Neverland is a joint effort by Turkish melodic metal band Dreamtone and Greek female singer Iris Mavraki. They collaborated in order to write melodic tracks that cross into both power and progressive metal territory, utilising the services of the Philarmonia Istanbul
Orchestra for genuine strings and classical arrangements.
The album opener "Shooting Star" is a pretty straightforward piece with thick melodic guitars and a solid drum attack. Rife with various key and tempo changes, it segues into "To Lose the Sun", one of the album's standout tracks. The piece features Hansi Kursch and boasts strummed acoustic guitars atop beautifully arranged orchestral elements and the huge, gripping choruses typical of Blind Guardian. It's a great track with propulsive guitar work, wonderful strings and catchy piano lines.
Iris Mavraki's encompassing vocals are best represented on the folky "Mankind Is A Lie", where she exchanges verses with Dreamtone vocalist Oganalp Canatan. This track is occupied by tight rhythms forming the groundwork for ethnical instruments and a Middle Eastern melodic facade. Can Dedekarginoglu's bass is prominent throughout, which is certainly a
plus considering the bass is buried way too far in the mix on many albums these days. Then there is the acoustic-driven ballad "Everlasting Tranquillity", which further highlights Mavraki's vocal talents accompanied by a sweet piano melody and some brief electric
guitars at the end.
The title track is arguably also their most realized work in that the blend of the orchestra and metal instrumentation is very swift and seamless. Once again, the bass will keep you hostage after several spins, but Shadow Gallery vocalist Mike Baker's singing is also
amazing. He literally shines during the densely orchestrated verses, and the guitar theme that soars over the composition is not only goose bump-inducing but also the album's high point.
On the Euro power metal-styled "Black Water", the band evokes groups like Kamelot, Angra and Labyrinth in that they all boast classical themes in their otherwise catchy and stomping metal aesthetic. Canatan's vocals are amazing and work particularly well when joined by Mavraki who helps lift the chorus. The extended interplay between guitars, keys, and drums attests to the band's meticulous arrangement and production. "World Beyond These Walls" features Tom Englund from Evergrey, and while he sounds great as always, he struggles to apply melody to some of the lyrics as they are way too long. Still, it's a good song with some blues-inflected guitar work and a smooth, clean solo.
The piano-based folky tune "Mountain of Judgement" sees Mavraki producing a nice vocal melody which is expanded on the following track "Mountain of Joy". This track also features Gary Wehrkamp (who worked with Dreamtone before) and sees him adding a gorgeous guitar solo to the piece. That said, I feel the fade-out ending seems somewhat of a
cop-out. There are also two other tunes which fade out at the end, and feel they could have benefited from more powerful codas.
"Transcending Miracle" is the outlet for guitarist Burak Kahraman to demonstrate his playing and songwriting skills in the course of a six-minute instrumental track. Far from the technically challenging styles, Kahraman shows melodic playing can be equally rewarding in a clever songwriting avenue chock full of strings and even a saxophone addition. There is also a bonus track titled "Once Again This Life" on my copy with ethereal vocals lingering over symphonic elements and melodic guitar work.
Despite being a debut album, the songwriting is solid and the production is stellar. For a band in their twenties, getting members of Blind Guardian, Shadow Gallery, and Evergrey on their debut album speaks for itself. Actually all four of them have worked with Arjen
Lucassen before, one of the genre's driving forces. This one is recommended to both listeners of symphonic metal and super projects a la Ayreon, Avantasia as well as more medium-scale groups such as Genius, Amaran's Plight, and Missa Mercuria.
Besides the bonus track, the limited edition of the album also contains videos of band interviews and studio footage. The artwork by J.P. Fournier (Edguy) is stunning as well and the booklet is designed beautifully.
- Shooting Star
- To Lose the Sun
- Mankind Is A Lie
- Everlasting Tranquillity
- Reversing Time
- Black Water
- Mountain of Judgement
- Mountain of Joy
- World Beyond These Walls
- Transcending Miracle
- Once Again This Life (bonus track)