Eleine – Dancing In Hell
Black Lodge Records
Release Date: 27/11/2020
Running Time: 50:16
Review by Dark Juan
Good afternoon from a remarkably quiescent Dark Juan Terrace. The hated yellow ball of fire in the sky is trying to pierce the gloom of a typical winter day in Yorkshire and I find myself reclining upon the chaise longue in the darkened second receiving room, ruminating gently about my life and what delights my recalcitrant young gentlemen are going to perpetrate upon me tomorrow when I go to work and do some wrangling… As I stare introspectively out of the window to gaze upon the full magnificence of the freshly washed Mighty Gothikpanzer and the recently applied MFP Interceptor decals on it (the black on black Pursuit Special from Mad Max is my dream motor, complete with massive Weiand supercharger, thank you please. Seeing as I have champagne tastes and lemonade funds, the purchase of a large V8 supercar will have to wait and the Gothikpanzer will just have to look ridiculous) you will find me listening to the latest release by Swedish symphonic metal band Eleine. Regular readers of my nonsense will no doubt remember that I reviewed Aeternitas recently, and I didn’t like it, finding it weak, derivative and mechanical. One wonders whether this bunch of worthy Swedes will fall into the same trap of listening to Tarja era Nightwish and then copying it lock, stock and barrel and basically turning in an entire album composed of variations of ‘Dark Chest Of Wonders’, or whether they dodge the pitfalls and turn in something of quality and interest.
Let us plunge neck deep into some Scandinavian gothic splendour and see whether it meets my lofty ideals then, shall we? After you… No, I insist!
My first impression on opening track ‘Enemies’ is that it has a fucking sexy guitar sound. The guitar is masterfully produced, being meaty and thick but retaining clarity and having a filthy dirty crunch to it. The keyboards are also superb, cutting through the mix with power but not overpowering the rest of the band and adding a mightily gothic overture to the overall sound. Vocally, lead warbler Madeleine Liljestam doesn’t have the strongest vibrato, but sensibly plays to her strengths and her similarity to a lower pitched Sharon Den Adel is to her credit, never overstepping her abilities and adding that touch of feminine beauty and power that this style of symphonic metal works so well with. The rest of the band are also very good indeed. Drummer Jesper Sunnhagen is a splendid tubthumper and the production on the drums is spot on, although a minor gripe is that the snare sound is curiously lifeless, but his double bass work is absolutely SPOT ON! He’s at his absolute finest on ‘Where Your Rotting Corpse Lies’, which enjoys some rapid double bass drumming and some excellent counter-beat work from the whole band. Guitarist Rikard Ekberg, as well as being a fucking good player, also has an engaging growl which is all the more effective for being employed sparingly. The vocal interplay between sweet female mezzo and acid-spitting growl is enjoyable and again not overdone.
So far, so good! Eleine stand head and shoulders over Aeternitas and are busily stomping the German pretenders into the dirt. This is gothic symphonic metal done right and doesn’t sacrifice heaviness for pomposity, and while I can hear Nightwish (they are going to be a pervasive influence in this style of metal, considering their reputation) in the sound of Eleine, they at least take in aspects of Within Temptation and After Forever’s more radio friendly output to serve us a polished, heavy and enjoyable album. In fact, I’d say Within Temptation are the major influence of Eleine’s sound, but Eleine are much MUCH heavier than that Dutch combo. This record isn’t just symphonic, it’s cinematic. It’s easy to close your eyes and imagine a sword, sandals and sorcery epic with Eleine as the soundtrack. This has now become an issue, my fecund and twisted imagination has now given me Madeleine clad in plate armour, dancing through wicked foes and dispatching them with grace and style with her sword, Rikard by her side wielding twin battleaxes, splitting enemy skulls in wide, blood spraying arcs, Jesper as a warrior archmage spitting ethereal fire from his fingertips and bass player Anton Helgesson swinging a blood soaked warhammer in a berserker rage as they wade through piles of orc corpses towards the dark and evil castle at the end of the mountain pass they are traversing… Fucking hell, I’m easily distracted and “blessed” with a vivid imagination…
So, this album is a bit of a banger then! And just to make it harder to rid myself of the mental image I have constructed of a warrior band slaughtering their way to glory, Eleine then unleash an entirely operatic and symphonic version of the ninth song ‘Die From Within’ at the end of the record as a bonus and that’s Dark Juan lost in fantasies of joining this band of Scandinavian marauders and sharing their glory as we slaughter our way to the very top of Fantasy World’s hero list in the name of righteousness…
Having pulled myself back together and dragged myself back to reality with the help of preparing some chicken and sweetcorn soup for the ailing Mrs Dark Juan who is reclining on her sofa of pain opposite me, I can tell you that the highlights of this record, for this Hellpriest anyway, are ‘Where Your Rotting Corpse Lies’ which is one of the most bombastic pieces of music I have ever heard and is almost Wagnerian in scope, the incendiary ‘Crawl From The Ashes’ and the gothically sumptuous symphonic version of ‘Die From Within’. To sum it all up, this is a damned fine symphonic metal record, bordering on battle metal in places with only a couple of compromises. I can’t help but think that with some training, Madeleine could become a truly spectacular singer of the calibre of Floor Jansen, and that the band rely on chugging a little too much in a couple of parts. Otherwise, fucking brilliant!
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Det patenterade mörka Juan-blodsprutningssystemet – or words to that effect) awards Eleine 9/10 for an excellent gothic symphonic metal record that smears Aeternitas all over the nearest wall. Sumptuous, richly produced, expansively written and an essential purchase if you enjoy the beauty of female vocals offsetting metal power. Tack, Eleine, för att jag fick älska symfonisk metall igen!
02. Dancing In Hell
03. Ava Of Death
04. Crawl From The Ashes
05. As I Breathe
Where Your Rotting Corpse Lies (It says Lie on the blurb but I’m correcting it because it hurts my grammar Nazi head can’t cope with it…)
07. All Shall Burn
08. Die From Within
09. The World We Know
10. Die From Within (Symphonic Version)
Madeleine “Eleine” Liljestam – Vocals
Rikard Ekberg – Guitar and Growls
Jesper Sunnhagen – Drums
Anton Helgesson – Bass
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