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Friday, February 5, 2016

CD-Review: Serenity - "Codex Atlanticus"

End of January was an amazing time for Symphonic Metal fans. With  Avantasia's "Ghostlights" and Dream Theater's "The Astonishing" (which is supposed to be a Rock Opera this time with many symphonic elements) fans of this particular genre are pretty busy for the next few months. It wasn't the best idea from the Austrian Symphonic Metal band SERENITY to release their fitfth opus "Codex Atlanticus" on the same day. After many listens I just can say it's a shame that this album is so overlooked, because it deserves better.

I was introduced to this band back in 2013 with their last album "War Of Ages", because I liked the concept pretty much. So "Codex Atlanticus" is my second point of contact with Serenity. That means I won't refer to their previous works that much. But of course there are two major differences when you compare this new album with their last one. First, the female vocals are reduced to a minimum. You can like that or not - to me it makes no difference. I liked the duets on "War Of Ages", but I'm also fine with the male vocals on "Codex Atlanticus". The second difference is the increased use of huge orchestral arrangements. For sure, orchestration is part of every Symphonic Metal band, but I rarely heard such bombastic arrangements in recent time. It gives the whole album that feeling of a motion picture soundtrack, paired with heavy guitars and I enjoyed this mixture very much.

"Codex Atlanticus" features a very interesting concept again. It's about the life of Leonardo Da Vinci and all the things that happened around him, such as the Illuminati, various conspiracies and much more. This topic alone gives the whole record such an epic scale. You have to listen to this album as a whole to sink into this historic world.

It all starts with a short intro that goes over to the first highlight of this album: "Follow Me" is the perfect opener and shows everything this album stands for. That means an interplay between heavy guitars, big orchestration, calm moments in the verses and ears flattering melodies in the chorus. All that is topped by the great vocals of singer Georg Neuhauser. Everytime I hear him sing he reminds me so much at Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica. Those two voices are so similar, although Tony is singing a bit more over the top at times. The performance of Neuhauser is once more awesome and fits to the music perfectly.

On the tracks "Spirit In The Flash" and "Sprouts Of Terror" he is joined by bassist Fabio D’Amore on vocals. That gives a cool contrast, although I don't like the voice of Fabio that much. Especially "Sprouts Of Terror" is not my cup of tea when it comes to the heavy verses he is singing and on "Spirit In The Falsh" he sounds like he would imitate Tobias Sammet. Nevertheless both songs are still well written and they can shine with their melodic choruses.

With "Iniquity" you get another stand-out track in best "Pirates Of The Caribbean" vein, at least when it comes to the orchester parts. Same goes to the epic "The Codex". But also friends of dreamy ballads will get what they are looking for. "My Final Chapter" is a little bit clichéd, but a well-crafted fantasy dream and "The Perfect Woman" (with Amanda Somerville on guest vocals) is a huge homage to Meat Loaf and shines so bright with its catchiness. If you order the limited edition of this album you'll also get the two bonus tracks "Forgive Me" and "Sails" - both also solid ballads. Maybe that is a little bit too much for some metalheads, but I think if you are a fan of Symphonic Metal you are used to hear some slower stuff.

When it comes to production there is nothing to complain about. "Codex Atlanticus" comes along with a very warm, but powerful sound that underlines the complex arrangements perfectly. Serenity present themselves from their best side.

"Codex Atlanticus" is one of those records you can sink your teeth in, if you are a dreamer. This is an album that  rewards people, who can listen to music
attentively, while closing their eyes and discover different worlds within the music. If you are into Symphonic Power Metal or even Hollywood movie soundtracks and you appreciate some softer tones, then this album is for you! "Codex Atlanticus" grows with every listen and to be honest those are the records that will keep you coming back for a very long period of time. Very well done!



01. Codex Atlanticus
02. Follow Me *
03. Sprouts Of Terror
04. Iniquity *
05. Reason *
06. My Final Chapter
07. Caught In A Myth
08. Fate Of Light
09. The Perfect Woman *
10. Spirit In The Flesh
11. The Order *
12. Forgive Me (bonus track)
13. Sail (bonus track)
14. My Final Chapter (orchestral version/ bonus track)

* best tracks

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