Angel - A Womans Diary - Chapter I
Black Lotus Records
Symphonic Gothic music with multiple influences
12 songs (53'39")
Release year: 2005
Angel, Black Lotus
Reviewed by Alex

I have to admit that I first took this album lightly, confusing it with just another soft goth rock quick-put-together listen-to-once-and-forget affairs. Before Angel I have only been familiar with Helena Michaelsen through her performances with Trail of Tears. I own both early Trail of Tears albums, Profoundemonium and A New Dimension of Might. As far as I can remember the female vocals on those albums were taking second seat to Ronnie Thorsen’s grunts and overall blackened gothic approach. It seemed to me than that Trail of Tears never emphasized their female vocalist as much as Tristania or The Sins of Thy Beloved. Angel, thus, became my first experience where Helena plays the major singing role, as I have never heard her other band Imperia at all.

Something that makes A Woman’s Diary: Chapter I unique and appealing is how many styles have been presented on the album. This also creates a need for many listens, and does not let the listener settle into a pattern. Gothic rock with symphonic arrangements, psychedelic moments, a quick pass at power metal, dance, experimental and acoustic numbers, faster songs and outright ballads – you can find it all with Angel. Throughout this unusual combination Helena leads, mesmerizes and captivates with her voice. It is impossible to like Angel if you do not like Helena’s singing. Her voice is what I can describe as womanly. She is not grabbing sky-high notes and she is not operatic like Tarja Turunen (Nightwish) or Simone Simons (Epica). However, she does not come off as girly as Sabina Edelsbacher (Edenbridge) or Nell (Theater of Tragedy). I could even hear some Tori Amos or Lana Lane in Helena, especially when Helena goes for a little lower, deep chest rooted delivery.

It was the first couple of tracks, Fallen Angel and A Woman’s Diary, which had me thinking “another gothic rock” album. But even on these tracks excellent symphonic arrangements by Audun Gronnestad draw the distinction between Angel’s serious affair and a pop album making little lasting impression. Little Princess and Butterfly is what completed my turnaround and got me hooked on the album. Piano lines, interesting beats, folky singing in Little Princess and multiple vocal lines in Butterfly that make it feel very spiritual – all of this makes for some pleasant listening experience. There are still songs on A Woman’s Diary, like experimental and overly theatrical Darkness and sensual pop with disco rhythms Flames of Desire (almost Bananarama like), that I could probably do without. However, Lead You Through Fire grows an unexpected muscle, Love of My Life is good enough to grace a Therion album and Mother is simply an awesome emotionally stunning ballad. After Mother, Glow in the Dark seems to be very lighthearted hiding in Mother’s shadows, but Little Girl stirs emotions back up, building up to a hysterical culmination.

If there is one album I would like to have a full lyrics sheet for it is A Woman’s Diary. On Mother you can hear it all, word for word, and it is obvious Helena poured a lot of personal substance into this song. I have a suspicion it is the case for the rest of the album which makes it even more appealing. I recently got an e-mail from the promoter saying that Helena will soon appear in the Greek issue of Penthouse. I guess Ms. Michaelsen is never afraid to bare it all, soul or body.

I hope the rousing short instrumental closer Funeral is not the end of Angel and there is Chapter II in A Woman’s Diary.

Killing Songs :
Little Princess, Mother, Love of My Life
Alex quoted 78 / 100
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