Xenoverse – “The Fall: Part I”

xenoversecover-smallerTLDR: Holy crap! This is vying for my top spot this year. Progressive metal at its best!
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Another band that I love from Finland. Who would have thought?  The Fall: Part 1 is the first part of a two part concept album(s) about a fighter pilot, Doran, who winds up trapped in solitary confinement in Vietnam and, to cope, starts imagining his life as an astronaut. Part 1 is about the crash and confinement and the main character dealing with his childhood with a strict, abusive father.
Part 2 is going to be about his imagined mission in space.  They say part 1 is more raw and dark while part 2 will be lighter with more synthesizers.  Maybe a 2 disc physical release, guys?  Me and a lot of others kept hounding Ostura to get a physical release in the States and it worked. Maybe we can get it done here too?  Help me out, other guys!
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The band consists of Arttu Juntunen on vocals and keyboards (and cover art!), Aleksi Villberg on guitar and backing vocals, with bass provided by Aki Virta, and on drums, Rolf Pilve from Stratovarius. Accompanying them are a quartet of violins, a viola, and a cello along with a trombone and french horn. Gotta love live strings and horns! And man, does it work! The band notes that the horn and trombone were recorded in a large hall and that the synths are mostly analog “as a tribute to Keith Emerson and Tony Banks.”
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Musically, they cite Arien Lucassen’s projects and Rick Wakeman’s works as inspiration along with musicals and movie soundtracks like Inception. I can see that. And they do get cinematic and theatrical! Those influences can be heard throughout. But the band is very much progressive metal with a heavy emphasis on melody, hooks, and big choruses. And when they are firing on all cylinders they remind me a bit of Teramaze.
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Visually, they say it is inspired by comics like Sandman and Spawn. Looking through the digital booklet, I can see that as well.
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 The album starts off very calm. Just vocals and keyboards. But then we are hit by a very rocking track with a huge chorus that I love in One Can Rule The Sky and can’t help but sing along to every time. I hear Zachary Stevens (Savatage, Circle II Circle) in Arttu’s vocals here and in other places on this album.
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 There are a few tracks that showcase their influence by theater and musicals. The opening song and Is This The End is the second track like this and is a strong ballad with strings and piano that is perfect for the subject matter. Solitary Confinement is the other, but it builds to a full band sound with another big chorus and orchestration. Again, perfectly done to represent what is happening.
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Holy crap, The Torturer. It has been a while since I have heard a song that makes me get up and air guitar and headbang my heart out (You can cleanse that image from your mind now). And this one delivers! That is one chunky riff in this instrumental track and I just wish it lasted longer. The music, not the torture. Again, a perfect track for what the main character is going through.
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Another highlight of the album is Gates of Perdition with yet another big chorus. Yes… I love big choruses and I cannot lie (Sorry). See the video below for an in studio recording the band released. Might be my favorite track on the album.
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The big “closer” for the album is Disintegration. I say “closer” because this is the big finish to this part but there is another track that follows. This is a critical climax to the story, but definitely not the end.

 

The album ends with a foreshadowing track for part two and his wife’s longing for his return. Aria’s Premonition is sung from Doran’s wife’s perspective. Nelli Saarikoski does a fantastic job singing this part. Never heard of or heard her before, but I love her voice. She also sings a part on Is This The End. But this track is her showcase.
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So, with all that said, buy this album if you love prog metal with lots of nuance. They are up on Bandcamp and Spotify. So you can try before you buy.
Rating: 10/10
Tracklist:
1. When I Was a Child 1.34
2. One Can Rule the Sky 7.22
3. Is This the End 4.09
4. Behind Enemy Lines 6.14
5. The Torturer 3.43
6. Solitary Confinement 6.04
7. The Gates of Perdition 4.55
8. Disintegration 7.24
9. Aria’s Premonition 4.58
Release Date: March 5th, 2018

 

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