Dark Symphonies, despite being one of the coolest names I've ever heard for a record label, usually releases gothic metal that makes me feel like slitting my wrists and then watching passively as the blood oozes from my body, slowly draining me of life and eternally staining the floor. Perhaps that's why Brave's Searching for the Sun took me by pleasant surprise. This is ambitious folk-inspired progressive metal fronted by singer and keyboard player Michelle Loose, a strong-lunged woman whose Natalie Merchant-meets-Cristina Scabbia voice injects these 11 tracks with beauty and intensity.
Beginning life as Arise From Thorns, these three men and one woman changed their name to Brave and released an EP in 2001 called Waist Deep in Dark Waters. From what I gather, it was quite a treat and sparked the creativity that resulted in Searching for the Sun. Most of these songs sound accessible and spunky. Highlights include the hard rocking "Trapped Inside," the bouncy "Bleed Into Me" and the soaring and highly melodic "New Beginning." Even elements of mainstream rock and pop creep into the proceedings, mingling with goth-inspired lyrics like "How can we hope to survive/When the day offers nothing new/And the light of the distant sun/Becomes a burden to our view," from "Waiting All This Time."
Despite its beauty, though, Loose's voice gets lost in a few less-than-compelling songs. Searching for the Sun will take repeated listenings to absorb all of its acoustic and electric nuances — and even then, these songs still may not sink in all the way. This is not a bad album, by any means; it's just not an instantly memorable one. Recommended, with minor reservations.