Elysian Gates - Crossroads
Elysian Gates is a symphonic rock/metal band from Eischen, Luxembourg. The band was founded in summer 2010 and consists of six band members: Noémie Leer – Vocals, Thierry Sadler – Keyboards, Sue Scarano – Guitars, Guy Christen – Guitars, Kim Sosson – Bass and Christian Praus – Drums.
At this stage, they recorded their first studio album “Destination Unknown“ back in 2013. Furthermore, they re-recorded their almost 14 min. long single 'Seven Angels' and started in 2014 as a female fronted band. You can hear the single as an extended and in a shorter radio-edited version. With an incredible position in the local iTunes rock charts, they started their project "Northern Winds" in collaboration with Sea Shepherd at the end of November 2014. They also released a video on YouTube, which got a lot of recognition. After a few line-up changes, they found the right match with singer Noémie Leer in early 2015 (former ‘Rude Revelation’ vocalist), with whom they made the latest album “Crossroads”. The album consists of eight songs plus the bonus track of their collaboration with Sea Shepherd and has a duration of 46:50 minutes. For some people that might seem not very long, but the length is deceptive and the songs are all very professional and promising.
The first time I listened to the band and their album ”Crossroads”, the music made me sit up straight and with concentrated, but curious ears right from the beginning. The more I listened to the album, the more nuances and impressions I got from the band and the music they make.
The album starts with a 1:32 minutes long instrumental introductory song named “Awakening”. My first association was that I found myself on the battlefield of the “Lords of the Rings” to herald the battle. This cinematic atmosphere is supported by orchestration and violin playing, that gives a symphonic vibe and leaves a threatening feeling. As the song progresses, it offers a few musical enhancements and changes, which increases tension. It will initiate through the use of calm and heavier tones, which alternate in the song. The really great bassline, that emerges all of a sudden, is also very surprising and catchy. My association with “Lords of the Rings” at the beginning ends up in the sound of “The Pirates of the Caribbean” and noise of rain.
The cinematic vibe also dominates the beginning of the next song “Crossroads” and is supplemented by the strong use of synthesizers. The element of rain that ends in the first song is taken and added with elements of a thunderstorm. This special element, compared to the cinematic vibe, reminds me of old Nightwish tracks. You will also hear the catchy bass melody, you already know. That makes the song familiar and accessible. The really catchy chorus and vocal lines for example “many twisted ways” or “Crossroads within me” ensures it. Not to forget, the melodic and pure soprano voice of Noémie which sounds very qualitatively and professional. I was surprised about her scratchy rock notes, she hits a few times. I'm convinced that behind her soft voice she hides a lot of power.
The next song „Whispering premonition" is the longest track of the album and also convinces with a new and refreshing beginning. The song starts with an electronic, whispering sound and vibrant beats. The psychedelic and electronic sound makes you feel like your head could explode at every moment. It makes you feel confused and dizzy. Besides, the song resonates a melancholic impression, but with a positive vibe in it, that is expressed, for example through the familiar catchy bass melody and the partly very dominant occurring keyboard parts. Another hint could be that the very dominant and loud electronic sound at the beginning is very reserved and quiet at the end of the song. On one hand this "apparent" contrast gives you the feeling that you cannot hold on to something and simultaneously, on the other hand still have the power to move on. “No matter what will happen, you will stay strong!”, could be a possible message of the song.
"Far From Home" is the longest track of the album and has also a melancholic and sad vibe, that will change into a more aggressive and desperate tone, until it ends with dreamy and thoughtful emotions. The overall expression, I would choose is longing. The song stands out by a lot of musically as well as vocally changes, many details (big and small for example choir or babble of voices) and the use of concise instruments (Cello), that expresses all kind of different emotions, the song passed through. You also perceive a dominant oriental and symphonic touch. One of the bigger details I mentioned before is the very catchy male and female choir, which is very emphatic and gives the song its powerful strength and more depth.
The mystical, calm and Celtic sound created by the use of the Cello, at the beginning and in the middle of the song, builds up a thoughtful and dreamy distance to the audience. Another remarkable conspicuousness is the increase of the tempo, which indicates the heavier tenor in the song and the use of growls by Noémie. There is the power, I sometimes missed in her voice. It is phenomenal and underlines the lyrics and mood perfectly.
The song “Mary Ann” builds up an incision, not because it is a ballad, but because after it the upcoming songs increase in dynamic and power and hit the heaviest tones.
Back to the beautiful ballad, in which you can hear her mesmerizing soft and partly breathy soprano voice, but you also will not miss the rock voice she uses, while belting out the name “Mary Ann”. The basic mood is also melancholy, but again with a positive addition and beautiful violin playing. To me, the song reflects a long path you will move forward, but with remaining pain.
The next two songs “Broken inside” and “Human infection” could be considered together, because they cover up similar elements. Both songs start with more dynamic and striking heavier tones, but nevertheless I expected a bit more use of her rock voice and musically more aggression, especially in the song “Broken things”, because of the title and lyrics. In my view, the music is too positive at this point. Of course, she can transport feelings with her clean singing and her growls remain phenomenal and I love the fact, that she builds up her own contrast vocally, but in my opinion they are too soft and powerless, sometimes. I definitely prefer her vocals in the song “Human infection”. She transports the power and energy through her voice way better. Here, she is able to express all kind of emotions through her different vocal techniques and blends perfectly with the music. In the calm parts, her voice is very pure and haunting. Her rock voice and especially her fast growling part are outstanding and impressive. I think, she could keep up with Alissa White-Gluz. Symphonic and oriental elements are dominant at this point and underline the heavy, but also the slow parts very well. The song shows the most diversity and potential of the band. Now, she simply needs to learn operatic singing to make more drama. Just kidding (then, they would nearly sound like my ultimate favorite band After forever). The catchy hookline, for example „cruel twist of fate" gives this song its final touch.
In my view, the final song ”The open gate” has the most positive vibe and also picks up cinematic aspects again. The song could also be used as a closing title of an anime. The song has dynamics, sweeping and sophisticated symphonic parts and powerful guitars and drums followed by the awesome violin playing and the Cello. It also has a country music touch and that is the reason, why it creates a dreamy, playful and even a little bit romantic atmosphere. While listening to this song, you feel like you need to run and throw everything over board. The little orchestration and choir are the elements, that make the song more vivid and top it off.
The bonus track “Northern Winds” sung by the former singer Jelena Negatina conveys grief connected with hope and stands out by a catchy melody and hookline (“Save the oceans”) and beautiful piano and violin playing.
To sum it up, I can say that I'm really impressed how professional their music, vocals, recording, mixing etc. is. It shows that a record label is not necessarily needed to make good music. Passion is the most important essence and, of course, time and money but it literally pays (off). The music has a lot of details, turning points and surprises. It is also subtile, varied and concise. My only wish is, that I would love to have some more outbursts, ruff edges and more musically and vocally power. Despite a lot of creative ideas, it is predictable and does not support the lyrics and emotions the way it could sometimes. My favorite song is “Human infections”, because it covers everything up I mentioned before.