Album Review – Once / After Earth (2018)

Inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, this talented German squad will take you to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery with their debut full-length album.

Heavily inspired by neo-romantic soundtrack music, and including typical elements of a classical Aristotelian drama combined with heavy guitars and drums in their music, German Symphonic Metal act Once has been embellishing the airwaves with their unique musicality since their inception in 2012 in North Rhine-Westphalia, culminating now in 2018 with the release of their debut full-length album, entitled After Earth. If you’re an admirer of the classy and enfolding Symphonic Metal crafted by iconic bands like Epica, Nightwish, Within Temptation and Beyond The Black, the creations by this German quartet comprised of Alina Lesnik on vocals, Marco Paulzen on the guitars, bass and harsh vocals, Frank Wypchol on keyboards, piano and orchestrations, and Alexander Hey on drums will certainly please your metallic soul.

Featuring a curious artwork by Tullius Heuer and orchestra and choir arrangements by Frank Wypchol, produced by Frank Wypchol and Marco Paulzen, recorded and engineered by Marco Paulzen in Münster, Germany, and having as a very special guest musician Shir-Ran Yinon (Krayenzeit, Haggard, Eluveitie and New Model Army) on violin, After Earth will take the listener to a world of fantasy, passion and mystery, which combined with the band’s imposing musicality and the album’s crisp and vibrant production will fully captivate your senses, making you eager for more of the music by this talented German squad. In other words, simply hit play, close your eyes, and let Once guide you through the exciting lands of After Earth.

Like the intro to an epic movie, Act 1 (Overture) invites us all to join Once in their musical journey starting with the imposing and symphonic Awake, a lesson in Symphonic Power Metal led by the classic keys and piano by Frank, with Alina living up to the legacy of stunning vocalists like Tarja Turunen and Floor Jansen. Then even more symphonic than its predecessor, My Masterpiece showcases another excellent performance by Frank with his keys while Marco brings passion to the music with his riffs and solos, as well as Alexander and his thunderous beats; followed by The Allure, presenting guest Shir-Ran Yinon and her whimsical violin in a beautiful feast of symphonic and melodic sounds and tones. Furthermore, Alina is magnificent on vocals, while Marco creates a very interesting paradox to the tenderness of the violin with his heavier-than-hell riffs.

Again featuring Shir-Ran Yinon, Distorted Smiles is a serene ballad where Alina smoothly declaims the song’s classy lyrics (“Winter’s fingers creeping chillingly / Across the rusty window bar / Through the stormy blizzard rings / A weary melody coming from afar”) before their crushing Symphonic Metal strikes again in The Hour of Eden’s Fall, presenting stylish words (“Images of a bursting sanity / Are turning into a lost reflection / Of the eternal bond of our affection / Painting the moment as a memory / Once my only world was your embrace / Now my heart is buried and erased”) and incendiary performances by Marco and Alexander, bringing rage and electricity to the music with their harsh growls, cutting riffs and nonstop beats. After such powerful display of symphonic music, a cinematic bridge titled Act II (Intermezzo) builds an imposing and adventurous atmosphere for the power ballad My Fairytale, with Alina stealing the spotlight with her fiery vocals while Frank and his keys and orchestrations add tons of electricity to the overall result, being perfect for fans of Epica and Nightwish.

Spiced up by a stunning work done on the piano by Frank we have Phenomena, a metallic symphony of sounds that feels like the soundtrack to a dangerous but thrilling adventure, with Marco carving the word “metal” onto the musicality with his Melodic Metal riffs and bass punches, connecting instantly with the Opera Metal-inspired tune The Sins of Saints, keeping the ambience vibrant and exciting with Frank and Marco being on absolute fire throughout the entire song, slashing our senses and dragging us to their fantastic world of heavy music. Then in Insane Schemes of Sanity an ethereal start morphs into a classy and gentle Symphonic Power Metal extravaganza, flirting with Folk Metal at times thanks to its pace and breaks, as well as Frank’s keys and Alina’s storytelling vocals, whereas in The Final Stage, where Shir-Ran Yinon embellishes the musicality once again with her magic violin, we’re treated to over 10 minutes of first-class Symphonic Metal led by Alina’s gorgeous vocal lines, all embraced by vibrant, stunning orchestrations and boosted by Marco’s deep roars, flowing flawlessly for our total delight until its grand finale, before Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) concludes this album of symphony, melody and epicness in a beyond enfolding and theatrical way, mesmerizing our senses for over six minutes with its gentle piano notes and orchestral background elements.

It’s quite impossible to stand still or unemotional while listening to Once, especially if you’re a longtime fan of stylish, epic and heavy orchestral music, and in order to show your appreciation for such distinct band go check what they’re up to on Facebook, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and purchase your copy of After Earth, a gorgeous lecture in Symphonic Metal, from the Pride & Joy Music webstore, from MBM Music By Mail, from the NEH Records webstore, from iTunes, or from Amazon. Once will certainly take you on a fantastic musical journey with After Earth, showing you how relevant Symphonic Metal still is nowadays, and how inspiring it can be in your everyday life.

Best moments of the album: The Allure, The Hour of Eden’s Fall, Phenomena and The Final Stage.

Worst moments of the album: Insane Schemes of Sanity.

Released in 2018 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Act 1 (Overture) 2:04
2. Awake 4:19
3. My Masterpiece 3:40
4. The Allure (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:59
5. Distorted Smiles (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 3:52
6. The Hour of Eden’s Fall 4:45
7. Act II (Intermezzo) 2:12
8. My Fairytale 3:55
9. Phenomena 4:35
10. The Sins of Saints 3:57
11. Insane Schemes of Sanity 4:31
12. The Final Stage (feat. Shir-Ran Yinon) 10:18
13. Epilogue (A Memento of Our Hiraeth) 5:51

Band members
Alina Lesnik – vocals
Marco Paulzen – guitars, bass, harsh vocals
Frank Wypchol – keyboards, piano, orchestrations
Alexander Hey – drums

Guest musician
Shir-Ran Yinon – violin on “The Allure”, “Distorted Smiles” and “The Final Stage”