Season of Ghosts - The Human Paradox - (6.5/10)
Published on December 26, 2014
No matter what comes of this project at the end of the day, positive vibes surround Seasons of Ghosts – if only because it finally gives Sophia an outlet within which to dispel the lingering spectre of her less-than-amicable split with Blood Stain Child. Honestly, she put a lot on the line by moving to Japan to collaborate on εpsilon, which embodied a brave new direction that bifurcated the fan base into two warring camps. I am certainly of the mind that she was an invaluable asset and the fresh blood sorely needed for the group. So after the smoke clears, here we have her first solo outing The Human Paradox, which tries juggling a number of disparate elements that should largely constitute the typical fare concerning female fronted metal of this caliber. Particularly notable are the electronic elements that blanket most of the record, and this primary appeal conjoined with Sophia’s syrupy vocal lines is a sturdy couplet that would have no problems carrying an entire album on its back.
So it is something of a disappointment that this album feels the needed to repeatedly tap the brakes to reassess its surroundings, all at the cost of replay value and general enjoyment. These songs can be separated into two distinct and polarizing corners. On one hand, you have the endearingly upbeat and punchy trance numbers that wisely constitute the first third of the record. However, balancing these out are far too many ballad-esque tunes that attempt to craft something of a more atmospheric and droning allure. There are appeals to both approaches, but Season of Ghosts pulls the former off so much more convincingly. Isolating the first three tracks is where the majority of the strength of The Human Paradox resides. “Nothing Disappears Without a Trace” is a short gabber-influenced dip into the synthetic waters within which Season of Ghosts operates, and “Genesis – The Phoenix Syndrome” ricochets about your ear canal in a memorable manner. I don’t think it would be fair to appraise this material under a strictly metal lens, as the heavier constituent only accounts for window dressing injected to pump in some vitriol. There are sporadic breakdowns and a pretty standard metalcore approach that congeals reasonably well with the electronics. Bands like Illidiance and Silent Descent have already proven to me that this combo can elicit some replays, and The Human Paradox is no different at its best, save for the cogent female vocal presence.
But sadly, its best is only fleeting and fails to make a dent in the large number of pseudo-ballads that pockmark the entire second half of this thing. The thing is, Sophia did spectacularly in this regard with Blood Stain Child on “Merry-Go-Round,” but here, she decides to dial back the electronics, instead deferring to a more stripped-down piano-driven approach that just sort of sputters out before anything of marked value is accomplished. Pleasant listening in any event, but once you experience the first half of this record nothing truly grabs your throat and squeezes like you end up expecting by that point. Sophia has marketed this album as a cinematic soundtrack of sorts, but I can’t really catch onto the concept when I listen to this thing. There are a few quick and powerful instrumentals that hint at something greater, particularly the delicious “There and Back Again,” but they are far too skittering to truly take off.
There are zero faults sonically with this record, as expected concerning Ettore Rigotti’s familiarity with this particular epithet of techno metal, and despite Sophia finding a solid imprint with Coroner Records, I can’t say that all of the heart and soul she poured into this thing is going to shake any sort of foundation. It is still incredibly catchy and convincing when it wants to be, which is more than I can say for most acts working with this template (although there definitely aren’t very many). A weak progression and overpowering first half makes The Human Paradox a somewhat top-heavy, yet decent take at what is sure to elicit a few laughs amongst the more spartan metal crowd. To answer the most important question concerning those interested in Season of Ghosts: yes, if you enjoyed Sophia on εpsilon you will enjoy this album. Just remember that the only good slower song is “NEMESIS – The Kiss of Justice” and pick and choose in accordance with the contrast in quality. Not that bad, but could have been something much greater.