Although they have disbanded recently, under amicable terms, to pursue other ventures in life and music, Avariel were an impressive symphonic-metal band while they lasted. I even had the pleasure to see this Boston-based quintet live when they made their way to Chicago for Dame-Nation 2011. You may remember from my review of the show where they were the closing act. They even featured a top-notch cover of Metallica's 'No Leaf Clover'.
I've always thought the best metal music is that which combines harsh and brutal elements with melodic and beautiful ones. Avariel fit that criteria perfectly. Their guitar parts are often thrash-inspired, sometimes progressive-metal, sometimes melodic. They bring keyboards into the mix, making 'symphonic metal' perhaps the best label for their sound. Singer Shannon Kelly's vocal style is on par with several iconic female metal singers, like Evanescence's Amy Lee, Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabia, or Epica's Simone Simons.
Their self-produced album, The Dawn, is a solid collection of symphonic metal music. If you like bands like Symphony X, Nightwish, Epica, or Savatage, then you should enjoy Avariel as well. Let me walk you through their album and then see if you agree...
The Dawn's opening song, 'Bleed', begins with a killer-heavy riff. Then Shannon adds her operatic voice to the mix and reveals Avariel's dynamic sound. A touch of blast-beat drumming in moderation makes this song a perfect opener for what proves to be a great album. 'Tunnel's Light' is quite different; a softer, slower song with the verses being driven almost exclusively by the rhythm section. Guitars and keys come in at the choruses to provide a fuller sound. The third track, 'Emotionless' is a dark ballad, and features a good keyboard solo.
'Victim', the album's fourth track, is perhaps where Avariel reveal their dark side. This is a fast-paced, aggressive song. Vocally, Avariel add a new element here as well, as guitarist Scott McDonald provides death-metal style singing, contrasting Shannon's pretty voice.
The next two songs, 'Still' and 'Especially Alone', revert back to a softer feel again. 'Still' is a somber sounding gothic ballad, while 'Especially Alone' is more of a traditional ballad, primarily featuring piano to carry the song. Lyrically it includes the line "...Waiting for the Dawn", making it almost like the unofficial title-track for this album. Of all the songs on this CD, 'Especially Alone' is the one I can compare most directly to Evanescence. If you're a fan of theirs, then you should check out this song in particular.
'In Heaven' is one of my favorites. I am tempted to call it the best song on The Dawn. Stylistically it may be a bit of a departure from the other songs on the album, but it's built upon a heavy guitar riff that strikes me as such a classic, I'm again transported back to the glory days of thrash metal. Avariel simply make this song rock!
'Dark Harbor' has a keyboard intro that sets a scary tone, it sounds like it came straight out of a horror movie, and the rest of the song is top-notch gothic metal.
The final track: 'Phoenix'. Here's Avariel's most ambitious song yet. An epic, progressive, symphonic metal masterpeice. Nearly 12 minutes long, this is melancholic, symphonic heavy metal at its best. From a melodic piano melody at the beginning, it goes through a few key changes where the band expands upon a few different song segments and progressions. A few minutes of instrumental jams tie the different phases of this song together, and by the end you find it has come full circle. A perfect climax of a well-written independent debut!
My top recommended songs from The Dawn:
-Victim (Metalheads, try this one first!)
-In Heaven (My personal favorite by Avariel)
Although Avariel disbanded in early 2012, you can still find their music at the following sites: