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Heleno Vale's Soulspell Metal Opera - 'Labyrinth Of Truths' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 02, 2011    
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The second installment of Brazilian drummer Heleno Vale's metal opera project.

This is the second installment of Brazilian drummer Heleno Vale's metal opera project, the very tasty 'A Legacy Of Honour' not yet having received a European release. 'Labyrinth Of Truths' is also a wonderfully delicious proposition, but is in parts much heavier than its predecessor and is very definitely a METAL album – more Avantasia and Savatage than, say, Ayreon and Pictorial Wand. And my mention of Savatage is not merely serendipitous, because amongst the plethora of guest appearances that HV has attracted to perform on this album are none other than former Savatage protagonists Jon Oliva and Zak Stevens who respectively voice the Insanity and the Conscience inside the Labyrinth on 'Into The Arc Of Time'. I'm not going to suggest this is typecasting!

The huge sound and production moves the listener through a series of moods and musical elements, the ensemble of Brazilian musicians (including HV himself) underpinning the vocal lines delivered by no fewer than twenty players: each one voicing a different character in the story. It is therefore in structural terms that the album is operatic, rather than in the style of the performances. I would be the first to admit that this is a highly complex work (much more so than 'Legacy' in fact) and it certainly takes some following and digesting – but it is one of those experiences where the embedded flavours and seasoning inevitably come to the fore from cumulative listens.

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After the majestic and powerful intro 'The Entrance', both the title track and 'Dark Prince's Dawn' offer intense, nay ferocious metal – the explosive mixture of bombastic instrumentation and fantastic underlying vocal melodies talking absolutely no prisoners, so it's something of a relief when the longest track on the album – 'Amon's Fountain' initially slows things down. There are some great vocals here, and guest guitarist Roland Grapow provides a couple of fine solos. The previously mentioned 'Into The Arc Of Time' has the two former Savatage colleagues trading vocal lines and a nice touch is the inclusion of a brief excerpt from this band's 'Streets' album. 'Adrift' is a wonderful song, and features absolutely delightful vocal interplay between Daisa Munhoz and Lucas Martins. 'The Verve' also starts with the vocals of Daisa Munhoz, but this number develops into a snarling beast of a song before giving way to a calmer interlude and a dramatic conclusion. Final song, 'A Secret Compartment' is another very strong number – tremendously heavy in parts - and featuring the compelling vocals of Manuela Saggioro and Edu Falaschi. But why does it conclude such a bold album with a fade?

I am confident that this album will attract sufficient attention for 'Legacy' to gain a European release, and I certainly look forward to the third part of what I believe is going to be a triptych of CDs with an overarching theme. Heleno Vale has certainly set himself a very high standard to maintain, because the first two parts are little short of amazing!

To conclude, I must mention two items of minutiae. Firstly, beware the stated track timings: none are correct, and several are badly awry! Secondly, look out for RIPs to MJ and RJD hidden in the CD booklet; a nice touch!

Paul Jerome Smith

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