I really have no clue why, but even though the number of French bands that make their name outside of their home country continues to rise, it still is something less than usual, when our Western neighbour comes up with a new band and when they get released via Drakkar Records, they’ve got to be something, no?
Well, KARELIA have given themselves the name of a region between Finland and Russia, but still the band is French. Formed in 2000, they set themselves the goal to give the Metal scene new impulses. Now this admittedly is a very ambitious goal and after a demo, several live gigs and a number of line up changes they finally signed with Drakkar and, tadaa, here we have “Usual Tragedy”!
The cover by Markus Mayer looks very nice on the DigiPak and leaves you in the dark pretty much about the contained style. In fact the quintet Matthieu Kleiber, Bertrand Maillot, Erwan Morice, Loic Jenn and Gilles Thiebaut play Symphonic Metal, with the goal of combining heavy Metal with orchestral and classical elements. Well, as far as that is concerned, the Eastern Frenchies definitely have succeeded, but how is the quality of the material?
Well, the production in the Studios Blue Bird, the mix by Renaud Hebinger (who already had worked with famous Colin Richardson for FEAR FACTORY or MACHINE HEAD) and the support of the choir singers of the Opéra du Rhin all are factors that point into the right direction, on which KARELIA can build their compositions, so the ground is set.
After a very bombastic intro, “Letter For An Angel“ is the first real test for the quintet and it, too, is very symphonic, musically close to Power Metal, but with big choirs in the background and keyboards, plus the nicely not too high voice of Matthieu Kleiber, which here and there also comes through a good bit lower, even though it at times sounds a bit unnatural as if it was a bit deeper than his regular singing voice, while the music keeps a big symphonic foundation. “My Guilty Absence“ is another song that I should mention, more variable, with calm breakdowns and all, while closing “Slave Of Time” also shows some versatility in its speed.
What I can attest KARELIA is that they for one don’t overdo the bombast, in most cases to not subdue to the speed rush and also vocally do not go into the highest of pitches. Add to this that all songs are really professionally written, executed and produced and should appeal to fans of bands such as RHAPSODY, Luca Turilli and comparable acts.
So where is the problem, if you look at the rating? Well, despite all quality I miss the certain something, the much famed spark that should catch fire to really grip and envelop you, the own touch. But let’s not forget that “Usual Tragedy” is just the debut of KARELIA and for that I have to say that the Frenchies have delivered a really good start, which is a promise to the future. (Online April 3, 2004)