Insatia – Phoenix Aflame Review
Album: Phoenix Aflame
Label: Pitch Black Records
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Release Date: 23rd June, 2017
With the stratospheric rise of female fronted acts in recent years from grandiose, cinematic Symphonic Metal band Nightwish to the snarling, vicious Thrash Metal attack that is Venom Prison. The field has never been more open for young female fronted metal bands and we are all reaping the benefits of the fantastic new bands being brought to our attention seemingly daily.
The latest group to be brought to my attention is the Symphonic Metal band Insatia, the brainchild of frontwoman Zoe Federoff who brought the group together in 2009. The band then self released their debut album ‘Asylum Denied’ in 2013 before touring their homeland extensively and working their way on to some impressive opening slots for bands such as Sonata Arctica and Dark Tranquillity. The band have now joined up with producers Fabio D’Amore (known for his work with Serenity), Ivan Moni Bidin (whose previous work has included Starsick System, Pathosray and Last Warning) and Stefan Karlsson (who has worked bands such as Arch Enemy and Firewind) to record their sophomore effort ‘Phoenix Aflame’. It is an interesting prospect to see what the band can achieve on this release now that they have the support of a label and the backing to be a little more expansive and experimental with their overall sound.
The album opens with a brief introduction named ‘Land Of The Living’ that showcases some echoing, reverb heavy vocal line before being joined by a male voice to create a Nightwish inspired vocal melody. All of which is accompanied by a string arrangement. A nice finishing touch to this introduction is the final line where Zoe says “Welcome back to the land of living” not only serves the song well, but serves the secondary purpose of readying the listener for what’s to come on this second instalment of the Insatia story.
The first real taste of new music from Insatia comes from the second track on the album titled ‘Act Of Mercy’ and it wastes absolutely no time at all in getting to the punch. The riffs are massively distorted, Metalcore-influenced, heavily palm muted, with a fantastic metallic tone that works in very well with the bass and drums to create a solid platform for the vocal melody, coupled with subtle symphonic elements to perform from. The approach is very simple when you take a step back a really assess it. Melodic, radio-friendly vocals contrasting with aggressive, heavy metal instrumental work. It is a simple, tried and true method, but it is one that can really pay dividends when it is executed properly.
The next song ‘Memory Of A Sapphire’ for me displays exactly what Insatia are all about. Opening with an impressive lead guitar part from Kaelen Serakinis followed by the familiar sounds of palm muted, metal guitar riffs. What quickly becomes apparent on this track is the more liberal use of electronics as an aid to the melody. The synths are a lot more obvious but still do not drown out the other instruments and are used in the background to create another layer to the wall of sound that is created here. The vocals are simple and catchy. However, I will say that they could perhaps show a little more variation, this doesn’t mean that the vocals are terrible, (far from it, in fact) but the pitch remains the same throughout the duration of this track (as it did on the previous) and I don’t feel that there is a lot of attitude or swagger on display here with the delivery.
The next song on that really catches my eye on the album is ‘We Are The Grey’. Musically, it has the kind of grand, symphonic sound that wouldn’t be out of place on Nightwish’s classic 2004 ‘Once’. Once again the listener is treated to heavy, head bang inducing riffs and solid drum work and decent vocal lines throughout. The synths are used to perfection on this track, giving extra weight to the overall atmosphere that is created and pairing excellently with the very well crafted guitar sound of Kaelen (I would have to say the guitarist is the main asset of this band, his riffs are the glue that holds everything together and the guitar solos add some much needed excitement without being overused and losing effect).
The biggest curveball that this album has to offer has to be the penultimate track ‘Velvet Road’ which is a wonderfully folky sidestep away from the relentless symphonic metal script that they had previously stuck to. The acoustic guitar pairs perfectly with the soft voice of Zoe as the melody whisks away the listener. This song really served as a wonderful surprise towards the end of the album and proved to me that the band indeed have more than one dimension and they are willing to completely change musical direction at the drop of a hat. Well executed and engaging from start to finish, proving that sometimes simplicity has its benefits.
Overall I would say that this is a very solid album. It has moments of real adventure and proves that the band has plenty of decent ideas and they indeed have the potential to break out into the international scene. The MVP of this album has to be guitarist Kaelen Serakinis who really raises his head above the crowd on this album. Proving that he is the real driving force behind the band with his seemingly endless supply of killer riffs, fantastic ear for melody when it comes to his lead parts and a wonderful taste for guitar tones that will surely get the guitar enthusiasts amongst their audience salivating throughout. However, the one thing that aggravates me about this album is the way that it feels the band is holding something back. On previous tracks the drums have been far more impressive and complex with plenty of impressive fills and double bass drum beats driving the songs. However, on this release the drums are very simple and monotonous. They are solid and do their job, but I feel like they could have played a much more exciting roll in this album. The vocals again are decent; Zoe Federoff has a lovely voice. But when you are fronting a metal band that has some of the crushing riffs and epic soundscapes that Insatia are capable of it would be nice to see a little more variety and perhaps a bit more attitude being put across to the audience.
A solid album. However, maybe a few more risks need to be taken on the next release.
1. Land Of The Living
2. Act Of Mercy
3. Memory Of A Sapphire
5. We Are The Grey
6. Phoenix Aflame
7. Not My God
8. Captor And Captive
9. Velvet Road
10. Healer Of Hatred
Total Playing Time: 37:26