Album Review – Angelwings / The Edge Of Innocence (2017)

Let the Gibraltarian angels of Symphonic Metal spread their wings and fly as high as the sun to the sound of their dense, melodic and absolutely amazing debut album.

Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, might be home to only around 35,000 people, but it surely has its importance in the world of heavy music since 2013 when the excellent female-fronted Symphonic Metal act Angelwings was born. Originally conceived as a cover band for Finnish Symphonic Metal icons Nightwish by a group of experienced musicians that had been in the Gibraltar local music scene for some time, and who had played in different bands a wide variety of musical genres, Angelwings soon evolved to a much bolder and interesting project, becoming then the first ever Symphonic Metal band hailing from the small but stunning Gibraltar (you can even get some nice-to-know details about the band and each one of its members on this special article from The Gibraltar Magazine).

It didn’t take long for Angelwings to start working on their own original material, with their first demo track titled “Wonderland” being posted on YouTube in January 2015, consequently attracting attention from local and international media. Two more demos have followed since, “Memories” and “Forbidden Love”, increasing the band’s exposure in places like Argentina, Spain and the UK, which led the band to support Heavy Metal legends Saxon at the Hard N’ Heavy festival in Gibraltar in June 2015 and to perform at the Gibraltar Music Festival in September 2015. Now in 2017 the world has just witnessed the birth of Angelwings’ debut full-length opus, titled The Edge Of Innocence, an album that beautifully represents their deep passion for symphonic music, their undeniable capacity of creating captivating songs, and their extreme dedication to the band as a whole, paying a very detailed attention to everything that surrounds them, from the intricate songwriting to the band’s logo, the album’s cover art and design, their outfits and their live performances. In other words, Angelwings can be considered a role model to underground metal bands, and after listening to The Edge Of Innocence you’ll see why the sky is the limit for the band’s aspiring wings.

The band’s skillful keyboardist Glenn Cano ignites the symphonic journey titled Wonderland with his melodic keys, being joined by the rest of the band until the smooth vocals by lead singer Divi Cano bring sheer joy to our hearts. Furthermore, this amazing born-to-be-a-hit composition will please all fans of Symphonic Metal the likes of Nightwish and After Forever, as well as fans of the more alternative sounds by Evanescence, with its singalong chorus sticking deep into your mind so catchy it is (“Empty castles / In a foreign land out / In the darkness / My dark bliss / Empty castles / A never ending thrill / In the darkness / My dark bliss”). As symphonic and epic as the opening track, but showcasing heavier riffs by guitarist Paul P. Cano and stronger beats by drummer Mark Brooks, Game of Life has a somewhat Pop Rock vibe without losing its metallic essence, making it perfect for some good radio exposure; while Forbidden Love is a gripping power ballad where Divi steals the spotlight with her delicate but potent vocals, always supported by the solid instrumental crafted by the rest of the band (in special by Glenn and his spot-on keys), not to mention Paul’s soulful guitar solo.

Then a melancholic, serene intro led by the smooth piano notes by Glenn evolves into an enfolding ballad named Memories, which will undoubtedly touch your heart, with Divi once again showcasing all the beauty in her vocals while the atmosphere remains dense and captivating from start to finish. Following that comforting moment we have Lilith, bringing forward traditional Symphonic Metal with a passionate performance by Divi, intensified by the excellent job done by Paul on the guitar and the song’s epic vibe, and The Fallen, where the band enhances the progressiveness of their already well-engendered Melodic Metal, also bringing hints of modern Hard Rock added to their pleasant musicality and with bassist Darren Fa together with Mark and Glenn generating a dark and dense ambience with their respective instruments. And epicness and melancholic walk hand in hand in the full-bodied creation entitled Nile Goddess, where Glenn is once again the one responsible for the music’s initial shape. Moreover, the duo Divi on vocals and Darren on bass creates an interesting paradox of sounds, both being effectively supported by the song’s thrilling guitar lines and intricate beats.

