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Stream of Passion: Embrace The Storm

Dutch guitarist Arjen Lucassen's latest musical offering is a project called Stream of Passion, a band that finds him showcasing the vocal talents of new found singer Marcela Bovio who sang on the Ayreon rock opera The Human Equation. The band is rounded out by fellow Dutch musicians Davy Mickers (drums), Johan van Stratum (bass), American guitarist Lori Linstruth and Mexican pianist Alejandro Millan. Lucassens's main challenge was to deliver something that sounded fresh, natural and at the same time innovative, which proved to be quite the task considering some of his new band mates lived thousands of miles away.

Ok, so what about the music itself on Embrace The Storm? Is it Goth? Metal? Classical? Well actually it pretty much touches on all of those styles as the band mixes in live instruments with electronic beats, hell they even throw in some cello and violin for good measure. Vocalist Bovio's talents are at the forefront throughout as her haunting and sometimes chilling vocal style immediately draws you in. Her spoken word voice over in "Haunted" are a prime example of this, as well as the beautifully hypnotic singing in what I think is the CD's best track "I'll Keep On Dreaming". The ballad "Nostalgia" sung partially in Spanish if I'm not mistaken, towards the end of the disc is another standout track as well. The only problem I had with Embrace The Storm was that after about the halfway point of the CD I found myself hoping for a change in her vocal style and it was then that my interest began to wane slightly. This is not a slight against Bovio, as I really believe she has a very strong, unique sounding voice, one that really suits the style of music. It's the songs themselves that don't offer much variety; they all seem to be at the same speed and tempo. Overall the musicianship is very good and there are enough power riffs and tasty melodic guitar solos, plus great piano playing as well to go along with the violins and cellos, which add nice touches.

I probably could not see myself playing this CD in it's entirety too many times for the reasons mentioned above, however that being said I do want to stress that there are definitely a few really beautiful songs on Embrace The Storm and more than a few moments of inspired playing from the musicians, however by the time the band decides to really rock out a bit more with the CD closer "Calliopeia", it was too little too late for me. I would like to see perhaps more variety in the songs and better pacing next time out from this talented band.


Track Listing
1. Spellbound
2. Passion
3. Deceiver
4. I'll Keep On Dreaming
5. Haunted
6. Wherever You Are
7. Open Your Eyes
8. Embrace The Storm
9. Breathing Again
10. Out In The Real World
11.Nostalgia
12.Calliopeia

Added: April 7th 2006
Reviewer: Ryan Sparks
Score:
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Stream of Passion: Embrace The Storm
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-04-07 16:54:06
My Score:

Proving that he is never one to rest of his laurels Arjen Lucassens has done it once again. His last album was the epic "Human Equation" (released with Ayreon) and it would be received with considerable acclaim and justifiably so. He would put aside Ayreon for the next musical adventure and bring us a totally new band entitled "Stream Of Passion". The band would be new but listeners would not be a stranger to some of the players for joining Lucassens would be Mexican singing sensation Marcela Bovio who recently recorded with Ayreon. The remainder of the band would be filled by an internet contest and with members residing all around the world a truly unique musical experience was the end result. Marcela is an amazing talent and her voice will instantly appeal to those who enjoy the presence of a beautiful female vocal on top of their rock. It's a Gothic meets Progressive meets Atmospheric group that will appeal very much to fans of
The Gathering more than something like Nightwish. Ms. Bovio's voice while powerful is not one of the operatic styled ones. The other members of the group are Davy Mickers (drums), Lori Linstruth (guitar), Alejandro Milan (piano), and Johan van Stratum (bass). Arjen himself is of course a member not only providing guitars but also largely responsible for the music composition. For this release he centered his composition on Marcela's voice and ideas in order to make her shine as much as possible. The result
is fantastic and with songs like "Passion", "I'll Keep On Dreaming" and "Spellbound" there is a very positive result for the listener. I enjoyed these particular songs as well as "Out In The Real World" and "Calliopeia" since there was a lot of the heavy vibe I enjoy.

By not giving a totally heavy or progressive piece like Ayreon, Arjen succeeds in giving his fans something different to enjoy with Stream Of Passion. There are some intricacies in selections like "Embrace The Storm" (also among the heavier tracks) but there are also some hints of bands like Portis Head which through me for a loop to experience. I found the release enjoyable as while I am normally a fan of the Operatic female lead I am growing tired of the number of them that is popping up. There are a number of slower, piano driven melodies making this a very contemporary album. Resultant of this release I am anxious to hear what else will come from the talented Marcela. I am sure she will have a bright future and also find herself on some more Ayreon releases going forward. I recommend this album for fans of Evanescence and The Gathering, please check it out.

