At the Lake - Maya 4/5

Reviewed: 3-1-12





Tracklist:

1. Tomorrow I will fly...
2. Live again
3. Forget
4. Like a northern wind
5. The spring of forgiveness
6. Running out of time
7. Neverland train
8. The perfect man
9. Karma
10. Sonne
11. Dziecko we mgle


At the Lake is a symphonic folk metal band from Poland and this is their full-length debut studio CD, following their lengthy 's/t' EP. Their songs are generally catchy, upbeat, festive and folksy along with pensive, often brooding and melancholy, but very melodic passages. This is an unusual interplay of styles which At the Lake weaves together seamlessly, making for a refreshingly unique sounding CD in a very popular and crowded genre. The folk melodies are almost entirely violin driven while the keys supply the symphonic feel. The guitars are a mix of clean and lightly crunchy, making the power level a bit short of metal, though there are frequent unmistakably power metal instrumental passages throughout. The pensive passages are most often heavy acoustic.

Though ‘Maya’ is somewhat unique in its folk music approach, it’s really unique in its choice of vocalist Natalia Sikora. Her delivery is quite unusual and may well be an acquired taste requiring several listens to appreciate, as it was for me. Though she sings in English (except for the last song) she has a distinct Eastern European accent; yet her pronunciation is so perfect it’s almost as if she’s singing in an odd dialect of English. She has a very strong and engaging alto style with a wide range of expression, from sincere and earnest to intense and dramatic to melancholy and pensive. This makes her just as much at home with the festive passages as she is with the brooding ones.

It’s easy to imagine a blend of festive folk metal and pensive melodic metal sounding confused, forced and directionless, so it’s all the more amazing how well ‘Maya’ is able to blend them into a flowing, coherent tapestry of conflicting emotions. This sets At the Lake apart from the myriad of “happy” folk metal bands, yet it should appeal to fans of that genre who enjoy a bit more challenging diversity in their music.



CHRIS




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