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Heliosaga - Towers in the Distance

Heliosaga - CD Review
Towers in the Distance




CD Info
10 Tracks
English Lyrics
Rating: 8/10

I have to admit that when I agreed to review Towers in the Distance, Hellosaga’s inaugural LP, I was expecting the usual faire one gets when listening to a hybrid Female Fronted Symphonic Metal Band: High octane verses with midi programmed drums and a bit of overindulgence thrown in for good measure. I’ve recently been involved in a lot of discussions involving the use of “hooks” in Metal and how bands that effectively incorporate them seem to be tagged with the “Pop” label, as if sounding appealing to a broad audience is somehow a bad quality to have. To the contrary, I’ve always been a fan of big, heavy hooks and “Towers” has plenty of them, enough to keep my interest throughout the duration of the LP.

The band was founded by guitarist/keyboardist Damien Villareal and drummer Jordan Ames in San Antonio, Texas. After some line-up shuffling, a five song demo was released with the band relocating to Minnesota, where Chelsea Knaack joined as Lead Vocalist. The band recorded, then released a single in 2013 and subsequently resumed writing Towers in the Distance which hit the stands last month and has been receiving solid reviews.

Upon first listen, an immediate impact is made on the LP’s first track “A Tower So Tall.” The band wastes no time getting straight to the point with a hard hitting but ambient verse displaying some dynamic staccato picking by Damien underpinned nicely by Ames’ solid percussion. The track then transitions nicely into a bright but catchy chorus. This seems to be a formula the band cleverly crafts throughout Towers in the Distance, and this is a recipe that will serve them well should they be seeking the support of a label, as the LP is self- released.

Also making a strong impact is Vocalist Chelsea Knaack, who shows extremely solid tonal control throughout. Her expression and tone at times may seem a bit redundant, but she stays within her comfort zone brilliantly and thankfully not a shrill note can be heard. Especially strong is her performance on “Scarlett Sphere,” the LP’s second track. Chelsea’s performance is pristine and is punctuated by some strong axe work by Damien.

Some other highlights include the “Hideaway,” the LP’s fourth track, which like the first has a strong introduction from the start. However, on this track an introspective, ethereal acoustic verse by Damien provides the setting. It’s important to note that Damien displays exceptional guitar playing through the duration of the LP, as his solos and phrases are invariably well constructed and executed with precision. Worth mentioning too is the record’s sixth track, “Memorativa” which is highlighted by some soulful and dexterous vocal work from Knaack and yet another dynamic chorus with verses refreshingly making solid transitions through the song’s entirety. Another highlight for me was the LP’s eighth track “Edenscar,” highlighted by some fine Old School verses, cool breaks, thumping drums and powerhouse vocals. The only track that seems to bomb for me would be “Luminary” which seems to lack the momentum and sense of urgency of the previous track. Towers in the Distance ends with the majestic “All Souls” which lasts almost ten minutes but is filled with clever breaks and cuts throughout. Towers in the Distance is a solid from top to bottom. The songwriting, lyrics, and musicianship and production make this an LP that hits on all cylinders. I particularly liked how the engineering allowed the guitars to be amped up giving the record a bit more edge than you might normally get from Hybrid Symphonic band. The mastering is also crystal clear, which is quite refreshing to hear in an age when many aspiring artists attempt, often to their peril, to go it alone in the engineering department. Solid production and engineering is the proverbial icing on the cake and Hellosaga obviously was aware of this. In summary, Towers in the Distance is a very strong debut all the way around for Hellosaga.