If bad recording quality can ever be a deterrent for music, it is most probable in the prog-metal genre where precision of musicianship and clean recording is essential for an appreciation of the music. It is here where the new album by French progressive metal band Syrens Call fails.
The band has been slowly developing a fan base for the past several years and finally had the inclination (but obviously not the money) to record a full length album. I would not condemn a band which didn't have the finances to make a good album, but the recording quality of "Fantasea" is so muddy, so monotone and compressed, that it is almost impossible to differentiate between the sounds.
The band is comprised of Valerie Paul on vocals. Her voice is a cross of Geddy Lee, the singer of Pavlov's Dog, and the excellent 70s French prog band Tai Phong. All of these are male singers who had a squeaky sound to their singing which some people may find intolerable. Valerie's vocals are certainly a departure from the vocals of other prog metal acts and I find it an interesting change. Slow bluesy songs like "I Still Love You" (yes, they do a Kiss cover!) showcase her emotion well.
The rest of the band is comprised of Stephane Thuriot on rhythm guitar, Thibaut Coisne doing lead guitar, Eric Serre on bass, and Sebastian Paul on drums. All are very capable musicians but, as mentioned their playing suffers from poor recording techniques. The band does not do a technical type of prog metal like Dream Theater. Instead their music has symphonic elements that need the space and separation of sound to sound most effective. In some places, Coisne's guitar can change from speed metal to an electric Spanish guitar technique, and then to a languid blues technique.
"Fantasea" is almost an hour in length, and is comprised of ten songs ranging in length from a psychedelic 46 second wash of sound ("Fantasea") to the furious 7:31 min. opener "Brave Hearts" and the 7:37 min. "Shame", track 9 which incorporates a Flamenco influence in the electric guitar. The songs are sculpted by the typical and mechanical prog metal riffs but Paul's voice weaves in and around them, extracting melodious landscapes.
The CD suffers from a middle section that sounds repetitive and the CD doesn't really hit its stride until towards the end of the CD. The stand out tracks on the CD tend to be the slower, more atmospheric songs like song 3 "Secrets of the Seas", because the density and muddiness of sound is not so evident. I especially like the closing track, "Far Away" which has a powerful melody and very emotional vocals.
Syrens Call is a band with a lot of potential because of their compositional skills and range. It would be a good thing if this band could get some solid financial backing and an excellent producer who can shape their sound and control their direction. The prog-metal scene is filled with hoards of skilled musicians, but good composers are hard to find.