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Stream of Passion: A War of Our Own

Freedom and independence is a universally cherished theme. So when Stream of Passion declared their independence from their former label Napalm Records it was no surprise that their next album would carry that independent spirit. The album title is A War of Our Own, and represents that freedom and creative spirit as well as any of their albums since their debut. Nothing matches that debut album for my ears and maybe an alliance or collaboration with Arjen Lucassen would bring that unique sound back, but SoP has declared their independence and I doubt they will go back.

The band's hugely successful international crowd funding campaign on the Indiegogo platform has been matched with an exciting album debut show and a further lineup of shows that takes them deep into the fall of this year.

The band's current line-up includes: Marcela Bovio, on vocals and violin; Johan van Stratum, on bass; Eric Hazebroek, on guitar; Stephan Schultz, on guitar; Jeffrey Revet, on keyboards; and Martijn Peters, on drums.

The opening track "Monster" is the beginning and reason for the "declaration of war". Someone or something has become a monster and it is affecting Marcela Bovio, the lead singer in the worst way. The need to separate from the recent past is essential. Marcela sings, "We had no choice. We were going under. To seek the prize we were meant to win. But is it worth it? As overwhelming obscurity is taking over". Although she states that the story is about the drug cartels in her former Mexican home, the track may have a dual meaning, including being under the watchful eye of a record label. She sings, "The men in charge gave no guarantees. We're on our own now. Trying to shake off this cruel disease. But we don't know how". Yes, they are on their own and if the crowd funding for this album is any indication, they are free and clear and ready to end that 'overwhelming obscurity'. The music is powerful and symphonic, and Marcela punches home the refrain, "Spread your wings and flee from the Earth to the stars". I can almost see Smaug exit the mountain as she sings.

The title track "A War of Our Own", opens with excellent piano, like so many strong memories from the debut album. The keys are followed by that lead guitar power duo, as deep bass and powerful drums fill out the soundscape. Marcela sings, "Roaring screams rush over their heads. Slicing the air. Filling our ears. Tainted hands carrying horns of steal. They claim their own in the name of fear. Stay. The night is full or terror. Stay in my arms forever". Like a scene from the Battle of Helm's Deep. You can see the images and feel the emotion in her voice. Another powerful statement full of emotional music.

However, just when it was getting good, they drift back to the recent past with "The Curse", which almost sounds like the same guitar riffs from "Collide" from Darker Days. The piano is again drowned out by the heavy guitars and drums. Thankfully around 3:28 minutes into the track, Marcela's voice can be heard singing solo before the concrete blasting begins again. The relentless jackhammer guitar, bass and drums quickly destroy the melody. A sad drift back to the recent past.

"Autophobia" regains our hope in the sound of the future with Marcela's beautiful voice opening the piece. Marcela sings, "This house turned down every one left tainted. As we realize. How ghostly kind of petrifying silence slips through the cracks. We can't deny our home is ruined. We can't deny we're barely breathing". So clear and without that jackhammering backdrop they have used for so long since the debut album. Clear the soundscape and let us hear this magnificent voice fill the space. Perfect. Violin and soft melody, like the first album. Leave the sound of the jackhammers behind. Progress…move on.

"Burning Star" takes us back to the jackhammer mind numbing sound. Then, they surprise me and slow things down as Marcela delivers solid vocals with keys and guitars surrounding. Marcela sings, "Is it just a matter of time. Until we finally can look into each other's eyes. Is it a just a matter of faith. Till we believe that when they say it will be ok. Or, should we start a fire". Solid drums, bass, well – placed lead guitar supports instead of overwhelms. Then they give the heavy guitars a chance to grind. Perfect. Let the voice have its moment and the rest of the instruments their opportunities to shine.

Half – way through the album and the diamond appears. Soft distant keyboards open "For You", as Marcela sings, "Sitting on a thrown of glass. Watching every season pass. In your cold hollow stare. The stories stole a kiss. Could it be that you see us trying to cut the strings". Oh why can't every song be like this? Deep bass and soft keys supporting. Deep lyrics setting up a powerful storyline. This is what we wanted. The treasure within the package. The album's best track. "There were way too many words to say". A story about wanting to receive understanding or recognition from a mentor or admirer. Hopefully this is the template of the future.

Imagine being "Exile" from your homeland. That is what Marcela asks you to ponder in this track. The band opens with an awesome galloping guitar, cymbal, drum and key assault, before Marcela sings, "Arancame! De rais". Literally, "Pull me out…from the roots!" One of my favorite benefits is hearing Marcela sing in Spanish. This is a powerful track full of strong lyrics and a storyline that you can relate to if you have ever wished to be somewhere else. The use of the piano is essential. The deep bass conveys both sadness and a solid commitment to return…someday. The trailing off piano is another great memory from the debut album. Thank you for that.

