Review: Mercy Isle – Storm EP

Written by Brett Kihlmire

Opening with alluring synths and an operatic echo, ‘I’m Gonna Make It’ quickly establishes an atmosphere for the extended play. When lead vocalist, Kassandra Novell, enters one thing is made certain immediately – this woman has an extremely powerful voice. In fact, Kassy’s voice is very much reminiscent of Simone Simons of Epica and Floor Jansen of Nightwish – a major plus for symphonic metal fans. Musically, the strong rhythm, brief but ear-pleasing guitar solo, beautiful synths, and praise-worthy vocals make for a solid opening track.

‘Storm’ begins in a very strange fashion considering the character of the opening track. Heavy death metal riffing and strong drumming play a key role, which is no surprise considering guitarist, Cory Scheider, also plays in the death metal outfit, Casket Robbery.  His heavy riffing is by no means unwelcome, though, as it gives a darker edge that fits well with the lyrics, particularly, “it’s comfort to know that everyone dies, especially you.” Moving on from the guitar, the synths are just as important as ever providing an atmosphere best described dark fantasy – The keyboard solo midway through is especially powerful.  As for Novell’s vocals, the strength of her voice is showcased well here, especially in the chorus.

An angst-fueled track, ‘No One Will Save You’ is the lightest song on the entire release, but it’s certainly going to take you by surprise. Driven by Joop de Rooij’s piano and synths, the atmosphere is a somber one, which is fitting considering the lyrics and the fact that Novell mostly holds back the power of her voice. Yet, just as the song seemed to be a simple ballad, the rhythm section kicks up the power and a new voice joins in. This is none other than bassist, Chad Novell, and his vocals are top notch. Bringing a whole new element with a downtrodden delivery, Chad quickly turns an otherwise good song into something much better than initially anticipated. To truly bring out the darkness of the song, Kassy emulates the emotion of Chad’s vocals with death growls bordering on demonic.  All in all, it’s the best track on the EP.

Finishing out the EP is ‘Uncaged.’ The second heaviest of the four tracks, this one is the weakest of the four, but still enjoyable. Though it takes a sharp ear, one can catch a few harmonics in Scheider’s guitar work and some subtleties in de Rooji’s synths making for an impressive piece of music that refuses to let the EP grow stale. Overall, the band keeps a strong rhythm and the synths create a very alluring atmosphere providing Novell with an excellent musical backing while she showcases her powerful voice and poetic lyrics in this finale.

Though their debut was just four tracks, not one song is beneath consideration. Mercy Isle is an impressive band that will surely live up to the title of their opening track. That being said, if you’re a fan of Epica, Nighwish, or Delain, you’re in for a treat. If female fronted metal isn’t your fancy, you might want to pass. There is certainly a solid foundation of traditional metal elements in their music, but the operatic, sometimes pop-influenced, vocals may be a turn off depending on tastes. Regardless, this is a solid first entry and we look forward to their eventual full length album. 8.5/10

 

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