning to the end. But as I mentioned before, patience will be rewarded.

If you feel that your weekend is already ruined and there’s nothing more than just rain pouring from the clouded sky – take your time with Vanguard’s Hydralchemy album and just let it flow.

3halfk

vanguard

1. Pregenesi
2. Spellbroken
3. Chimera
4. Zenith
5. Scion
6. Ouija
7. Untold
8. Whisper
9. Scarlet
10. Slither
11. Black No. 1

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