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Album review: Operose – ‘Oceans of Starlight

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Operose have gone their own route and in sophomore release ‘Into the Starlight’ have released one of finest collisions between metal and opera since Wagner wrote ‘Ride of the Valkyrie’. In fact, this album is the natural progression to that very track as, if you ever wondered what the sound of a mass attack by the Valkyrie would be like, look no further. Taking things to another level entirely, Operose seem to have struck the perfect balance between bombast and beauty, each track being a titanic essay in the burgeoning subgenre.

Whilst opera generally starts with an overture, there is no such preamble with Operose as they kick straight into the dramatic and epic ‘Battle Swan’, guitars with the power of a tank, drums spitting out fast and furious and choral stabs that act as a base for the glorious voice of Jennifer Coleman.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zikh9CAiX6U&w=560&h=315]

The frantic ‘Oceans of Starlight’ follows in a similar vein and this maritime tale certain has way more class than the wonderfully unhinged sea shanties of Alestorm but is definitely as entertaining. There is a real understanding of storytelling inherent in opera and this translates really well on the release as the pounding and visceral instrumentation heightens the drama.

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Things slow slightly with the majestic ‘Lost Horizon’, all huge vocals from Coleman float deliriously across the gentle but powerful playing of guitarist Joe McGurk, drummer Steve Hauxwell and bass player Mike Bridge. Each plays to their own strength and what would potentially seem be an odd pairing of styles somehow works beautifully as each part of the jigsaw slots into place for the extraordinary picture. ‘This Life of Mine’ is another less kinetic track that focusses on the songwriting above all and follows a more traditional path that turns down some of the heightened elements.

‘Nothing Left’ also focusses on melody above the all-out attack and ‘On Sleeping Tides’ is full of string effects on the keys, piano and choral vocals that build up the atmosphere that is speaks of beauty with a hidden and very faint otherworldliness.

Things ramp up again with the prog metal stylings of ‘Octavian’, a galloping and constantly changing feast of moods before the album closes with the epic (in all senses of the word) ‘The Actium Suite’.

A rush of baroque keys leads to a flurry of flying digits up and down the fretboard and the two instruments dual throughout before the glorious and triumphant finish. You don’t need to like opera to enjoy this release, although it would certainly be a bonus, all you need to have is an appreciation of some incredible and groundbreaking music that will beguile, intrigue and thrill you. Music to get lost in.

Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM

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