"Delirio" opens with soft drums, piano, violin, and deep bass before Marcela sings softly in Spanish, "Piensa en mi…cuando la luna se asoma. Piensa en mi…cuando el sueno te avandona". "Think of me, when the moon appears. Think of me, when you abandon your dreams". Powerful lyrics, and the band recoils to provide crashing drums, grinding guitars, and heavy bass, to match. Another solid hit full of dramatic jackhammering sounds followed by tender moments that last longer than some of their recent albums. Thankfully the piano is given plenty of space on this track.

"Earthquake" opens with more jackhammering electric guitar, drums and bass, and the piano in the distance. Then Marcela sings to galloping softer drums and piano. The jackhammer is quieted as violins can be heard along with a more symphonic sound…like I remember from album #1. Marcela sings, "Run for safety, our home's been compromised. There is nowhere left to hide". The piano rises to claim its rightful position as the slicing guitars, bass and drums pound out their melody and Marcela's voice rises above.

That beautiful piano opening like "For You" returns for "Secrets". Marcela delivers her second best performance of the album, "Things unspoken. Things unsaid. Never meant to hurt. Tiny drops of fiery red. Will develop and grow out of control". Then the fire roars out of control. Pounding drums, heavy bass, soaring lead guitar and following piano as Marcela's voice matches the climb North. If only this album had another five of these tracks it would be album of the year so far. Hopefully this is the future sound. They return to the jackhammer grinding, but let the symphonic orchestration take the main stage on this one. Maybe someday the jackhammers will cease and the symphony will play on. Fingers crossed.

"Don't Let Go" opens with the pitter patter of percussion and keyboard effects before the piano drives through the middle of the soundscape. Building tension…increasing anticipation. No need for jackhammers here. Marcela sings elegantly, "She lives a life of disaster and pain. What would she says if I told her it's not too late?" Dramatic opening like album number one. Well-developed stories of passion and emotion delivered with the voice of someone who clearly understands the territory. "She fears the horror tomorrow will bring". But Marcela always provides hope for the future in her songs, "Take me, never let me go. As long as the future is waiting for us". Another of the best tracks on this fabulous comeback album.

"Out of the Darkness" opens with more clashing and banging but not the mindless stuff. Marcela sings, "Lay by the whispers stuck between your temples. Bound to the meaning of a name they gave you. You swallow every word. Their dust and bitter look. And every sip of sauce burning your throat. Don't let anyone put out the fire in your eyes". Like a Tarantino cinematic drama playing out within your ears. Powerful guitar solos and deep bass, supported with pounding drums. A real drama-rama for sure. This will definitely be a showstopper. Duck…to avoid the bullets.

"The Distance Between Us" may be the strongest track Marcela's ever written about Mexico yet. This track to me is like the continuation of the power expressed in Dave Matthew's "Don't Drink the Water". Only Marcela is native to the land and she updates the story to the modern dilemmas facing the nation, or any nation for that matter. The need to remove a disease. Marcela sings, "We were born out of two worlds colliding. Out of the clash of faith and endeavor. But when they came. They came to change and conquer. Our ancient ways were a burden forgotten. The earth under our feet. Severed and torn. We failed to see where we belong". Yes, powerful lyrics. This should have been included on the album. I think it would have been a better opener than "Monster". It is more direct and powerful. Marcela sings, "When will we open our eyes? Can we break free? Have no more doubt!" A rallying cry for a nation. Let's hope they're listening. They close it with piano and operatic vocals, and just a little Lucassen lead guitar. Thanks…I needed that.

In her press release for A War of Our Own, Marcela Bovio states, (Leaving Napalm Records and using the Indiegogo platform)…"It enabled us to make decisions on our own time. There were no more discussions about the direction our music was taking or about the visual aspects. We had complete freedom. We are no longer accountable to anyone; it's now up to the fans to judge our work and the album." Well…as a fan and writer I say this first album out of the Indiegogo platform is indeed a success. Are there more mountains to climb, hurdles to vault, well of course? I mentioned a few in this review. But most importantly this band is in control of its destiny for sure. And they are expressing their sound with more musicianship and cinematic lyrics and imagery, and that makes me very happy. Marcela has always written from the heart. And often about the home of her birth. Her Spanish lyrics are always appreciated and provide the uniqueness that separates this band from the many in the genre who sound alike.

I believe this is a return to the kind of album and freedom the band had when they were working with Arjen Lucassen. The energy can be heard from beginning to end. Throw out that jackhammer sound and this band is ready to challenge for the top.

Track Listing:

1. Monster
2. A War of Our Own
3. The Curse
4. Autophobia
5. Burning Star
6. For You
7. Exile
8. Delirio
9. Earthquake
10. Secrets
11. Don't Let Go
12. Out of the Darkness
13. The Distance Between Us (digi-pack bonus track)

Added: April 24th 2014
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
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Language: english

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