I wasn't sold on this album immediately, though Eigenflame certainly demonstrate serious musical chops on the opener, Created by Chaos (Ad Astra). It sounds good, symphonic power metal firmly in the European style, sung in English with high pitched vocals, choral backing, ambitious guitarwork and fast-paced drums, but it doesn't sound particularly new. My immediate takeaway, beyond clear talent, was to assume that the capital F in their logo is an homage to DragonForce, even if they're not using it otherwise. In fact, maybe the entire name is an homage as it sounds highly similar and they're an obvious influence.
I started to really pay attention with the next track, The Mighty Gaia, partly because it felt a little more inventive from the outset in a Gamma Ray style but mostly because they promptly drop into something wildly different a couple of minutes in. And I do mean drop. It's like they fade the song out to make way for flutes and tribal drums and suddenly we're in the middle of the rainforest. It's a major shift but vocalist Roberto Índio Santos is there too to deliver a folky melody that the choir pick up and suddenly we're back in the song at full tilt. There's another drop at the end, into some sort of organic texture and the second half feels elevated within these bookends.
While they never lose the Gamma Ray meets DragonForce comparison when playing in symphonic metal territory, they find their own identity in these folkier sections. Stardust kicks off with pipes and choirs, literally drumming up our attention. Way Back Home is even more pastoral, with flutes and tramping feet and a delightful acoustic guitar building to a soft folky vocal introduction. That also transitions beautifully into the song proper, showing some real imagination. Early on, it's the choirs that provide the imagination but the folkier side increasingly takes that on.
Frankly, this is at its best when one or both of those angles is being explored. I love the folky intros and midsections and wanted more of them. I love the choral punctuation too, especially as it's not only punctuation but often the means to change a song's direction. I wanted more of that too and I wouldn't mind more of the operatic style vocals that show up in softer sections of Stardust. What's unfortunate is that the album lets those angles drift after four tracks, so my favourite songs are a trio early on: The Mighty Gaia, Stardust and Way Back Home. Eclipse of the Fifth Sun has another folky midsection but without dropping out of the symphonic metal. That becomes the norm.
What saves the rest of the album is the fact that it's such uplifting material. Whatever mood you'd fostered as you pressed play on track one, I can guarantee that you'll be in a brighter one once you had let these songs wash over you. I wasn't in a bad mood but I could have been in a better one and I soon was, songs like Cosmic Symphony absolute delights, for their mood-improving effects, on top of whatever else they happen to do. The more I let the album run on repeat, the happier I felt.
i'd be remiss if I didn't call out the members, because they all shine from a technical standpoint. At the front of the sound is Santos's vocals and he seems effortless at a high pitch and also when he's sustaining notes. There are a few moments, one on Way Back Home, where he holds a belt without seeming to struggle for an impressive length of time. Behind him, I'd call out Jean Gardinalli, as he is fast and intricate behind the drumkit without ever seeming to move beyond slow motion. I swear he could do this at double the speed and that's a scary thought indeed. The other two credits I see are Fernandes Bonifácio on guitar, who is highly versatile, and Fabio Tapani on bass, who gets less opportunity to show off but shines whenever he does.
This is Eigenflame's debut album and it's accomplished stuff. I look forward to them developing an entirely Eigenflame sound though. It's certainly here at the beginning of their recorded output, a teaser of what could come in the future, but it's not fleshed out yet and I hope they feed it. If they do, then the cover ought to seem highly appropriate, with a Brazilian band opening a portal to the established European sound but bringing something new to the mix.