Gallia – Everflame (2019)

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Belgium based Gallia has released “Everflame” independently and deserve a good deal of kudos for their belief in their work. Symphonic metal in style, this EP features 6 tracks, as well as a soundtrack version that removes the vocals and guitars and augments the choirs and symphonic elements.

“Rain Starlight” washes in with sinister whispers that utilise a clever use of balance that has you looking over your shoulder. The guitar riffs then burst forth with an epic feel that is the signature of this album. There’s an infectious, low-down guitar that has symphonic flashes added over the top. You are thus introduced to the template of many of the tracks – a metal feel, with symphonic augmentation and choirs chiming in from the background. It is a simple recipe that has presence. Elyn’s vocals are melodic and her classical training is obvious, but they don’t really take centre stage – they are an equal part of the musical process. Later in the track a very effective use of balance again grabbed my attention, where the guitar riff stands alone, then the bass riff, then they work together. A cool guitar solo features and the track then echoes into silence.

“Devils Cry” begins with an orchestra and a lone voice that cries out from the dark. It has a galloping beat and vocals. The lyrics are somewhat sinister and these are delivered in a disquieting manner, as they are sung sweetly. For some reason, this track reminded of pirates… but, it’s about redemption and resilience. A keyboard layer is used to enrich the sound and a brief pause is used to snap your attention back to the track, before it again gets back to the action. A choir is again used in the background to add atmosphere.

“Rise of the Fallen” rises with a gong sounding and metallic-like effects. This track has a different character again, with a more driving beat and the guitars then asserting their presence. There are changes in sound and tempo and I got a feeling of vengeance being sought. The engine room of this track is the driving guitars and these are joined by a very cool, malevolent vocal effect. The track changes character again with a spoken part and a clever guitar solo. The track finishes abruptly, which is a great ending, leaving you hanging.

“Papercuts” has a strong guitar opening and the keyboards then cut in. More urgent vocals give this track a different patina and they then become slow and calm, using sweet harmonies, before returning to the musical mayhem that we have been experiencing. The keyboards in this track are done exceptionally well, adding much to the fabric of the album. A syncopated section also adds a new dimension. A simple keyboard piece carries the track to the end, fading into oblivion.

“Fight of Fools” starts boldly, with synth and symphony wading in, giving a sense of sadness or poignancy. A choir reverberates in the background and the track then becomes upbeat in nature. There are no vocals until 1:15 or so, allowing the instruments their chance to set the tone. This track has an epic feel and it speaks of standing together to fight, of battling against the odds, of never giving up. It had me scrubbing back repeatedly to listen – which indicates very clever writing.

“Frozen Sun” dawns with a tinkling keyboard, which is then accompanied by a driving riff. The vocals in this track are higher in register – soft and self-assured. These expertly lull you into a sense of security, before some really nasty growls offer excellent contrast. It’s sinister. This track is robust and is full of surprises.

Soundtrack Version

Things are going to get a bit weird here… With no vocals and no guitars, my imagination filled in the blanks. Your journey will no doubt be different, but my experiences follow…

“Rain Starlight” allows a deeper appreciation of the piano that had me immediately thinking of rain. Everything takes on a different character and the choir’s impact is so much more cogent. It had me playing a whole different movie in my head, with a storm at sea my vision of choice.

“Devils Cry” has a much more somber feel and it had me thinking of a journey, filled with positivity. I also appreciated the use of effects that reminded me of objects flashing by.

“Rise of the Fallen” is more intricate in nature and it had me conjuring a montage of Oriental landscapes. It also reminded me of some form of industry, like a blacksmith.

“Papercuts” was transformed into a much more urgent track in this version. The journey-like nature of the music is even more apparent.

“Fight of Fools” had me imagining the exploration of rolling landscapes in a dirigible. There were surprises over every horizon, rolling hills, the regret of loves left behind, tempered by the thrill of discovery. I know, right?

“Frozen Sun” had me imagining a behemoth of a space ship stalking through space, sent to terraform a solar system to be used by the people of Earth, as this planet is dying. The task seems hopeless, but the belief of all involved may well be the determining factor. Inexhaustibly, man and machine work side beside to restart this frozen system and the machine is started, but, unsuccessfully…

But that’s just me.

Why would you want the Soundtrack Version? If you loved the album, it offers a whole new level of appreciation of each track. I’m always a bit cynical about the inclusion of such a version, but each time I am surprised by the result, with it offering the ability to appreciate the album through a different lens: with a sharper and narrower focus.

Overall, each track tells a tale in itself. The key aspects used to great effect are: simple and robust riffs; melodic vocals that are interspersed with assertive moments; some surprises in lyrics and arrangement to keep your attention; choirs to add ambience and character; and orchestral moments to further enrich the experience.

The riffs are effective and don’t vary too much within the track, but are sufficiently different across the tracks. The musicianship is good and the production of high quality.

It’s a solid release that is well worth a listen.

7/10

Review by Greg Noble.

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