I have been a fan of the band since its inception. I watched Arjen Lucasson help launch his good friend Marcela Bovio's project with tender care, from the comfort of the Internet. That first album. Embrace the Storm knocked me and many of Lucasson's fans off our feet. It was dynamic and showed the vocal capabilities and rock power Marcela and this band was capable of bringing to the stage. They came back quickly with a great sophomore follow up in The Flame Within, and then did some extensive touring, including Canada, before they slowed down and returned to the studio. I wasn't expecting a new album until 2012, but they surprised me and I'm sure many of their overseas fans with the news that they were ready to release Darker Days.
Marcela Bovio is a multi – linguist and talented vocalist and violin player who stared in several of Arjen Luccason's Ayreon projects. She and Arjen recruited a talented band to create Stream of Passion. The band includes a talented array of power guitar players including Johan van Stratum (bass guitar), Eric Hazebroek (guitars) and Stephan Schultz (lead guitar), and power drums from Martijn Peters. Jeffrey Revet's keyboards, synths and piano, add just the right effects and atmospheres to help build mystery and drama throughout the album.
This is an excellent next stage and new set of stories in the development of this band. The power of the vocals stretch out with deep and poetic lyrics and the music adds additional flavors and sounds making the band's soundscapes even richer. Marcela uses more of those quiet moments to showcase her wonderful vocal talents and set up a great counterbalance with the power and dramatic instrumentation. On Darker Days, the band delivers another stream of passion and one of the best albums of the year.
On 'Lost', the music rushes towards you like a tsunami wave, as if they've had to wait too long to unleash this! Then they bring some string quartet, piano and bandoneon. Nice touch. Marcela sings, "Take me from this empty road and keep me by your side. Through these colorless words they will let you know I'm lost". The trust that comes with passionate love, and willingness to follow despite the road unknown. The band perfectly distills the hard and fast with quiet moments of stillness. There will be many more extended classical sounds mixed well with power heavy metal on this album. This trademark talent has been there since day one and it makes the band one of the best in their genre. Those launching guitar power chords and riffs are some of the best on the album. The over – arching guitar and string work surrounding the soundscape helps add even more dramatic power. No wonder this is the blasting powder opener.
'Reborn' was born from the sad tragedy Marcela feels for her hometown of Monterrey Mexico. "Where is your inspiration, where have your angels gone? How did constant aggression bury away your charm?" The song truly captures the power and passion Marcela feels for a return to the greatness she remembers. Her passion comes full force as she delivers the lyrics in Spanish, "De la ceniza tu voz renacerá, una promesa, que no se romperá" (From the ashes your voice will be reborn, a promise that won't be broken). Then, excellent keys cascade and heavy bass and guitar support with soft and then powerful drums pounding. Marcela's vocals are so clear and modulated perfectly, "You used to be enchanting, your future wide and bright, and who would speak your name would carry your flag with pride". You can definitely feel her passion and sincerity all over this song. With this song, the band sets up a theme which will dominate the album.
'Collide', captures the feeling of a live show and the desire to get closer to the fans and the action of the live stage. You can tell from this song the band and Marcela have been missing the interaction from the live setting. The heavy guitars and drums create a great balance set against Marcel's beautiful female vocal delivery, "Lead the way, take me somewhere where our worlds can collide. Lead the way, take me somewhere and bury me in your arms". The desire and passion to be with those you trust most. Her beautiful moments of solo vocal with backing vocals and soft guitar, bring back memories of 'Open Your Eyes'from the first album.
'The Scarlet Mark' opens with some great keyboard work along with some deep excellent bass. The growling lead guitar sounds excellent as Marcela weaves the story through the ominous sounding atmosphere, "Let the moonlight settle in, open the door ever so silently. We've become their enemy and for our sins we live in hiding". A passionate song about the terrible way women around the world have and are being persecuted. The song title is inspired by the famous Nathaniel Hawthorne book, 'The Scarlet Letter'.
'Spark', is a wonderful soft interlude. An original song full of beautiful piano and bandoneon that sets up the perfect backdrop for Marcela to fill with her vocal, "Dream of me, my dear; press my song on your temples. Let my voice draw away all your fears and embrace you". Yeah, just what everyone needs right now, a moment of peace and comforting in these difficult times that seem to be gripping the world. Marcela shares with us her spark, "Spare a thought for me, my love, when you wake from your slumber. To the spark that was born in your eyes I surrender".
'Our Cause' is full of the Spanish lyrics we all missed on the last album. "Trazos de hielo y niebla que se esconden en las pequeñas grietas de mi nombre. Luz que ilumina el alba, no me ignores; entre suspiros llamas mas no sé a dónde". (Traces of ice and fog, hidden in the small crevices of my name. Light of the dawn, don't ignore me; sighing you call me, I know not where). Deep, passionate, and well thought out lyrics which are often only appreciated by the die-hard fans. This song captures well the feeling, as Marcela says, of "finding your own voice an inspiration". "Sing to me one more time, turn loose the waking light. Unleash the sounds that define me and keep me alive". The song is full of her wonderful violin, keys, piano, soft drums, and bandoneon. Another moment of triumphant passion to develop the full discography for the live shows of the future.
