Smoke and MirrorsUnless you’re the most jaded and cynical old hack ever to have had any connection with the music business, then surely an email with the header ‘Slovenia’s ShadowIcon to release Symphonic Metal EP’ has to grab your attention. I mean, we know that symphonic metal exists, so why shouldn’t it exist in Slovenia? It’s easy to dismiss the genre as clichéd, over-the-top and predictable, but if you threw Paramore, My Chemical Romance and 1970s Queen into a blender you’d probably end up with something very like ShadowIcon (or a few litres of very messy genetic material).

The EP opens with “(Now I See) Through a Mirror Darkly”, a duet between Ana Prijatelj Pelhan and Helloween’s Sascha Gerstner and blasts in with a high-speed guitar riff and strings which break down briefly for the entry of the vocal, but carry on at 100mph (sorry 160kph) for the rest of the song. “If I Was the One”, the lead track from the EP is up next; slightly slower with loads of keyboard arpeggios under the vocal and a synth solo at the two-thirds mark which doubles up with guitar before the final chorus comes in. Here’s what the video looks like:

The Edge” (and it isn’t about the guitarist from U2),opens like a Phil Spector classic, breaking down briefly again for the entry of the vocal before building to wall of sound climax with strings and bells. Of course it’s over the top, but isn’t that the point? “The Beauty of a Rose” starts with slow solo piano and voice, but it doesn’t take long before it becomes a big production number, trading string and guitar riffs before the obligatory impassioned guitar solo and epic finish with massed choir vocals and a plaintive synth line. “My Plea” again opens with just mid-tempo voice and keyboard but doesn’t even make it to the end of the first verse before the rest of the band starts to pile in, building up to an epic final chorus with the usual massed backing vocals, guitars and keys all turned up to eleven. The final track is a non-duet version of the opening track which doesn’t really add anything, but it doesn’t take anything away, so I guess the decision was easy; just put it on there and the fans can decide which version they prefer.

In addition to Ana, the band comprises Tomaž Lovšin (guitars), Bojan Kostanjšek (guitars), Matej Ravšelj (bass), Peter Smrdel (keys) and Žiga Ravšelj (drums) and they’re all good musicians. It’s easy to criticise bands like ShadowIcon but the music’s dramatic and dynamic; the drums thunder, the guitars scream, and the lyrics stand up to scrutiny pretty well. If you like your metal melodic and melodramatic, then you’ve come to the right place.

Out on March 16th.

YoyaSerbian singer Yoya Wolf (Jovana Vujnovic) was one of the artists who contributed to the Radio (in my) Head tribute/covers album in 2013 with a grungy cover of “Wolf at the Door” and it’s obvious from her interpretation that she’s a very gifted singer with a wide dynamic range.  The musicians accompanying Yoya on this single are: Miladin Stojkovic (Bass/double bass); Mladen Pecovic (guitars); Goran German (keyboards); Marko J. Kon and Ivan Bamby Mirkovic  drum programming) and Dajana Ivin (backing vocals).  “Open your Heart” is the first original release on Bandhouse Records and, as debut singles go, it’s a corker.

The song opens with some echoing piano chords sketching out a trip-hop feel followed by Yoya Wolf’s breathy, delicate vocal and a bass riff resembling Melle Mel’s “White Lines” and pauses for a beat before slamming into a “wall of sound” chorus with bass guitar and keyboards cranked up to eleven (at least).  The use of this dynamic pattern is repeated through the song with quiet sections (verses or breakdowns) leading into huge choruses before fading out on the sound of a heartbeat.  The playing is superb throughout and the constantly changing settings of the verse and breakdown are always resolved in the power of the chorus.  This is a twenty-first century love song (hence the Valentine’s Day release) but lyrically, you won’t find any mooning and juning here because this is dark and maybe a bit obsessive; it’s a proper song for grown-ups.

“Open your Heart” is a very good song and the playing is spot-on but the crucial element is Yoya Wolf’s voice; she covers a huge dynamic range and nothing ever sounds forced.  After hearing a couple of her songs, I really want to hear more; we’ll keep you posted on how you can hear more as well.

Just before publication of this review, we had the opportunity to ask her about the difference between recording covers and her own material.  Here’s what she had to say:

“When you’re doing covers, you are trying to blend into style and personality of the song you’re covering as well as the artist. That way you experiment with various types and genres, which gives you wide array of possibilities. When singing your own song, you use on subconscious level all that knowledge, but you don’t consciously think about it; you let the words, music and feelings guide you. Singing from the heart is what gives you that special something.”

“Open your Heart” is now available to download here.