Eerie sounds kick off the longest of all songs, the title-track The Edge of Innocence, a symphonic journey through the realms of fantasy and madness where the whole band is in absolute sync, providing Divi all she needs to shine with her emotional vocals. Simply enjoy the song’s majestic aura led by the charming Divi and the beyond talented Glenn, before being stunned by another kick-ass traditional Symphonic Metal aria titled Embracing Fantasy, which offers the listener an outstanding marriage of guitars, bass and keyboards, while Mark keeps the song’s pace as epic and emotive as possible, culminating in a atmospheric ending. And closing this exquisite and enthralling album the band brings forth more of their characteristic melody and feeling in The Legend & the Myth, a “half ballad-half waltz” creation presenting once again a mesmerizing performance by Divi, leaving the doors open for another round of high-end Symphonic Metal by Angelwings in the near future.

If you want to know more about this promising quintet from Gibraltar, go check what the band is up to on their Facebook page, listen to their music on YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify, and grab your copy of The Edge Of Innocence at the Pride & Joy Music webstore at the MBM webstore, on iTunes or on Amazon. I’m sure that, after The Edge Of Innocence, the Gibraltarian angels of Symphonic Metal will spread their metallic wings and fly higher and higher in their career, becoming one of the most important and inspiring names in modern symphonic music.

Best moments of the album: Wonderland, Memories, Lilith and Nile Goddess.

Worst moments of the album: The Fallen.

Released in 2017 Pride & Joy Music

Track listing
1. Wonderland 4:35
2. Game of Life 3:57
3. Forbidden Love 4:09
4. Memories 4:44
5. Lilith 4:19
6. The Fallen 5:15
7. Nile Goddess 6:34
8. The Edge of Innocence 8:29
9. Embracing Fantasy 6:02
10. The Legend & the Myth 5:46

Band members
Divi Cano – vocals
Paul P. Cano – guitar
Darren Fa – bass
Glenn Cano – keyboards, orchestrations
Mark Brooks – drums

Advertisements

Metal Chick of the Month – Morgan Lacroix

morgan01

In your nightmares you will find me… In this twilight you will taste my embrace…

Whenever a female performer is selected to be the Metal Chick of the Month here at The Headbanging Moose, she’s not chosen only because of her skills as a musician, but mainly due to her significant contribution to the development of women in the world of heavy music. Having said that, it couldn’t be different this month with our metallic diva, the darkling Italian succubus Morgan Lacroix (or MorgaN LacroiX), the sexy frontwoman, lyricist, composer, producer and (why not?) lady vampire of Italian Gothic/Dark/Industrial Metal band Mandragora Scream (also spelled MandragorA ScreaM). Are you ready for a journey through the dark realms of vampirism with our enigmatic modern-day medusa?

It was more than obvious that I wouldn’t be able to find anything about Morgan’s age, place of birth or music background. We’re talking about a vampire, creatures that, above all things, must remain in the shadows and keep their lives as secret as possible. Well, as Mandragora Scream is a band from the comune of Lucca, located on the Serchio river in Italy’s Tuscany region and famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls, let’s assume she was also born in that same city. Whatever she did between being born and founding Mandragora Scream is something yet to be revealed by Morgan Lacroix herself, which means the focus will be solely on her career with the band.

Although Mandragora Scream were formed back in 1997 by Morgan, it was only in 1999 that the band released its debut self-titled demo containing four songs. Then in 2000 Morgan was introduced to Italian singer, guitarist and composer Terry Horn, and that artistic union resulted in their first full-length album, entitled Fairy Tales from Hell’s Caves, released in the year of 2001. According to the band, “Fairy Tales is definitely a concept album: a trip throughout the Dantean Hell, tormented by passion, anguish and insanity, where the character of Virgil is surprisingly replaced by an unusual bewitching vampire fairy.”

After that amazing debut, the band released the albums A Whisper of Dew (2003), Madhouse (2006), Volturna (2009) and Luciferland (2012), as well as the singles Jeanne d’Arc (2007) and From the Heart (2010), and a DVD named Dragonfly (2008), always providing us the lustful voice of our diva of darkness and also her own devilish touch to all lyrics, cover artwork, mixing, mastering, production and booklets. In addition, from those releases, A Whisper of Dew is also a concept album, centered on a vampire story purposely written for the band by Julio Angel Olivares Merino, horror-gothic literature writer and teacher of English Philosophy at the Spanish University of Jaén. Drawing inspiration from this tale, Lacroix composed the entire album lyrics. Also, in regards to their latest album Luciferland, there’s an interesting and extensive three-part interview on YouTube where both Morgan and Terry discuss about the album with Metal Hammer, which can be seen HERE, HERE and HERE.

