Mark Jansen hit the ground running in the immediate aftermath of his brief stint as songwriter of AFTER FOREVER with a respectable sequel to the band’s aforementioned debut “Prison Of Desire” in the longwinded, somewhat epic heavy “The Phantom Agony”. Having now established himself as independent of his former project, one wouldn’t be out of line in saying that he has eased into his new project and taken a somewhat less frantic approach to constructing an album. “Consigned To Oblivion” is stylistically a clear successor to its predecessor, but its general demeanour is a bit more reserved and catchy. By consequence, it’s actually a bit better as it gives Simone Simons a bit more time to shine and doesn’t get overly stuck on repetitive instrumental sections and spoken parts.
In some respects, this could be likened to a Symphonic album that goes the KAMELOT route, and this is where any complaints about this album might be justified depending on one’s taste. These songs are largely straight line formatted, hook driven, and carefully crafted for easy digestion. The obvious example that really pulls out the near radio friendly tendencies of this approach is the album’s first single “Quietus”, which plays off a really catchy Folk intro and some easily accessible Classical clichés and let’s Simone’s angelic vocals do the talking. Similar exercises in easy to follow Power Metal with a slightly less speedy approach than RHAPSODY (OF FIRE) include “Dance Of Fate” and “Force Of The Shore”, the former bringing in Mark’s beastly Death barks for a spell. The band also does some occasional ventures further down their latent Pop/Gothic tendencies on “Blank Infinity”, which grooves at a slower tempo and almost sounds like a more guitar happy version of LACUNA COIL.
Collectively, this album gets the job done without losing the attention of its audience, but there is still a general sense of epic leanings that come out full force on a few occasions. The formulaic, to be expected three song conceptual series in “A New Age Dawns” is where this comes forth, in similar fashion to the last two works of similar structure in Mark’s history. But things are a bit more compact and the truly bombastic material is saved for the concluding song “Consign To Oblivion”, throwing just about every Symphonic Metal trick in the book at the listener, from NIGHTWISH to CRADLE OF FILTH. Mark and Simone’s “beauty and the beast” interchanges are spaced in a sectional fashion, and the former gets a couple of minutes in the latter half of the song to explore a couple of different harsh characters. Special note should also be given to the crooning ballad duet Simone does with Kahn on “Trois Vierges”, which sounds pretty similar to a number of latter day KAMELOT ballads where Simone has done guest slots.
While maybe not up to the caliber of a number of highly impressive works in this style a few years back (“Of Wars In Osyrhia” and “Gates Of Oblivion” come to mind), this is among the better representations of this sound circa 2005, a year when the style was going through a brief downturn. It’s about on par with Hamka’s first and, to date, only release, carrying a similar mix of eastern influences and dark guitar sounds without the usual technical displays. Indeed, the primary thing that has been holding this band back is the lack of some stellar lead guitar work to offset the downplaying of the thrashing riff work that has was scaled back on this album. Fans of middle era NIGHTWISH and early WITHIN TEMPTATION will like this; though fans of more technically oriented Symphonic Power Metal may like this if they don’t miss the signature shred sound too much.
(Online December 17, 2011)