Philippe D ’Orange leads the Italian quintet with red hot vocals over the course of 11 songs that all share Sound Storm’s observations on immortality. In reality, immortality is only a messy commonality between the tunes, allowing the band to hang all their spectacular symphonic pop-metal on a concept as frail as skeletal ankles.
Immortalia does hang together fairly well after the local opera company swings by to lay down the first volley of skyrockets with the orchestral intro, which seems to drift into an awkwardly long silence before “Back to Life” lobs a half-stick of dynamite from out of the darkness. Sound Storm unleashes hell from this point on, which may or may not be a good thing depending on one’s taste.
The production on this baby is astounding. The boys on the board and in the mixing suite added as much to the spectacle as anything that sparks and showers from Immortalia’s incendiary instruments. The musicianship is blindingly brilliant, pitch perfect in sustaining the hour-long explosion. What few dynamics the album possesses aren’t hidden in the usual breakdowns and vamps into solos, but rather live only in the spaces between the tracks.
Sound Storm uses classical music tricks to bend the roar below the red line every so often, but this is all about a big sound playing with big talent and even bigger vocals surrounded in a nearly gargantuan recording job. “Seven Veils” paints a lovely picture of old Araby before absolutely detonating into a double-speed operatic thunderstorm worthy of Verdi on crack. As one might laugh in wonder while fireworks burst over and over in the night sky, each larger than the last, so that same laugh flies out when the soprano rips loose with a fa-la-la-la chromatic laugh right in the center of the TNT blasts. It’s so ELO that it’s fun to imagine that Sound Storm is doffing a tri-corner cap to Jeff Lynne’s gang.
Speaking of sopranos, light orchestras and finely-aged cheese from the 1970s, Sound Storm relies heavily on all that and more. Il Dama IIaria Lucille De Santis is the soprano who pops up frequently to lend an angel’s voice to the bombast. Davide Cristofolio bangs and caresses the keyboards and piano. His work is stupendous at times and subpar in others. Cristofolio’s is wondrous with his wild-eyed slathering of layer upon layer of every orchestral pad in his armory of axes. His use of the cheesiest funky-worm keyboard sound heard since the Ohio Players is also a thing of wonder, as in “wonder who thought that was a good idea?”
“The Curse of the Moon,” “Blood of the Maiden” and “Call Me Devil” fairly sum up the whole Sound Storm thesis on immortality. The wretched album cover, which might be a take on the Madame Bathory tale, not the band but the actual murderess, is executed so poorly that the artist should be threatened with execution. But Immortalia is so over-the-top in so many ways that something as minor as an unintentionally hideous album cover does little to dampen the fire.
Sound Storm’s Immortalia is truly a marvel, a thousand flares in a moonless night that explode all at once, deafening those who experience the cacophony. Unfortunately firework spectaculars always end the same way, their sounds echo into silence and leave behind the smoke of swiftly fading memories. Immortalia is only a flicker of fun for all but the most diehard power metal fans.
(released August 28, 2012 on Scarlet Records)