French female fronted progressive band Asylum Pyre has released their third album with the title Spirited Away somewhere at the end of last year. Now, several months later the promo CD ended up on my desk for a review. Asylum Pyre is the band that guitarist and vocalist Johann Cadot founded in 2006, together with former bass player Julien Peuch. After their debut album; with a different vocalist, Chaos Heidi (Adeline) joined to front the band and a successor was released in 2012. Spirited Away sees drummer Vincent Kreyder, who joined the band before the previous release and new keyboard player Armendar (Arnaud Lavaina). Bass is provided by Headline's Christophe Babin and occasional guitar and solos come from the album's producer Didier Chesneau, who also hails from Headline.
Musically the album sees thirteen, overall compact compositions, just Soulburst clocks over five minutes. Two of them are instrumentals; In Hayao's Arms, a short spherical keyboard part that can be seen as the intro for the album's title track and a twenty-two second piece of silence, named Remembering, that builds the tension for the album's final track Fly, which is a collaboration of Johann's intense vocals, including a thick French accent and smooth keyboard that gently gains power towards the end. This poppy escapade is not quite an indication of how the whole album sounds and personally not a song that persuades me to hit play again. Nevertheless, we still have ten other songs to listen to; songs that see Heidi as main vocalist, doing a great job. Listen to the impressive opening track Second Shadow, which has a strong combination of piano and heavy guitar riffs, the vocal parts totally convince me when the chorus begins; catchy and recognizable. The spoken words parts and the flashy guitar solo gain extra points. Tough riffs and a nasty growl are the opening for the following The Silence Of Dreams. A song that both is melodic as well as heavy. After the short guitar and bass solo a weird part leads the song to a nice powerful end. With Only Your Soul and Unplug My Brain, the album starts to change a bit. The songs are very melodic, with catchy vocals, still heavy parts and flashy solos, but melody and vocals are the focus and the theatrical aspect starts to grow. The aforementioned Unplug My Brain still has a heavy base, but a poppy element takes over during this composition. A song like The White Room needs some time to bloom, this slow starter gently grows towards a very strong inspired guitar solo. Soulburst is, together with the opening track, my favourite song on the album, a mood changing composition, with female and brutal vocals, fine instrumental parts and a cool breakdown guitar solo. Shivers also has the female versus brutal combination, but lacks the diversity of Soulburst, although the song has strong guitar parts. Instants In Time is an electronic influenced poppy rock song, which in a way takes away the positive impression I had gotten from the powerful previous compositions.
In the end Spirited Away turns out to be an album with several faces, sometimes tough and heavy, other times soft and poppy. The final track Fly is in my opinion misplaced and does not do justice to the album. Nevertheless, Asylum Pyre has published a very acceptable album, which will absolutely find its way to the increasingly growing female fronted communion.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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