Gallia is a four-piece cinematic, symphonic metal band from Belgium formed in 2014. Since their inception, they’ve released one EP, Everflame. Obscura, their debut LP, is about to drop. It is a continuation of the story on Everflame. With 12 songs running about 50 minutes, this is a tumultuous journey, a quest that will transport the listener into a dream world of lyrical and sonic bliss, forming a self-produced movie in the brain. Sit back, relax, close your eyes, and let the story carry you away to another world.
- Elyn Vandenwyngaert – Vocals
- Yannick Maris – Guitars
- Laurens Vandebroek – Bass
- Ties Jehoul – Drums
Obscura will be self-released on September 2, 2022. Promotional support is provided by Hard Life Promotions. https://www.facebook.com/hardlifepromotion
- Return Of Time
- Blackout Queen
- Path Of The Nomad
- Free Me
- Spirit Of The Sea
- Tears Of Gold
- New World
The first song is an instrumental, aptly named “Aperture,” as in the opening. There is a clock ticking, strings, and additional keyboard tones meant to be the opening for the cinematic experience that is to follow. It brings to mind some of the scores for the Harry Potter movies as the opening credits roll, except this one transitions into an excellent symphonic-power metal song, not a movie scene.
Thus begins “Return of Time.” The ticking clock remains integral to the song, carrying the theme forward beautifully. The strings and choir open the song, setting the tempo for the whole band to come in and blast out a killer tune. The transition from orchestration to the full-on metal band is flawless. The piano/string interlude is a peaceful little section, while some other breaks create more tension. The song is a wild ride through an emotional landscape.
For “Blackout Queen,” the opening is a killer riff with massive orchestration. This track is heavy yet works in many softer pieces with strings and piano. The lyrics are dark and oppressive, informing the listener that when you abuse the good in someone, you risk creating the bad and living with their vengeance. This is especially dangerous when dealing with someone who has the power to alter your world. That which was freely given has not been taken back. The music is as powerful as the message. The rhythm is absolutely bombastic, and the lead work of the keys and guitars is stunning, with just the right mix of heaviness and gentle orchestral phrases.
“Mirage” begins with calliope music featuring a piano and strings. The first kick comes suddenly and very heavily, only to fade to an accordion sound with sporadic horns. The voice is airy and light, conveying hope and possibly even a bit of happiness, but there is a dark turn to the lyrics and a drop in timbre for the voice. The betrayal in the lyrics is mirrored in the tone of the music. The chorus goes big, giving both the words and the music a massive boost to provide the listener an indication of how painful this realization truly is.
“Reflection” opens with a music box being wound up to play its’ lonely, solitary tune. A second winding leads to the crashing wave of sound that is the song’s main body. The repeated interludes of winding the music box set the sections of the song apart without using progressive metal tempo and tie changes, providing a mental break that gives the listener a chance to “catch their breath” before the next wave hits. “Reflection” is an introspective look at oneself and the visage on a mirrored surface, both of which appear to scare our protagonist.
Shifting to yet another musical style, “Path Of The Nomad” has a combination tribal/arabesque theme. Lyrically, this track is about a wanderer who manages to get lost and find themselves on the same path. There are exciting shifts in the vocals here, going from a lower to a higher register and bringing in backing vocals as well as a choir. There are more twists and turns musically, and the composition goes from ethnic patterns to major power chord domination. The continual ebbs and flows of the music are simply amazing.
“Free Me” has the feel of a sea shanty. The guitars are gentle, the cello is peaceful, and the drums are a bit suspenseful, but the overall track is uplifting. This crashes into “Spirit Of The Sea,” a much heavier sea shanty with a similar phrasing that keeps the theme moving forward. The difference in the cadence of the vocal delivery is quite stunning. It creates a really complex feel to the song as a whole, which is again mirrored in the music. The drums surge and ebb, and the bass punctuates the rhythm at critical points, accenting specific passages. Then everything drops, and you get an interlude that pauses most of the instruments, leaving some eerie vocalizations and ambient wind noises. It’s like the calm before the storm, but there is tension within the stillness.
“Chaos” is one of the heavier songs, starting with a massive rhythm and excellent double bass kicks. The vocals are oddly modulated for the verse, sounding almost robotic. The lyrics have more double meanings, taking the word current, which ties into the sea theme but taking it into the power context, like electrical charges. The theme of the elements in the lyrics has been woven throughout this entire disc, then reinforced with sound effects and musical passages. This song has another arabesque section, including the vocals. That same phrase continues with the riff, tying back to earlier songs, bringing the story back to earlier themes.
Turning to “Euphoria,” we get a more Asian theme to the intro that carries through to the main riff. Gallia takes a theme and runs with it, shifting it in and out, playing it with more traditional instruments before taking it into the metal realm with heavy guitars and solid rhythms. Going back to the phrase with strings, the passage has a different feel yet carries the theme well. The repetition of the phrase throughout successive tracks ties the whole album together beautifully.
There must be an epic track leading to the adventure’s conclusion on any album like this, and “Tears Of Gold” is that song on Obscura. There is a chugging rhythm and a killer guitar riff. The Middle Eastern phrasing is still here, letting the listener follow the journey through this part of the trek. The guitars are so majestic on this track. That riff is top 10 of the year, and 2022 has been packed with massive riffs from some of the greatest bands. That’s how good this riff is. At over seven minutes, this is a power/progressive song that brings the protagonist to the end of the trials and sets up the story’s conclusion in an almost epilogue song.
“New World” is that track. This melancholy song brings the hero to the end of their tribulations, leaving them in their post-journey state of enlightenment. The opening is pure ballad, gentle and full of emotion. There is peace here, knowing the trek is over, and nothing will ever be the same. The vocals are plaintive and beautiful, full of longing for a better place. The journey changed everything, like it or not. The hero never comes home the same person. The build to the end of the disc is beautifully paced and very eloquent. The crescendo that finalizes this epic journey feels like the curtain dropping at the end of a play or the conclusion of a major opera.
Gallia writes big, bold, bombastic compositions. There are many significant shifts and changes within each song as they create interludes that can be a simple pause or an indication of a major change in phrasing. The compositions are enormous, complex, and utterly majestic. There is so much attention to detail embedded in this record. There is no silence, but there are pauses where only a sound effect is used to either shift gears or change directions. There is no wasted space; every nook and cranny is filled with precisely what the moment needs for maximum effectiveness.
The fact this is a debut album should absolutely astound anyone who hears this. In a year of spectacular albums from veteran bands, a handful of newcomers have thrown down the musical gauntlet, creating massive works of art that rival the best of the best. Obscura is one of those albums.
- Guitars – 10
- Rhythms – 10
- Vocals – 10
- Songwriting – 10
- Production – 10
- Overall – 10.00