The Silver Maiden
Her beauty and her innocence
Perfume the air like sweet incense"
One Word Review: Faina
'Aina - Days of rising doom' is a fantasy metal opera of the best kind. Epic, melodic and powerful are a few keywords to describe the album. Along with a long list of singers the music brings life to a story of love, hate and sibling rivalry. Okay, so it may not be the most original concept in the world, but the story is good and it is executed in an almost flawless way.
The first thing that hit me was the very cool packaging with a beautifully drawn 34 page booklet telling everything you need to know. The only thing I don't like is the slip cases that hold the discs, but I guess that was inevitable to keep the price low.
The story and lyrics are written by Amanda Somerville, inventing the language of Ainae along the way, and it is something that could have spanned over three Rhapsody albums. Here, the story is done in some action packed 71 minutes. In a few places, I felt like the story could have been more fleshed out to make it even more detailed and convincing, especially the ending battle seems to literally fly by. But overall it is a well thought out fairytale.
The story is lived out through the voices of Michael Kiske (Supared), Glenn Hughes (HTP), Thomas Reffke (Heavens Gate), Tobias Sammet (Edguy), Damian Wilson (ex-Threshold), Candice Night (Blackmore's night), Olaf Hayer (Dionysus), Sass Jordan, Simone Simons (Epica), Andre Matos (Shaman), Marko Hietala (Nightwish) and Sebastian Thomson. It's a long list of names and it goes on with several opera voices and different choirs. Guest musicians include Derek Sherinian (Planet X), Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), Olaf Reifmeier, T.M. Stevens, Axel Maschke, Emppu Vuorinen (Nightwish), Thomas Youngblood (Kamelot) and Erik Norlander (Lana Lane).
Providing the stage for all these performers are the impressive and huge compositions, mainly written by Robert Hunecke-Rizzo (Heavens Gate). Miro is in control of the orchestra arrangements and Sascha Paeth has written one song as well as being the main producer.
The creators have done a remarkable job of uniting all the performances without making it confusing. It is a grand scale production and the music confidently goes beyond the usual Power Metal and adds a lot of symphonic, classical and even blues elements. Impressive choirs are used in many songs and add to the dramatic atmosphere, and along with some ingredients from Rhapsody, Angra, Gary Hughes and Avantasia, it all blends into an outstanding album.
My favorite songs are those that captures a kind of magic fantasy atmosphere. Silver Maiden is one of those. Here Michael Kiske's voice rises and falls in tune with the bombastic orchestra and creates a truly memorable and chilling song. Just beautiful.
Tobias Sammet takes over the narrator role for Flight of Torek as the music takes a fast and powerful turn. He is the perfect replacement and keeps up with the fast music, while giving it plenty of likeable detail vocally. The middle section sees the introduction of Glenn Hughes and is both surprising and refreshing.
Glenn Hughes takes the crown for my favorite performance on the album. He sings the role of the main character Talon with a frail voice that makes him stand out like a naive and spineless character in the midst of all the other more confident voices. This only makes it that much more powerful when he finally awakens and goes to war in Rebellion. His final cry of "Stand up and fight!" is one of the defining moments of the album and really chilling. A great and different standout performance, which gives a cool vibe to the album.
Other highlights include the dramatic The siege of Aina and the glorious chorus of Oriana's wrath, which captures a grand epic feel. Unfortunately the rest of that song stumbles a little due to some overdramatic performances and lyrics. Other slightly weak points on the album are Lalae Amér (sung in Ainae) which goes on for too long without variation and Talon's last hope, where I really miss some guitar work in the verses.
Well, back to the highlights... Thomas Rettke has a big part and fits the evil Torek/Sorvahr part excellent. His powerful voice has a raw feel to it that carries songs like The beast within and Son of Sorvahr. Another highlight of Son of Sorvahr is T.M. Stevens' tight bass playing.
Singers like Damian Wilson and Andre Matos play small but important roles. Especially Damian Wilson's short part in Revelations has a great feel of dignity with the orchestra arrangements rising and rising in the background.
I could write several pages about the songs, the guest musicians and all the great detail that keep showing up and makes me give the album just one more listen. But then I guess this review would never get finished. Just know that there is a lot to enjoy and it may take a few listens before the album really opens.
I bought the limited edition including a bonus CD and DVD and it is definitely worth seeking out. The extra CD includes demos and alternate versions of some songs as well as a 15 minute instrumental with themes from the album. The highlight of the DVD is a very interesting look at the production of the album. I would of course have liked it to be at least double length. A computer animated video to The beast within is also fun in its own special way, but really not that good and I feel it takes something away from the magic to visualize it in this sort of half-finished way, kind of the same problem I had with the bonus DVD on King Diamond's Puppet Master. The rest of the DVD includes mostly content found in the booklet.
Overall Aina is a wonderful release and a must buy for fans of Metal/Rock operas, especially if you liked the Avantasia albums. They are close in terms of quality, Aina is a little more complex and varied but not necessarily better. It's been 11 years since its release, and I know that I have not made my last visit to Aina yet.
Written By Steen
Online: Monday, September 29, 2014
Flight Of Torek