Keeping their heads down, these Finnish female-fronted symphonic rockers are entering a new chapter of their existence. The song-writing partnership of former lead vocalist Heidi Parviainen and Tuomas Seppälä are no more as the vocalist has moved to pastures new bringing about a long-held concept called Dark Sarah to fruition.
Sometimes these events bringing in new blood can rejuvenate the dynamics within the band and occasionally it does little to evolve an existing presence. In this instant, based on their first album of new original material with the partnership of Seppälä and new lead vocal talent Päivi “Capri” Virkkunen, it feels like the band are simply as good as they used to be. The status quo has been reached as you listen to Magic Forest from start to finish.
The ingredients one would expect to be present for a symphonic rock album are included. Rapid moments of speed metal occur where deemed suitable, vocal acrobatics add color and shade to the melodies that weave in and out of the arrangements. Fantastical backgrounds and worlds are painted by the lyrics and subtle strings pin down the added atmospherics and epic underlying values. Outbursts of bombastic playing drive the performances to familiar heights, and drama is never far around the corner.
With new singer Capri already getting to exercise her vocal cords on last year’s Re-Evolution where the band remastered the musical backdrop and simply replaced Parviainen’s performances with that of Virkkunen, many existing fans will be prepared for what is contained on Magic Forest. The only issue which applies to listening to this album is how much it gets overshadowed by albums by similar artists.
The band is open in their sentiments regarding not competing amongst the plethora of female-fronted symphonic acts, yet those music fans that have purchased Xandria’s new album, or the Delain album, Within Temptation album or any other of the long-playing releases that have flooded the market in recent months, will want to know they’re buying something special. Whilst listening to Magic Forest, they may well feel the album is good and consistent, but not quite reaching the dizzy heights they would be hoping for.
Magic Forest feels like a stepping stone to something greater which is around the corner as the band’s chemistry strengthens, and their internal growth continues to evolve. Highlights like Dance of Life, I’m Still Here and the title track all show a great deal of promise and provide hope for the future. If they have the luxury of time, then there is a truly excellent album to come. But for now the bystanders and admirers of this area of the rock scene will bear witness to an album reflecting a band coming to terms with a slightly different internal chemistry. There is indeed magic to be found in this forest.