Kells is a popular female-fronted heavy metal band with an established following in their native France. Anachromie, their third release, is a record that is clearly looking for a larger audience, bigger sales, and louder shows. This is a group that has worked hard to establish itself as a new contributor to the developing mixture of symphonic and nu metal that is popular both in and out of Europe. Kells has already performed with the likes of Epica, Tarja Turunen, Apocalyptica, Cradle of Filth, and many others. Moreover, their sound readily brings to mind Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, Arch Enemy, and, to a lesser degree, Leaves Eyes. The main draw for listeners will no doubt be their singer Virginie Goncalves, who has an impressive vocal range that moves freely from high and sweet to low and angry. We've heard voices like hers before, but she obviously has a great deal of talent and charisma that should draw audiences.
I want to be careful to avoid giving the impression that her band simply stands behind an engaging performer at the head. Whereas Evanescence occasionally seems to be more or less about Amy Lee, Kells is still presenting itself as a fairly tight band. I was particularly impressed with Patrick Garcia's low and driving guitar sound. He plays with a nice crunchy sound that adds a rich texture to the overall sound of this band. Laurent Lesina on Bass and Julien Nicolas don't come on too strong, but hold up the rhythm section effectively. I was a bit surprised Nicolas didn't explore the popular double blast sound that is so popular these days. I'm not sure I missed it, but I think a little more variety from the back end would be welcome from time to time. This band draws so much texture from broad symphonic sounds that they could probably explore more fully some of the strength and power that comes from a good drummer.
I doubt listeners will find anything terribly new or innovative on Anachromie, but that isn't always a bad thing. Some bands take innovation too far whereas others fall stagnant into a simple musical formula. I don't think Kells falls into either trap. They strike me as a band that may yet discover their real strengths, both musically and commercially. Fans of symphonic metal will enjoy the effective mixture of sounds and effects that Kells has to offer. I've always like bands like Leaves Eyes because of their ability to convey a nice blend of metal with something bordering on the classically beautiful. Kells tends to explore the harder edges of music here, but they do so very well. I really liked the overall mood of this album and find myself curious to discover what else Kells has done.
My only critique of Anachromie is that it sometimes does too much with the quick, dramatic, shifts from loud to soft, angry to caressing, metal to silk. Evanescence helped bring these kinds of textures, shifts, and surprises to a larger audience. I think it's time for other bands to discover some new ways of expanding the musical palette without radically changing the overall picture of things. There are also the occasional forays into a pop sensibility on this album that may or may not interest all fans. It's hard to judge such moments too harshly; musicians need to make a living and should find welcoming audiences. Kells needs to find a larger audience and they remain mostly consistent on this recording. If for no other reason, come for Virginie's vocals.
2. Se Taire
3. Illusion D'une Aire
4. L'heure Que Le Temps Va Figer
7. Quelque Part
8. Le manège déchanté
11. L'Autre Rive
15. On My Fate