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Serenity - War of Ages
CD Reviews
Written by Sara Letourneau   
Monday, 01 April 2013
Serenity CD Review
War of Ages
Serenity - War of Ages


CD Info

2013

Napalm Records
10 Tracks

English Lyrics



No one was surprised when Serenity announced in January that Clémentine Delauney had joined the band as a full-time member. She had been the backing vocalist on the Austrian symphonic power metallers’ Death & Legacy tour since late 2011. However, it wasn’t until I listened to Serenity’s upcoming fourth album, War of Ages, that I realized how the presence of the ex-Whyzdom singer gives Serenity a unique edge. Sure, it’s common nowadays for male-fronted metal bands to invite female singers on their tours and studio recordings. But Serenity is the first I’m aware of to become a dual-vocal band, with the female singer consistently contributing either lead or background vocals. Kamelot haven’t even taken that extra step yet with Elize Ryd of Amaranthe. That’s one reason why War of Ages will help Serenity distance themselves from their more well-known counterparts.

War of Ages, Serenity’s darkest album to date, presents an interesting play of contrasts. The symphonics, though still prominent, let Thomas Buchburger’s guitarwork drive the music this time; and certain tracks throb with some of the band’s heaviest riffs and rhythms to date. The lyrical concept is also bleaker, continuing the historical slant of Death & Legacy but focusing on themes such as war, loss, and betrayal. Oddly enough, Delauney’s feminine caress complements Serenity’s evolved sound. The harmonies in particular sparkle more because of her emotive soprano voice, which reminds me of Sharon den Adel’s at times. Georg Neuhauser, however, is still the centerpiece of Serenity’s sound. He commands each track on War of Ages with his husky, charismatic voice and irresistible melodies. His expressiveness makes each Serenity record an exciting experience.

War of Ages contains the most dynamics and variety Serenity have delivered. Familiar aesthetics such as symphonic climaxes and bombastic choirs thrive alongside new elements like thundering breakdowns ("The Matricide"), waltz-like time signatures ("Symphony For The Quiet"), and groovy guitar hooks ("Tannenberg," "Royal Pain"). And Serenity excel when they fuse old sounds with new. "The Art Of War" is a fantastic example. During the verses, Neuhauser’s low register climbs over threatening riffs and strings. Serenity have never tried this combination before – and not only does it work, but it also makes this already-grand song even more epic.

The obvious highlight of War of Ages is its use of two singers. Serenity treat the listener to different combinations of Neuhauser and Delauney’s lead and background vocals. However, the three duets will be the album’s most talked-about songs. "Wings Of Madness" feels like classic Serenity while introducing us to Delauney and proving that she fits the band’s cinematic style. "For Freedom’s Sake," the lone ballad, falls victim to trite lyrics, but both vocalists improve it by giving their most convincing performances on the album. Even more surprising is "Royal Pain," the somber, 80s-esque finale with Neuhauser opting for emotion on the verses and Delauney soaring through the chorus. It’s an affecting conclusion to War of Ages – and considering Serenity’s closing tracks on their previous albums have disappointed me, it’s also incredibly satisfying.

If I had to compare all of Serenity’s albums to date, I’d say that War of Ages is the best-sounding of the bunch. It benefits from the same sharp final mix as Death & Legacy and from more stand-out performances from all band members and more balanced instrumentation than on its overly bombastic predecessor. War of Ages is also a tighter record, with fewer songs (10 tracks compared to Death & Legacy’s 16, which included three interludes) of consistent strength. That said, Death & Legacy still edges out War of Ages in overall quality. I enjoy all of the new songs, but none of them leap to the same stratospheric heights as the best moments on Death & Legacy or on Serenity’s two earlier albums. Also, I would have liked to have heard Delauney a little more often on War of Ages. You can’t detect her voice in the background on a couple of the Neuhauser-led tracks. Then again, this is Serenity’s first album with two singers. I have no doubts the band will experiment further with this approach on their next release.

Ultimately, War of Ages delivers what fans and critics have come to expect from Serenity: powerful, exquisite, and entertaining symphonic power metal. And regardless of any criticisms you may have about Serenity’s music, you’ll find yourself immersed in its majesty and enjoying the journey each time. The band has matured tremendously since their 2007 debut album, Words Untold And Dreams Unlived. Asking Delauney to share the vocal spotlight with Neuhauser for War of Ages, however, may be Serenity’s best creative decision so far. How will they experiment with the dual-vocal concept from here? Well, if I were you, I’d keep my eyes and ears open so I can find out.

8.25 / 10

Best Songs: "Wings Of Madness," "Royal Pain," "The Art Of War"

Recommended for fans of Serenity’s previous album Death & Legacy, Kamelot, Nightwish, Xandria, or other power or symphonic metal bands

War of Ages is available for pre-order at Serenity’s webshop and will be released by Napalm Records on the following dates:

March 22nd (Germany / Austria / Switzerland / Benelux)
March 27th (Spain / Finland / Sweden / Norway)
April 1st (Rest of Europe)
April 9th (United States / Canada)

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