I discovered Vivien Lalu when I first heard Hubi Meisel's second solo album EmOcean, which was written entirely by Lalu (Meisel had penned the lyrics). I am still amazed by the great atmosphere created on that disc, so needless to say, when I heard that Vivien Lalu was going to release an album with a great lineup, I was quite excited. However, it should be noted that Oniric Metal sounds nothing like EmOcean. It's a lot heavier, more guitar-based and darker. The band Lalu put together to realize his dreams consists of the amazing guitar hero Joop Wolters from Arabesque, former Annihilator bassist Russell Bergquist, Devin Townsend drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen, and a singer named Martin LeMar from Germany on vocals.
Although the music on Oniric Metal was composed by Lalu himself, each musician had a big role in the song arrangements and Martin LeMar wrote his own lyrics. Oddly, before I heard LeMar's voice, I thought he'd be one of those more operatic, high pitched singers most prog metal bands present us with, but it turns out his voice is rather different. It took me a few plays to get used to it, because he has a grittier tone compared to other vocalists but he is definitely a great singer and does an excellent job on this disc. I'd definitely love to hear his other projects, one of which is called Broken Glass and the new Tomorrow's Eve album too.
Given the crunch-filled, mesmerizing heaviness of the guitar and bass renditions, I am reminded a bit of Evergrey's Solitude Dominance Tragedy period. Although primarily Vivien Lalu's project, the album sounds more like a band effort and Lalu's keyboards are played with wonderful restraint. He reaches huge atmospheres but never overshadows the other instruments for a second. Joop Wolters' guitar playing is highly impressive; his solos fit the songs perfectly and his tone is amazing, thanks to Vivien Lalu's great mix and production. A good number of fans will want to hear his work with Arabesque if they enjoy this release.
All eight songs on the album are solid. There are no fillers here. My favourites would be the first track, "Yesterdayman", because I really enjoy LeMar's vocals in the chorus and the crunchy guitar work. Ryan Van Poederooyen's drumming is also vital to the album's groovy vibe - I wasn't surprised when I read that he considers this his best performance in his recording career. "Night in Poenari" is where the Evergrey comparison is the most noticeable. The song kicks out with an eerie, almost gothic darkness that is right up there with Evergrey's "Nosferatu" and the symphonic elements merged with the Latin-sung male vocals only enhance the comparisons. Even Martin LeMar sings more aggressively during the verses and the song is easily the band's most progressive moment with its ever-changing rhythms, acoustic guitar patterns and unison solos.
Two epic tracks, "Timestop" and "Potboy: The Final Fantasy", equal half of the running time of this disc, especially the latter which breaks the 18-minute mark. Both songs start out slowly, building up and reaching their apex when Lalu's keyboard sounds explode over the rhythmic intensity created by Wolters and Bergquist. Guest musician Alex Argento appears on "Timestop" with a nice keyboard solo while there is seemingly a little free style jam session in the breakdown of the closing track that is bound to please many a proghead. Oniric Metal is a great disc and one of the finest albums Lion Music has released recently.
- Wolven Eyes
- Night in Poenari
- Moonstruck: The Soulish Element
- Potboy: The Final Fantasy