Advenae (noun) – Latin for outsider, stranger, foreigner, alien. I think it can safely be said that we’ve all felt a little lost in this past year. The pandemic threw us all for a loop, and suddenly our sense of security, life as we knew it, changed forever – we were all in need of a guiding star to show us the way out of the darkness. And it is this poignant theme that is threaded like strands of bright moonlight throughout every track of ‘Advenae’, the stunning debut album released by Sydney’s gothic symphonic metal titans Carmeria on Friday 14th May. I have long lamented how few quality symphonic metal bands remain active in Australia, so it is a momentous occasion – and a great personal joy – when a special album like this comes along, and right from our own backyard. Sure enough, this magnum opus shows the Europeans just how it’s done, enveloping the listener in an unearthly magic that captivates as much as it comforts the lost and lonely part of ourselves that we all conceal within us.
The album opens with the title track, a brief instrumental prelude that immediately grasps the attention of the listener with sweeping, cinematic orchestrations evoking the might and majesty of a Hans Zimmer film score. This sets the tone for the epic album to come, transitioning smoothly into album single Morningstar, which boasts a ridiculously catchy chorus that I was humming for days after first hearing it. This energetic track is imbued with a spirited melodiousness reminiscent of Nightwish; lush orchestrations underscore a driving rhythm section, with jubilant choirs shimmering in the background to complete the rich wall of sound. Particularly standout features in this track are lead vocalist Jordan von Grae’s emotive tenor, his delicate vibrato strongly channelling ex-Kamelot vocalist Roy Khan vibes, and a belter of a guitar solo mid-song from guitarist Jerry Zahija. A brilliant start to the album.
Carpe Noctem follows, its addition of harsh vocals, ominous bell tolls and gloriously harmonised choruses providing a gorgeous flourish of pure gothic drama. Indeed, the steadily chugging guitar riffs convey a sense of slowly trudging further and further towards the grave. En Rapture shows off soaring, rock-opera tenor vocal lines, triplet guitar riffs and strings-driven orchestrations, and I even detect a hint of Iron Maiden with some classic harmonised lead guitar passages. This leads into beautiful ballad Relinquished, a nice change of pace so we can catch our breath. This powerful track is reminiscent of gothic metal heroes H.I.M. and features some sparkling piano arpeggios, a shredtastic guitar solo and a rousing chorus – “Won’t you breathe life into these heavy hands” – which strikes a compelling chord.
Next up is recent single To Lead The Blind, a power metal classic that fans of Kamelot’s seminal album ‘The Black Halo’ will love. The duel of guitar solo followed by keytar solo is a particular highlight in this track, and the addition of organ in the orchestral backdrop is highly effective in ramping up the drama of the track. The hypnotic Celestia follows, beginning like a lullaby with its utterly enchanting piano intro and von Grae’s haunting vocals, then out of nowhere, the full band crashes in for the final chorus in a wondrous climax. Solaris brings a lighter edge with its 80s pop choruses and a rather sexy guitar solo, but this soon gives way to a truly cathartic coda in the track as it fades out with the chanted chorus – “Winter has come, black out the sun, no need to feel so lost, my dear”. Starfall begins somewhat meditatively with mournful acoustic guitar and shimmering new-age synths, but this is soon eclipsed by an epic, galloping melodic metal force that takes off like a herd of horses bolting from the stables.
9 tracks in, but the journey’s not over yet! Veil of Sanctitude is a stately, moving anthem that sings the mournful song of a battle-weary soul – “I won’t spend another day imprisoned in this life, fighting to survive”. I’m sure we can all relate to that – sometimes the going gets tough, but that doesn’t mean we’ve simply had enough. The elegant Halo continues the slower pace, and this is where the album loses steam a little, given the consistent level of energy maintained in the first 9 tracks. However, this is quickly remedied by the arrival of the mammoth 11-minute closing track Eternity, which is a sumptuous feast for the senses and an epic auditory experience on its own. This colossal track unravels like a dark fairytale, warning the listener of the ephemeral nature of time as it melds all the quintessential Carmeria elements of gothic orchestrations, intricate guitar licks, compelling vocal melodies and sheer theatrical sensibilities in a veritable hurricane of vibrant sound.
Overall, despite the odd misstep here and there, ‘Advenae’ is a triumph, a standout achievement in a metal landscape where great symphonic metal is rare and difficult to come by. Carmeria have launched their shining star into the midnight sky, and it gleams brightly as a beacon of hope for all the lost souls out there who find their true home in beautiful, melodic music.
You can purchase ‘Advenae’ here.
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With thanks to Overdrive PR + Hard Drive Agency