Mandragora Scream are also featured on the international compilations Beauty in the Darkness Vol. 5 (2001), Mystic Art (2001), Nuclear Blast Vol. 6 (2001), Off Road Tracks Vol. 45 (2003) and Beautiful Voices (2005), toured with renowned dark bands Christian Death and The 69 Eyes in 2010 and with British Extreme Metal masters Cradle of Filth in 2011, and were the special guests in the 2010 edition of the Fantasy Horror Award. There are numerous videos on YouTube (and other platforms) where you can relish Morgan’s alluring vocals, sensuous moves and bewitching performance, as for instance in the songs A Vision They Shared, Blight Thrills, Medusa, Blindness, Breaking Dawn, Silent Lullabies, Bloody Ballade, the whimsical The Chant of Furies, and her awesome cover version for Cher’s Bang Bang, among others. Besides her work with Mandragora Scream, you can find Madame Lacroix lending her voice to the bonus song Watch Me Crawl Behind, from the 2012 album Happy Deathday by Greek Gothic Metal band SadDolls, and to the song The Promise, from the 2004 album Follow Me by Italian Power Metal band Wonderland.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When asked in 2001 to provide more details about the history of Mandragora Scream, her explanation was beyond eccentric. In her own words, “The history of the name Mandragora Scream goes back to the medieval period. At that time witches used a root to make love and death potions called ‘Mandragora’.This root with man-shape was generated by the ejaculations of a hanged man and it needed to be pulled out from the earth with particular magic rites during full moon nights. When extracting the root from earth, witches had to be very careful not to break the arms or legs of the root, otherwise it would have screamed so loud to bring witches to death.” Interesting, isn’t it?

In regards to her unique style, our vampire queen mentioned her lyrics and the atmosphere found in her music reflect her soul, her life and her personality, preserving that way her own musical identity. Furthermore, Morgan grew up with fairy tales, in which she truly believes, feeling and living her own life like a fairy tale. In one of her old interviews, Morgan mentioned she wrote a book (probably in 2000) that is a fairy tale for her angels in the form of decadent poetry called “The Ballad Of The Angels”, but yet again I couldn’t find anything online about that book. It should be a very interesting and unusual reading, if that has ever been published, of course.

Another remarkable fact about her personal life is that she doesn’t actually feel Italian as her ancient blood is Transylvanian, and because of that she is fascinated with Dante’s La Divina Comedia (The Divine Comedy), considering it a masterpiece (who doesn’t?) as it deals with the dead and eternal pain.  And to make things even more complex, Morgan also loves the Scandinavian culture and is attracted to Vikings. Add to that her lovely obsession for fairy tales, and there you have one of the most distinctive and diverse fusion of topics you can think of.

Her favorite albums of all time are a classy mix of progressiveness, passion and liveliness, and do not expect to find anything too Gothic, modern or ghoulish on her list, as it includes Blackmore’s Night’s best album to date Shadow of the Moon, Dream Theater’s classic album Metropolis, Pink Floyd’s masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon, King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon, Yes’ Close to the Edge and Genesis’ Nursery Crime. In addition to that, she’s also a huge admirer of Queensrÿche and obviously of the vocals by Geoff Tate, especially the song Someone Else?, which she used to listen to when she started singing.

At long last, are you curious to know what the meaning of life and death is to our goddess of Dark Metal? Morgan firmly believes in reincarnation, which means life for her is a long path we are following and while we walk along this path we have to learn lessons, sometimes highly spiritual lessons. She completes her train of thought by saying that we always have to give our souls a chance to fly a little higher, closer to the divine, and that we could probably say that death is a little like “changing skin”. In my opinion, this is a stunning concept by an even more stunning diva of heavy music.

Morgan Lacroix’s Official Facebook page
Morgan Lacroix’s Official Twitter
Mandragora Scream’s Official Facebook page
Mandragora Scream’s Official Twitter

“Try and wake up the valiant warrior sleeping within you, he may have fallen asleep in one of your previous lives. And, first and foremost, don’t let your flesh be just food for worms.  Let there be someone with your blood after you, in this way you’ll be able to prove you did not live in vain and your image will be reflected by your heirs as if in a mirror.” – Morgan Lacroix