Album Title: Cleopatra
Label: Sensory Records
Date of Release: 5 February 2021
Those who know my tastes in heavy music will know that when it comes to symphonic metal, it has to be very good to catch my attention. The subgenre is awash with bands that, in my opinion, are incredibly ordinary. I’m also not much of a fan of female ‘operatic’ vocals either, so when the two merge, I struggle to find any band that I fully enjoy. Heck, I’m really not a big fan of Nightwish, with ‘Once’ being the only album to buck the trend to any great degree. But, I’m ever the optimist and will always check out a recommendation when it comes along. And that’s why I’m bringing this review to you nearly two months after its release.
Everdawn is the name given to the entity that has arisen from the ashes of Midnight Eternal, comprised of three core members and two new additions. The core features Richard Fischer, Boris Zaks, and Daniel Prestup, with Alina Gavrilenko providing the vocals and Mike LePond (Symphony X) on bass. At first, I wasn’t impressed. Same old, same old. Close to giving up, I pressed play by accident and my opinion began to change almost immediately. Where once I heard bland and uninteresting music, I started to hear strong, catchy melodies, clever musicianship, passion, and commitment. My opinions changed almost immediately, as I had no alternative to give into the music.
I’m not saying for one moment that the entirety of ‘Cleopatra’ is amazing, as there are definite peaks and troughs to be heard. But what I am saying, is that a significantly larger proportion of the eleven songs have surprised me favourably, to the point where much of the disc is rather infectious, memorable and downright entertaining. I really wasn’t expecting this, but I’m naturally very pleased that this is the case.
It all begins with ‘Ghost Shadow Requiem’ and it’s a blinder. Actually, it’s one of my very favourites on the album and the gateway into giving Everdawn a fair crack of the whip initially. The ‘Once’ era Nightwish similarities do emerge within it, but this is just a great song on it’s own merit. The melodies are very strong, the hooks burrow deep, and there’s sufficient heaviness within the instrumentation to justify the metal tag. The short respite to allow a mysterious spoken-word passage leads nicely into an instrumental section, full of vibrant lead guitar solos, before we’re led out via a reprise of the powerful chorus, laced with opulent but not overbearing symphonics and the silky-smooth quasi-operatic voice of Gavrilenko that’s hard to find fault with.
‘Cleopatra’ is an album built around the Egyptian Queen and it actually allows for some nice variation within the eleven tracks on the album. ‘Stranded In Bangalore’ is a much more upbeat track, with strong power metal leanings, a galloping heart, and some great bass work from LePond. It has a different vibe to the opener, but it is a real grower as time goes on. Then there’s ‘Your Majesty Sadness’, which slows things down to a more measured mid-tempo, delivering some chunky chugging riffs that are a delight. Gavrilenko lowers her register in favour of a deeper tone, duetting with Therion’s Thomas Vikström wonderfully. Again, the melodies are strong, the chorus a sprawling affair, laced with atmosphere and depth.
‘Infinity Divine’ meanwhile, is a lovely up-beat, brisk-moving cut that demonstrates the full extent of Gavrilenko’s range, hitting some incredibly high notes in the catchy chorus. ‘Lucid Dream’ is one of the fastest compositions on offer, with energetic rhythms including near-blasts from the drums. It doesn’t have the greatest chorus, but it is easily one of the most bombastic, worthy of the symphonic description in spades, especially when we’re treated to a keyboard solo later in proceedings.
I’m not such a huge fan of ‘Heart Of A Lion’ or the slightly odd-sounding instrumental that follows, entitled ‘Toledo 712 A.D.’ In the case of the former, I just don’t find it that engaging, particularly the chorus which feels a little underwhelming despite the theatrics and some great lead guitar solos. The latter suffers from some strange electronic sounds, the kind that seem to have come from a dodgy sci-fi movie from yesteryear. Again, there are some nice touches, such as the muscular guitar riffs, but it’s not their most compelling offering.
However, as I said before, the strengths of ‘Cleopatra’ massively outweigh the negatives, with the production another plus point for the band. There is clarity, muscle, and vibrancy in the Dan Swanö-mastered mix, meaning that you can hear each member of the band without sacrificing any of the potency of the songs themselves, and ensuring that the music doesn’t descend into a muddy mess. I even like the cover art too, courtesy of Gyula Havancsák of Hjules Illustration and Design.
Ultimately, I think even the most ardent fan of Everdawn would concede that this album offers precious little in the way of originality, but when the output is this enjoyable and immersive, does that even matter? On this occasion, I’d say no. Instead, I’ll focus on the strong compositions, the entertainment they provide, and the realisation that when done well, symphonic metal with operatic vocals can actually be good. For that last point alone, I have to compliment Everdawn and doff my cap in their general direction.
Score of Much Metal: 85%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: