Aonia, by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs

For any female-fronted metal band with an above average vocal range, there are unfortunately always going to be comparisons with the front-runners of this genre, namely Nightwish. Tarja Turunen era if you want to be precise.

So with that out of the way, we can delve a little deeper into the world of Aonia, which is apparently a land held sacred to the muses of Greek mythology. Whilst the band themselves admit that its past has been as unexpectedly volatile as said mythology, as the above allusion suggests, Aonia have thrown a thunderbolt to earth in the form of their EP of power-charged operatic metal.

That’s not to say that ‘City Of Shadows’ is an album without the peaks and drops that plague many, it’s just that the soaring vocals of frontwoman Mel makes the band’s peaks seem as high as Zeus’ mountain. And that’s enough Greek metaphors to sink even Helen of Troy’s thousand ships.

The title track begins with a somewhat brooding feel that is lifted more as each individual instrument breaks in, and topped off by a snapshot of Mel’s vocal abilities. ‘Prophecy Of The Fallen Kingdom’ is ‘City Of Shadows’s’ catchier brother, in part due to its galloping riff, whilst ‘Liberate Mei’ positively pursues the listener. At times Aonia break into Iron Maiden-ish musical territory and its clear there is a lot of talent in its ranks.

Lyrically Aonia are a little cheesy at times, but it’s all in keeping with their mythic metal persona. They also display some real depth to their thinking such as in the beginning of the ‘Rabbit Hole’, which appears to be a homage to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and therefore starts by inviting you to follow them into the darkness with the sound of a ticking clock.

Whilst Aonia haven’t fallen into the trap of overproduction, the album falls down slightly in perhaps having not quite enough mastery behind the desk. It’s certainly something to muse upon, but whether anyone will ever be creating anything in Aonia’s image remains to be seen.