A close vocal harmony is an unusual way to open a storming metal album, but then Elis are an unusual band, mixing elements of symphonic metal, power metal and gothic music with a deft sensibility that maintains the heavy side of metal while still allowing the listener to focus on Sandra Schleret’s powerful vocals.
‘Core of life’ is certainly an ambitious opener, containing Sandra’s crystal clear vocals, Iron Maiden-esque guitar runs and a suitably over-the-top production. ‘Twinkling shadow’ continues in the same vein but adds growled vocals into the mix which create a nice contrast with the female vocals already on offer, bringing to mind Within Temptation before they dropped the death metal vocals in favour of their more well-known symphonic sound. A decent guitar solo at the bridge shows that the band have talent and it is clear that Elis is a heavier prospect than many of the bands that they will undoubtedly be compared to and the focus is certainly more on the power element of metal rather than the symphonic side. ‘Warrior’s tale’ sees a beautiful minor-key harmony develop over a chugging guitar riff before the growled vocals reappear over faster passages giving way to a multi-tracked chorus that is more folk than metal. ‘Des Lebens traum – des traumes leben’ is a more straight forward metal track with more obvious keyboards appearing and a chorus that brings the mighty Therion to mind.
‘I come undone’ is a less inspiring moment in the album – a cover of a Jennifer Rush track that is neither as fun nor as interesting as one imagines the band hoped it would be. Perhaps as a B-side it would make more sense, but in the middle of an album that has been, up till now, interesting and vital, it merely breaks up the flow. ‘Firefly’ is a faster track, but it is also closer to Nightwish than at any other point of the album and struggles to regain the momentum lost by ‘I come undone’. The same cannot be said of ‘morning star’ which opens with a brutal stop-start riff and growled vocals, and the album takes off again. ‘Das kleine ungeheuer’ has a fearsome groove to it that works well with Sandra’s vocals snaking over the top, intertwining with the keyboard elements to form one of the more ambitious tracks on the record. ‘Mother’s fire’ sadly does not continue in this vein – it’s interesting enough but is ultimately one of the less memorable tracks on the disc. ‘Rainbow’ is a ballad, all acoustic guitar and gentle drums that uses keyboard flourishes and orchestration to build a suitably epic atmosphere before the guitars arrive towards the end. It works, to an extent, but lacks the emotional gravitas that one would expect from a ballad, sounding rather more clinical than emotive. Returning to the bombast that worked so well on the first few tracks, ‘The dark bridge’ closes the album in style thanks to some great soloing and a heavy central riff.
Overall ‘Catharsis’ is an interesting album that is, perhaps, three tracks to long. Poor sequencing is to blame more than anything, as the Jennifer Rush track right in the middle of the album really spoils the mood (it might have worked a as bonus track) and there are one or two other tracks (specifically ‘Rainbow’ and ‘mother’s fire’) that are not up to the overall quality that this band are capable of. In Sandra, the band have a vocalist who is talented and interesting and the decision to add male vocals is the right one, helping the band to stand out from the wealth of female fronted bands currently in vogue, but if they wish to make a truly classic album they need to pay more attention to the overall impact that their albums have rather than looking at the songs individually as they seem to have done here. As it is ‘Catharsis’ will undoubtedly find favour with fans of the genre, and it is by no means a bad album, but the band are clearly capable of greater things. A good, solid effort but certainly not essential.
Special Edition Supplementary notes
‘Catharsis’ is available as a standard edition as well as a limited edition digi-pack with two bonus tracks and a DVD. Sadly the bonus features were not available to us but we can reveal that the tracks are ‘Ghost of the past’ and ‘no hero’ while the DVD features a recording of the band playing at the metal female voices festival in 2007. The track-listing is: 1.Intro, 2.Tales from heaven or hell, 3.Die Zeit, 4.Show me the way, 5.Phoenix from the ashes, 6.Der Letzte tag, 7.Lost soul, 8.A new decade, 9.heven and hell. Undoubtedly fans of the band will want the special edition and the DVD offers sufficient material to be a worthwhile addition to any collection.