Into The Orchestra Pit

Edenbridge are a female-fronted, symphonic metal band. Before that scares you away with saturnine visions of poorly executed, forgettable ballads, forever sitting in the shadow of Nightwish's increasingly ropey output whilst channelling the delicate tones of classical instruments through what might as well be a Fisher Price keyboard, the Austrians' eighth album certainly bats above average.

Edenbridge are light and airy compared to their genre-leading Finnish counterparts, which seems to work both for and against them in equal measures. When they're good, they're really, really good, although perhaps not in ways that everyone will appreciate. With The Bonding, Edenbridge's melodic persuasion practically tips them over the edge and out of the realm of heavy metal altogether, leaving all real signs of that facet of their being in the past. That being said, all cylinders are most certainly firing when the band kick the album off with the seven-minute Mystic River, with the riffs taking the lead before the orchestral pomp kicks in and envelops the music.

In fact, Edenbridge in 2013 sound like they're way more comfortable writing pseudo-musicals than they are writing anything that would fall under the heavy metal genre in any conceivable way. Luckily they seem to be playing to their strengths; the wonderfully wistful Star-Crossed Dreamer sounds like it was only ever meant for the stage, with Sabine Edelsbacher's voice the perfect vessel to make this idea genuinely conceivable.

The two clear highlights appear in the middle of the album. The yearning melancholia of Into A Sea Of Souls conjures up The Gathering's beautiful sadness, and the brilliant Far Out Of Reach whose mournful piano notes build to a huge crescendo with Sabine's voice unquestionably alluring and an absolute pleasure to behold.

As if in answer to the past twenty minutes of top notch symphonic bombast, Shadows of My Memory wastes no time in unleashing a metal riff and even some death-growls upon the unsuspecting listener, although courtesy of the production quality, the impact is somewhat lost. Though perfect for the orchestral moments, the treble-grabbing production weakens the more guitar-heavy moments and the metal side of The Bonding feels further weakened as a consequence.

Yet this is still unmistakably an Edenbridge album, their identity being more vibrant than ever before in 2013 and main songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist