Hot off the Press

Insatia | Phoenix Aflame

by Franco Cerchiari
– Sr. Columnist —

With a mix of Canadian and American band members is the female-fronted Insatia and its sophomore offering Phoenix Aflame released on the Pitch Black Records label. While not as sweeping and epic as Xandria, Sirenia, or After Forever, fans of Midnight Eternal, End of the Dream, Shadowrise or Sleeping Romance will find Insatia an instant like as well. Merging the flourishes of Symphonic with Melodic Metal, Insatia has released a collection of songs that overall is quite well done.

While there are many strong points to Phoenix Aflame, it must be first stated that Symphonic Metal is a tough genre to pull off. First off, the sound has to be as full, completely encapsulating, rousing and stirring as possible. The music has to soar to the heavens, with the vocals layered, with the keyboards and guitars creating a moving and heart-filling experience. Nothing can be held back, so the emotions of the melodies come straight toward the listener much like a symphony does. During the entire tenure of the CD the mix of the symphonic and metal has to be relentless so when the headphones come off, the listener is left breathless and completely spent. Second, the studio mixing has to generate a finished product where the sound is pristine, clear; where at no time do the songs sound muddled. Every note, every passage, every bar has to be full of music and sentiment. Lastly, the music has to come together. When hearing a symphony, while so many individual parts make up the opus (strings, keyboards, percussion, and guitars,) each of these instruments all merge to produce a heaven-sent experience.

First off, vocals of Zoe Federoff really are quite impressive. There is wholesomeness to her voice, almost pure even. Angelic in its delivery, she has a vocal range that reaches into the upper octaves, but in the same breath, it must be mentioned that it was a wish that there was more passion to her singing. A former student of Floor Jansen (Nightwish,) Zoe is one of the highlights of the music heard here. It can only be imagined that if she were to take the fervor and zeal that her former teacher has, mixed with her natural singing ability Zoe has, she would easily place amongst the Symphonic Metal world’s best. Listen to “We Are The Grey” for example. Had she just cut loose, and allowed the music to overtake her, that passion would have come through to us, and the end result would have been being taken on a musical journey from which we never wanted to return. The vocals heard throughout Phoenix Aflame are layered, but perhaps adding a male counterpart to the vocals, or even harmonies from her fellow band mates would have been a strong addition, but again, Zoe does command the lead vocal mic well.

The chord structures are really quite good; showing the care the songwriters took to give these songs life. Each song is well played, but still, though the band seems to be holding back somewhat, and not allowing that full, loud, sweeping sound that Symphonic Metal does have to come through. Adding the dimension and fullness that keyboards do offer to a band was great, (a change from their debut album) for here those keys and guitars do a fine job of keeping the melodies alive with images of the dark, the passionate, the inspiring and the forlorn. The bass guitar punches its way through the songs so many times, and while on other releases by other bands the bass seems to get lost in the mix, here it was good to hear the heavy bass riffs (as heard on the title track.) The guitar solos are all over the place, and the drums are hit hard and fast. It must be said however seeing as how the band has hired seasoned producer Fabio D’Amore (Serenity, Pathosray) it is a bit of a let down that the same gorgeous, larger-than-life, moving sound that Fabio brought to his other releases to the CD heard here. Some of the songs sounded a bit muddled, but be that as it may though, listen to the strong opening track “Act of Mercy,” the Melodic Metal vibe of “Memory of a Sapphire,” the cellos of the despondent introduction of “Sacred,” and the duet between Zoe and Apollo Papathansio (Firewind, Spiritual Beggers, Evil Masquerade, Time Requiem) made “Not My God,” this CD’s highlight, and also worth a listen are the acoustic guitars of the beautiful “Velvet Road,” and closing Phoenix Aflame is the heavy – really heavy – “Healer of Hatred.”

Overall, good stuff heard through Phoenix Aflame. Mature musicianship, strong songs, and great keyboards and guitars are all standouts. Allow the feelings that Symphonic Metal does have to shine through, and bring out the intensity that Zoe is capable of, and subsequent releases to this one could very easily put Insatia in the company of the Symphonic Metal world’s heavyweights.

Genre: Symphonic Metal, Melodic Metal

Band Members:
Zoe Federoff – vocals
Dave Ablaze – bass
Daniel Millan – drums
Kaelen Sarakinis – guitars

Track Listing:
1. Intro (Land of the Living)
2. Act of Mercy
3. Memory of a Sapphire
4. Sacred
5. We Are The Grey
6. Phoenix Aflame
7. Not My God
8. Captor and Captive
9. Velvet Road
10. Healer of Hatred

Label: Pitch Black Records

Website: www.insatiaband.com

Hardrock Haven rating: 7.5 Stars (7.5 / 10)

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