Stream of Passion: Embrace The Storm
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-10-28 18:27:02
My Score:

Arjen Lucassen is an artist who always likes to think outside the box. Whenever he releases an Ayreon disc, he often has to dive into another project where he can clear his mind and use some of his other creative ideas in different musical areas. Stream of Passion is one of these projects. However, it's not just a one-off project. This is the first band Arjen has put together in the last 10 years, and yes, he does plan on going on a tour at the end of the year. Arjen's amazing vocal discovery Marcela Bovio from Mexico already impressed a lot of Ayreon fans with her exceptional performance on The Human Equation album. After the success of the album, Arjen decided to work with her in a different capacity, where he could utilise her talents and concentrate on a whole album with Marcela doing the vocals.

So plans were put into action and a totally new band was formed. With Arjen playing just rhythm guitars and Marcela doing the vocals and playing violin, Johan van Stratum on bass, Marcela's band mate from Elfonia Alejandro Millan on piano, Davy Mickers on drums, and Lori Linstruth on lead guitars also joined the band, equally contributing to the songwriting process and broadening the musical spectrum of Embrace the Storm. Like Marcela, female lead guitarist Lori Linstruth was also found through the internet. Linstruth plays a wide range of guitar solos on the disc with a distinct metal style focusing on melodious flow. Drummer Mickers is an interesting find indeed. Quite different from Arjen's usual skinsman Ed Warby, Mickers renders the album a bit more modern with exceptional timing and rhythmic drive. Finally, Alejandro Millan gives the album an organic edge with his sparse piano melodies often reminding me of Elfonia's new disc This Sonic Landscape. Though I was expecting something more in the lines of Arjen's Ambeon project, Stream of Passion has turned out to be a more band effort with real metal instrumentation rather than various electronic and sampled soundscapes. That said, the album does share a few common ideas with Ambeon, in that it features a single female vocalist lending it her voice and Arjen experimenting with rather non-Ayreon elements.

However, since Arjen wrote most of the album on acoustic guitar only to send the demos to Marcela lest she could come up with her own lyrics and vocal melodies, together with Alejandro Millan on piano, the music has resulted in subtle similarities to their own band Elfonia, except that Elfonia is a lot jazzier and perhaps more Latin-inspired. Marcela has not only composed similar harmonies, but she also sings in Spanish on three songs. "Haunted" opens up with a lush orchestral run and marching drum and bass rhythms where Marcela uses both Spanish and English lyrics in order to diversify the piece. From silently spoken gloomy Spanish sections to English-sung bits over acoustic guitars, the song does a great job of portraying the subject matter on hand, which addresses the loss of innocence. On "Out of the Real World", she uses more of her angelic opera vocals (changing from English to Spanish, and vice versa) with truly majestic string arrangements juxtaposed with a rather modern, trip-hop beat. "Nostalgia", on the other hand, is a completely Spanish-sung track with Millan's pretty piano and Marcela's crytalline voice which eventually morphs into a sweeping soprano delivery. Marcela's lyrics are dark and deeply moving, especially when matched by her emotive tone. This album has also allowed her to explore different singing styles, as her voice on the first track "Spellbound" has an evident Anneke van Giersbergen influence. This is a cold track, with a very structured drum pattern and ambient piano, along with subtle violin and an ethnic percussion break. Images of more vivid The Gathering touches are heard with the arrival of thick guitar and bass chords forming a lucid texture around the vocals.

Much more is on display on the album. From the dark bass figure, electric piano, and intense rhythm guitars that fill the alluring passages of "Deceiver" where Marcela's dual leads are mixed cleverly, to the soaring guitar solo on the piano ballad "I'll Keep on Dreaming", to the ever-changing dynamics on "Wherever You Are", Arjen opts for the perfect marriage of polarized rhythmic qualities that never fail to contrast the very slow and moody sections with a thunderous guitar and bass tandem. Marcela once again shows her Anneke van Giersbergen-like style on the other piano ballad "Breathing Again", while on "Calliopeia" the band creates their most progressive moment with cohesive instrumental breaks and smooth shifts in time signatures. Needless to say, all of these soundscapes are fantastically arranged by Arjen Lucassen in his unique and immediately noticeable style. The special edition of the album comes with a DVD that shows the making of the album, a video clip of "Passion" underpinned by the amalgamation of operatic vocals, pianos, textural guitar riffs, some industrial elements, and lush string works and piano, and demo versions of some of the songs. Recommended to fans of Ayreon, Ambeon, Star One, and Elfonia, as well as fans of prog rock, gothic, experimental and dark music.



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