Ebony Ark - Decoder
Independent Release
Progressive/Power Metal with Gothic influences
11 songs (52:57)
Release year: 2004
Ebony Ark
Reviewed by Ian
Sometime midway through the last year I started getting some small pieces of information about a new Spanish band called Ebony Ark. Female fronted (which you all know by now that this gets all my radars go), voted best New Spanish Act (which may have not meant a lot a few years back but with the rising of bands like Dark Moor, Lórien or Dreamaker really makes you pay attention to) and finally, the style of the band – gothic/progressive/heavy metal made me put them on my top priority list. I needed a few months getting their debut album – I tell you, releasing an album independently really presents some challenging problems when you try to get/buy a copy. So, here I am in 2006 reviewing a 2004 debut album. This must already tell you that it’s something well worth reviewing/reading.

I will start this time with the end, meaning the production. As I mentioned before, the album was released independently which generally spells trouble when it comes to production values/producer input; the upside of it is that the band has complete freedom to create and to record their own music unaltered by outside influences or reasons. Once again this could be a good thing for a talented band and a major downside for a less than apt or unoriginal group. Fortunately this is one of the rare cases when everything worked just fine and all the pieces fell together to create a complete and good thing.

The overall sound is almost impeccable, full and rich; with two guitars, rhythm section, keyboard/piano and some symphonic elements thrown in, plus the female lead vocals supported by at least three male backing voices. I might have a little problem with the bass place (or generally with the lower range of the sounds), when sometimes in the big picture it becomes a little fuzzy and hard to follow; that doesn’t mean that the rhythm is in any way hurt by it, the drumming is crystal clear, perfectly played, sometimes tight and aggressive, other times alternating between progressive complexity and power drumming.

The style of the band is not the regular gothic rock with some symphonic or progressive elements thrown in just to try and keep the things interesting, I would say that Ebony Ark is a progressive based band in the vein of Evergrey (with dark and moody atmosphere) or Dream Theater (progressive rhythms and leads), with goth elements reminding me of Lacuna Coil (one of the male leads sounds exactly like Andrea Ferro) or After Forever (Remagine style). The first thing I must say about singer Beatriz Albert is that she’s not trying to pass for something that she’s not. She isn’t a lead soprano a la Simone Simons or Tarja Turunen or a heavy harsh screamer like Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy) and although she uses briefly these styles (Night’s Cold Symphony and Thorn Of Ice), she never oversteps her limits. Still, her best abilities lie in the mid/high range where she can display her warm and vibrant voice. Some of you might have noticed her on the 2003 self titled album of fellow compatriots Dark Moor, and here she is, a Spanish version of Floor Jansen able to duet with harsh/growling or screamed male vocal lines or leading the music over heavy dual guitar attacks beautifully supported by warm keyboard sounds or symphonic choirs. Her best vocal performance comes on the album’s longest song – Desire, a mid paced, heavy guitar influenced song with keyboard driven parts, multiple pace changes, lyrical quiet parts alternating with fast guitar solos and hooks.

The guitar pair of Ruben Villanueva and Javier Jimenez (both former Divina Tragedia members) provides the progressive main core of the sound, with heavy riffs, good pace changes or deeply inspired solo leads. The crunchy mid-paced or fast riffs are the trademarks for them, starting heavy and developing into crystalline solos or leading to superb choruses with Beatriz’s voice reigning supreme. Songs like the powerful opener Dead Men’s Lives with its balance between the heavy rhythm and the superb vocal harmonies or the fast & furious Damned By The Past with its beauty and the beast type of vocals are representative for the band’s style. The power factor is present throughout the entire album and though it falls mostly into the dual guitar attack’s department, it so happens that Thorn Of Ice is led by Beatriz’s tight vocal lines or that Night’s Solo Symphony (one of the best tracks of the album) provides an excellent mix of heavy keyboard hook and guitar onslaught. Throughout the album, the synth and keyboard parts are mostly in the background, supporting the soft and melodic side of the sound, but on Human Or Beasts we meet an almost alternative keyboard hook while the piano solo on Thorn Of Ice brings just the right amount of softness to an aggressive track. Towards the end of the album, Searching For An Answer is a nice surprise, a more straightforward metal song, with a superbly catchy chorus, definitely my choice for the first single of the album. Of course, what would a metal album be without a metal ballad? Ball And Chain, the closer of the album takes us on a piano/keyboard soft opener with Beatriz sounding serene and peaceful on a duet with a clear and deep male voice.

This is definitely a very nice surprise. Coming from nowhere (well, as almost all debut bands do), we are presented with a work of love and talent. While not everything is perfect, my main complaint being the succession of the songs on the album (I would never have ended with a ballad, I’d rather go with a bang), I’m sure that the band has a very promising future ahead of them. Time will only tell if they will become one of the leading acts on the European scene. An excellent debut.

Killing Songs :
Searching For An Answer, Night’s Cold Symphony, Desire
Ian quoted 82 / 100
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