It sounds like a fairy tale but, at the stroke of midnight, as the old year passed into the next decade, a new Queen was crowned. Now, America has Amy Lee, Holland has Floor Jansen, Sweden has Anette Olson, Italy has Cristina Scabbia and Finland has Tarja Turunen but the UK’s new Queen of Symphonic rock is London based Anastasia Koburg. Released on the 1st of January, her new album, ‘Position of Power’ may well be the best thing you hear all year.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=620OtVwhnhM&w=560&h=315]
From the opening salvo of ‘The Descent: I and II’, Koburg, the band, set their claim for the big league with a pairing of tracks that brings all the drama and vision of the best of the genre. Vocals soar, guitars slash, keys swell and the drums and bass crush as you are swept away by the overwhelming grandeur. Koburg’s vocals are superb, and, whilst not touched with the grit of some of her contemporaries, are certainly full of beauty and character, bringing her own unique style throughout.
Make no mistake, this isn’t some ethereal, featherlight album, it genuinely does rock and tracks like ‘Forbidden Realms’ and ‘Spirit Call’ are full of adrenaline, traditional metal with huge ambition as it mixes Nightwish with the sort of guitarwork reminiscent of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow at his finest.
There are moments of industrial heaviness too with the stunning ‘Choose Your Poison’ a pounding, Gary Numan-like grinder that really brings the hammer down. Elsewhere, ‘Love, Let it Rain Down on Me’ has an otherworldly, Blade Runner, feel that brings to mind that dystopian neon lit landscape before it launches into its upbeat chorus and ‘All that is Hidden’ turns the clock back to 19th Century Russia grandeur or a vampire ball as strings swell and guitars soar.
The album peaks with the truly epic ‘We Could Be Angels’. A truly breathtaking track, it starts with a chilling and haunting piano that leads to a gorgeous verse and chorus that will both seduce you and break your heart. It’s the sort of track that you would sell your soul to as you’re enveloped in its black waters and will be stuck in your head for the next year or so, constantly coming back to pull you back in.
Karma is a Bitch’ is all hardcore riffing and danger, whilst closing track ‘As Darkness Falls’ seems to be both brutal and blood spattered but also tender and shimmering with a pure incandescence. It is this tightrope balance that is a major factor to the album’s success as Koburg captures that eternal struggle between light and darkness, the writing bother utterly compelling and intelligent. Remixes of both ‘We Could Be Angels’ and ‘The Descent’ are added on as bonus tracks and both the different takes are well worth listening to, the former in particular adding an additionally lush tone to the recording.
The co-production by Koburg and Robert L Smith brings such a broad palette of tones and textures that it couldn’t have been bettered and, with all these elements working together, you have the best of album of its kind since Evanescence unleashed their debut, ‘Fallen’, in 2003. Not just a great symphonic rock album, but one of the most stunning releases of the past ten years. The gloves are off, Koburg and ‘Positions of Power’ are ready to take on all comers.
Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM