Words by Camilla Strand
Do you like the 1986 David Bowie movie Labyrinth? It’s one of my favourite films, and if you like that movie, then I think you’re in for a treat here too. Brisbane band Seraphic have released their second full-length studio album ‘Chrysalis’ in October 2020, and it’s an album that takes you on a symphonic metal journey. I imagine our operatic lead singer Sam Wolstenholme sonically searching through a maze of twinkling pianos, yearning guitars and heavy blast beats.
Opening the album is the instrumental track Behind the Veil. Bell tolls and footsteps lead the listener into a new world that seems fantastical and dark. A door closes and we have stepped foot into the maze. The second track Garden of Unearthly Delights kicks in hard but I felt the vocals were getting a little bit lost in the mix. I find myself realising later that this may be a deliberate creative decision. The track starts to become fully realised towards the end of the song with strong drums and siren wails that confirm the otherworldliness of this album.
Shapeshifter begins with a focus on Sam’s vocals that I was pining for, the piano and guitars leading me into a crescendo underpinned by the growling of bass player Michael Bates. Epic guitar solos are perfectly placed and supported by the multi-talented lead singer Sam on piano, and her singing about the search for peace pierces my soul. The outro is singalong good, with a mix of operatic and aggressive singing making this song as powerful as it is fun. Monster Within brings me back to being certain this is inspired by the film Labyrinth. A prog metal orchestration supports Sam’s vocals which once again could be brought further to the front to increase legibility; however, the tightness of the band is on full display with taut and technical drumming by Daniel Langdon. The bridge kicks it down a notch into a sexy guitar & drum section that renders the listener cooler than they were a minute ago.
Drums introduce us to the next track Midnight, which I suspect is the turning point in our heroine’s journey. The choice to introduce a call and response chorus is genius, uplifting and heavenly whilst the supporting guitars give me literal chills. Guitarists Patrick Feagan and Raouf Al-Araji are giving me life. The bridge morphs piano-metal with pirate-metal for a little bit of something different, however nothing feels out of place and everything works cohesively. The outro guitar yearns like a broken heart, with shades of Labyrinth springing back into my brain. The supporting piano is perfectly placed and reaffirms the epic talent I’m witness to.
Break hits heavy and fast to tell the story of an awakening of rage. To me this song is about the change from girl to woman, from victim to warrior, from follower to leader. If metal was mainstream this song could be (and should be) a feminist anthem. Give this track the full length of your attention, for at 5:47 lead vocalist Sam busts out a swirling crescendo that is as epic as it is beautiful. Instrumental breaks give each member of Seraphic their time to shine, but I’m honestly just waiting for Sam. This is her album. This is for women. I know it. I feel it in my heart.
Track 7 The Phoenix is more power metal than progressive with double kick trills underscoring a steely determination and uplifting lyrics such as “You think you’re free but you’re incomplete, you have no power over me”. Labyrinth fans will immediately recognise that line, and my suspicions that this is written by a fellow Labyrinth fan is confirmed.
Transformed suggests that our heroine has changed, a transition has completed and we now have before us a woman standing in her full power and glory. Orchestral elements surround a prettied up vocal performance, with bursts of operatic epiphany washing over the band. This track is more subdued yet at the same time self-assured and confident. The chorus refrain of “We are transformed” confirms the change that has occurred to our heroine. The bridge brings us back to Sam’s voice, refined and beautiful, as guitars and piano slowly swell to return us to the strength of this world class band.
Finishing off the album is the title track Chrysalis, opening with whimsical elements of pan flute and bells, subdued guitar and light cymbals that bring a sense of lightness and air. At a whopping 8 minutes, it manages to keep interest via instrumental sections that grow into an epic finale of freedom and self-assuredness. The butterfly has broken free, and this is her maiden flight. Finally, Sam Wolstenholme’s vocals are the front and center of the track, where they belong. This is capital ‘M’ Metal. Wow Brisbane. Wow.
‘Chrysalis’ premiered right here at Good Call Live on October 29 and was officially released on October 30, 2020.
With thanks to Hard Drive Agency