Here's an album that — even after several listens — still puzzles me. Arabesque, oddly fronted by two distinctly different female singers, dabbles in several subgenres of metal (progressive, gothic, doom, even death) while never really defining its own sound. The result is a slightly unsettling album, but one that ultimately works its way into your psyche. Eventually, you'll still be hearing this Dutch band's music long after the CD stops spinning.
The hypnotic dual vocals of Nicole de Seriere du Bizournet and Katja Salemi can be strong and defiant or ethereal and vulnerable, sometimes in the same song — as is the case with "Haunted." Think Enya meets Lana Lane. Their voices both complement and contradict the eclectic, symphonic music that's courtesy of guitarist Joop Wolters, keyboard player René Ubachs, bassist Frank de Groot and drummer Marc van Mierlo. The band even tosses in some significant death metal growls by de Groot on the rousing "Inner Voice." While many of these songs fail to elicit comparisons to other bands, "Last Attempt" sounds startlingly like Enchant, beginning with the lower-range vocals. Another highlight is "Instant Daydream," The Union's sole instrumental track, which features an uncharacteristically wild and wailing guitar solo from Wolters. A few songs tend to meander, as the players explore their technical virtuosity. But for the most part, Arabesque knows when too much is too much.
Don't pop in this album expecting a slowly-bleed-to-death listen, á la many other female-fronted metal bands these days. Although certain elements of The Union fully embrace elements of metal, this is a challenging and complex album that relies on Arabesque's background as instrumental jazz musicians as much as it does on modern-day prog.