Throwing themselves back into the fiasco and fray of the saturated genre of female-fronted symphonic rock bands is England's Karnataka. The haven't had a new studio recording in five years, but now return with their fifth album Secrets Of Angels. The past has seen more than a little turmoil in personnel changes. Yet over the last several years Karnataka has stabilized, even with adding their fourth female lead vocalist in Hayley Griffiths.
I probably gave touch away in the first sentence of this review. Simply, Karnataka is a female-fronted melodic and symphonic rock band, maybe with a slight metal edge. Think what you will, choose your favorite band of the same genre, Within Temptation comes to mind, and you basically know what you're going to get. Griffiths' is a classically trained soprano, with an attention to melody, a stable delivery, and disciplined range. She's pleasant to listen to.
As for the music, Karnataka's melodic rock is deeply infused with symphonic orchestration. Though I can't speak to the truth of the observations, according to third party sources, this element has increased since the previous album. What I think can be said is that this symphonic element is more balanced in the arrangements. In other words, Karnataka's first thought is not to be grossly grandiose and bombastic as say Nightwish or Rhapsody Of Fire. A good example of the delicate balance comes with the epic anthem, Feels Like Home. Clearly the melody rules this composition, and the orchestration is only there to enhance or embellish it in the best possible sense. It's truly a beautiful song to hear.
After this, the songs that appealed to me were those where the arrangement was more pedestrian, having more pop accessibility as it were. Mostly this came from a strong and catchy melody and refrain, yet informed by inherent rock groove that moved the song along. Because Of You, Forbidden Dreams, Borderline, and even the aforementioned Feels Like Home had all those distinguishing characteristics. Alternatively, something such as Road To Cairo, at the front of the album, wasn't all that persuasive. It was long on orchestration and vocal arrangement, but simplly felt flat in it's presentation and pacing.
And returning once more to the "epic" potential in Karnataka, one may look to the title track as the epitome of this album. Or perhaps not. At twenty minutes, the song never really seems to get going. The first half seems exceedingly slow and labored with slight bursts of energy here and there, by guitar and synths. The song rises with riffs, orchestration, and soaring guitar leads in the second half, but I don't know if you'll have the patience to get there. It's not a bad song by any means, but could have easily been shortened in the arrangement, in both the front and back ends.
Nevertheless, with these things said and being my first experience with Karnataka, Secrets Of Angels is rather impressive, entertaining and enjoyable melodic and symphonic rock. The strength of musicianship and song composition easily keeps Karnataka in pace with their many peers and will continue to spawn new and better songs in the future. Easily recommended.
Simply, Karnataka is a female-fronted melodic and symphonic rock band, maybe with a slight metal edge. Think what you will, choose your favorite band of the same genre, Within Temptation comes to mind, and you basically know what you're going to get.
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