Review Summary: Chick fronted metal that flat out rips.
To me, finding a good female fronted metal album is a rarity. This rings even truer now that it seems that Nightwish have stopped releasing respectable material and Arch Enemy have basically been releasing the same damn album for the last 5 years. That's not to say that there isn't any good female fronted metal out there anymore, but chances are that if I'm listening to a metal album its gonna be a dude handling the vocals. A couple years ago while scouring the Listenable Records website for Mors Principium Est mp3s I was first introduced to Amaran. Led by singer Johanna DePierre, Amaran's mix of Power Metal with a strong Melodic Death Metal influence immediately caught my attention. Their sophomore release Pristine In Bondage
is arguably one of the finest examples of female fronted metal out there.
Even though the band is listed by many as Power Metal, the music presented on Pristine In Bondage
is highly indebted to the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene. Right from the get-go its obvious that Arch Enemy has had a large impact on the sound of Amaran. The album's opener "Atropine" kicks into full gear with a heavy down tuned alternate picked riff that is would be perfectly at home on Anthems of Rebellion
before it rips into a solo that, while not as technical as Arch Enemy's Michael Amott, shares a sense of his nuanced and melodic style. Guitarists Kari Kainulainen and Ronnie Backlund also have no problems working at a slower pace. Scattered throughout the album are eerie harmonies that, when paired with Johanna DePierre's powerful vocals, create a foreboding sense of uneasiness that permeates the album. Surprisingly for a metal album, the bass is actually given room in the production and is quite audible. Often distorted, the bass gallops away as it follows the guitars. Besides a few fills the bass work is pretty standard but due to its high presence in the mix it adds another enjoyable dynamic to listen to.
Johanna DePierre's vocals are the highlight of the album. You would think that with the music behind her being so influenced by Melodic Death Metal bands like Arch Enemy and Insomnium that the vocal styling of choice would be of the screamed variety, but Johanna's soaring vocals range from the likes of The Gathering's Anneke van Giersbergen at their softest to a more powerful Amy Lee when she really puts some force into them. Her powerful alto also makes Pristine In Bondage
an easy album to get into as it eliminates some of the negative connotations often associated with clean female metal vocals be they the operatic cheese of Nightwish or the lack of variation in Lacuna Coil.
Sadly after only two albums Amaran disbanded in 2005 following the departure of vocalist Johanna DePierre. If they had continued on the path laid out by their swansong Pristine In Bondage
who knows what the could have achieved? But all conjecture aside, Pristine In Bondage
is a refreshing take on female fronted melodic metal with riffs aplenty and beautiful vocals that anyone into heavy music can take pleasure from.