Alhena is the second brightest star in the constellation Gemini at a distance of 105 light years from earth. Moreover, it's the name of a new Polish band formed in January 2010 by Piotr Kowalski (keyboards), Tomasz Bogulski (guitar), Piotr Grugel (drums) and Robert Puk (bass). After a few months of searching for a vocalist they found female singer Katarzyna Dziemianowicz. These musicians share the same passion for creating their own music instead of playing covers. They met shortly after leaving their previous rock bands. One year later they started to work on their first studio recordings which resulted in this eponymous EP.
This mini-album contains five tracks with a total playing time of 25 minutes on which they want to show what they're capable of. First song Trial is an up-tempo track which gives you the impression that you're dealing with a band that plays a fine blend of progressive rock and metal. Right from the start you'll hear that Tomasz Bogulski is a pretty good guitarist and that also applies to the singing of Katarzyna Dziemianowicz. Unfortunately she sings with too much of a Polish accent. That's a pity because a good pronunciation of the English language would have lifted the music to a higher level. The second song Better holds a perfect mix of mellow and up-tempo parts and this works very well. The only ballad is the third track You Lost Me. Again the guitarist shows his talents and reminds me of Steve Rothery (Marillion). The playing on the piano also shows how gifted Piotr Kowalski is. Breath is next and has again some fast and slow parts that reminds me more than once of Dutch gothic bands like Epica, Within Temptation and The Gathering. Again the excellent guitarist has a leading role in this piece. The final track Nemesis is a strong instrumental and the most progressive rock tune with well-played keyboards, just as on the other tracks. The keyboards mostly have a supportive role, but on Nemesis a short synthesizer solo can be heard. The music is quite similar to the style of their fellow countrymen of Riverside.
This eponymous EP by Alhena is a strong debut of a band that take their music seriously. If they continue making this kind of fine progressive rock music with a heavy edge, they certainly will get the attention they deserve. Only lead singer Katarzyna Dziemianowicz has to try a bit harder to sing the English lyrics without an accent. I know it's not easy for people from Poland to sing in the English language, but it's necessary in order to sound more professional and international.
*** + Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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