The title track, 'Darker Days' sets the stage for some more beautiful Spanish lyrics, "Alma mía, la desesperanza me arranca la vida. En cada paso me clavo una espina, cada momento enciende mi herida". (My dear, despair tears my life apart. On every step another thorn, every moment lights up my wound). The music is matched well with dynamic piano, launching guitars and slicing violin. Despite the fears, optimism shines through, "We can live forever, we'll fight on together. Hold on. Hold on. We can live forever if we never surrender. Hold on. Hold on..." Marcela's beautiful "ah, ahs" are wonderful. The piano and keys help build a very dramatic atmosphere.
'Broken' opens with slow bass and violin before Marcela enters, "Drop the blame
on my shoulders, I will carry it far away from home". The power in her deliver gives you confidence she can take it on alone. Then power drums, keys, and grinding lead guitar before the strings and lead electric roar through. Slower paced and more direct vocals from Marcela, the kind of delivery I have been waiting for since the first album. The power is still there with the guitars and drums, just a more pensive delivery making each word stand out perfectly. "Bitter words: you don't mean them; it's the continuous sound of shattered promises, it's not the way you are".
'This Moment' opens with smashing drums, keys and lead electric. Then Marcela, "Voices
building castles in the air, but as beautiful as they may seem they will disappear". Just a sample of the poetic lyrics which fill this album. Her lifting vocals drive high into the atmosphere as she captures all the power and passion of, well…the moment. A mini opera within a song. Taking their time to squeeze every cool moment of passion out of the song with a great piano and string moment supported well with drums, before the dreamscape opera roars on to the haunting vocals, "In the fever of this moment we will drown, falling deeper into the unknown".
'Closer' is another of my favorite tracks on the album. Marcela opens with, "Give me the brush, the paint, the night, and I'll romance the stars up in the sky", set to beautiful piano and a cool electric buzz on guitar. Then the power is unleashed as Marcela lifts "We're getting closer and closer to find our meaning, a reason to live. Deep within you are colors that would break a thousand words".
Inspired by Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray', one of Marcela's favorite stories, 'The Mirror' explodes onto the soundscape with Marcela's altered voice power drums, guitar and menacing keys. Then Marcela slows things down and delivers, "Maybe your grace is blinding and your eyes can break any heart; but what the mirror can't show you, you can never leave behind". The haunting melody fits perfectly with the theme of the story. That piano is excellent and dramatic. The guitar work is some of the best on the album. The refrain is as haunting as the story, "Blessed be the most fair of them all if the mirror shatters soon enough".
'Nadie Lo Ve' was written after the passing of Marcela's grandmother. The lyrics are in Spanish and the track is full of wonderful piano. Marcela gently delivers one of the most powerful moments on the album. The string section helps bring the tears and feelings forward, as the lyrics unfold, "When a dream begins to break the veins tremble and voices burn; the city that saw me grow up bursts out in tears before falling apart. And no, no one can see it, and no, no one believes it. No one can see the fear, no one can see the pain".
Ah, the 'Arab Spring of 2011', captured in all its power with the closer, 'The World Is Ours'. The hope that revolution will bring change and help turn the negative tide. Marcela's passionate lyrics and vocals set to power drums, guitar and some more of best piano on the album. "We stood, showered in light, a million stars in our eyes. But the warning was in the air: soon enough you would let us down". The blistering guitar solos are some of the best on the album, mixed well with that echoing piano. Marcela's vocals, "We knew perfectly well no one on this earth can hold on to much love or much gold without growing cold inside". Then that crystal cry...capturing the passion and spirit of revolution so well...amazing! "The world belongs to us".
'The Hunt' is a bonus track included on the expanded edition of the CD pack, that opens with Marcella, "Maybe we'll never know where it all began, or how we got ourselves into this mess". The blame we all place on others when we cannot explain what in the world is happening. Wonderful support of strings and piano. Vocals driving the message, "Take the curse, the flaws and all the things you can't explain: the sudden sight of nightfall and the rumbling of the earth. Wrap them in your deepest fears and give them all away to someone who can shed the tears you're struggling to contain". Marcela's lyrics cover the many fears and 'hunts' which have ensued over history as the band brings forward the refrain with piano, "Until the flame burns out. Until the end of the world, you'll endlessly put the blame on every heart but your own". Well worth the extra cost to get this wonderful addition.
4. The Scarlet Mark
6. Our Cause
7. Darker Days
9. This Moment
11. The Mirror
12. Nadie lo ve
13. The World Is Ours
14. The Hunt (Bonus Track