Fallen Angel is the third album by the Canadian quartet Dream Aria established by keyboard player Don Stagg, who found a confederate in drummer and producer Gary Flint. In search of a female vocalist they found Ann Burstyn, who became the band's leading lady. Acoustic guitar and bass player Jon Casselman joined the ranks several years ago. On the album, Dream Aria are assisted by six (!) guitarists: Mark Crossley, Kurt Schefter, Tim Welsh, Mike Phelps, Rob Masiokas and Mark McLay. On all songs at least one of them is playing the lead guitar.
Fallen Angel is my first encounter with the band and during the opening track with the same name my hair rises on end, because the first thing I notice is this horrible sounding drum computer and a very pop-orientated vocal line. However, beyond that point the vocals get better, but the repeating part from the beginning returns and that's not my cup of tea. The song itself is alright and the heavy guitar lines are a pleasure to listen to. Next is Gyspsy Heart, a progressive, gothic-like song. The vocals fit the music better and the keyboards in combination with the guitars sound great. Abstract Relations starts promising with a nice bass line, cool riffs and a kind of whispering vocal part. As the song goes on, some Middle Eastern influences pop up and turn it into a stunning song. On the following Tale Of The Two Wolves, the vocals turn into a poppier sound again, but the instrumental middle-section and the fabulous ending make it still a song to remember. On The Illusionist Ann Burstyn's vocals sound a bit more modern and passionate like Amy Lee (Evanescence), while Carnival Of Souls, a progressive and powerful epic piece wherein Burstyn doubles herself, reminds me of Lana Lane. For me the cool and relaxed song The Healer is the highlight of the album. It draws your attention by an emotional guitar part. Then back to pop again. The Gift with programmed drums sounds like No Doubt.. . This certainly isn't the best one; I like The Healer much better. Winter Storm, the final chapter of Fallen Angel sounds like a summer breeze: slow, smooth with a few soundscapes of thunder in between.
For me, Fallen Angel is a bit hard to judge. On the one hand I find the drum computer totally annoying especially when placed in the forefront. On the other hand, most songs are very good and the combination of the well-played keyboards and the great sounding guitars is a big plus. Sometimes it sounds as if the album has been recorded during several sessions with some songs having a progressive sound with a gothic twist, while the remainder is more pop and modern music. Well, as I said... hard to judge. It's not a bad album, but certainly not the best I've heard this year. I hope the angel will rise next time.
*** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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