A bombastic and passionate album.
This is the third outing for the collaborative association between Portuguese multi-instrumentalist Hugo Flores and Swedish soprano Jessica Lehto. 'Melotronical' is a conceptual work focusing upon the evolution of an electronic molecule into a living, breathing entity, which experiences several stages of life and the full spectrum of human emotions. The track list is arranged to reflect the evolutionary process, with the final stage commencing with 'Dimension Crusher' and culminating at 'Reprogramming' when a new Universe is idealized.
Sounds interesting…? Well, it all depends upon your musical preferences. If you want tunes that will bury into your brain and have you singing along – then you need to look elsewhere, for this is complex and powerful material that pushes out the boundaries of neo-progressive cum gothic female-voiced metal – and needs lots of concentration to tease out precisely what is happening: none of the tracks here being straightforward, and most of them having a narrative form. I had been planning to write that it is an album best listened to as a whole, but over successive hearings I have focused upon certain songs and found that they do also work as standalone pieces: but be aware that 'Melotronical' is not background music.
A conceptual work such as this is bound to cause some reviewers to make comparisons with the likes of A A Lucassen's 'Ayreon' project, but I refuse to do so. Although the individual solo male and female vocals, plus interactive vocal and choral sections can at times be reminiscent thereof, it is their setting against strongly electronic, synthesized and percussive instrumentation that moves this album into an altogether different proposition. Furthermore, there is extensive use of Lehto's voice in creating a vast array of vocal sound textures. This is a complete triumph – and something that shines through ever brighter from repeated listens to this album.
Highlights include (at just over 8 minutes) the longest track 'Protonic Stream', which for all its twists and turns is also one of the most accessible here: and particularly the recurrent oriental imagery. Also worthy of checking out are 'Into Oblivion' with gentle introduction that creates a false sense of calm, given what is to come; 'Whispering Eyes' with its multi-layered vocals and terrific male/female vocal interplay and complex tempo changes; and also the absolutely stunning and dramatic 'Subatomic Tears' that concludes the penultimate stage of the story.
'Melotronical' is not an album for the faint-hearted nor anyone who prefers their music to come in less technical wrapping. However, for those of you wishing to have an emotionally-draining experience: you could be very pleasantly surprised by this bombastic and passionate album! The choice is – as ever – yours!
Paul Jerome Smith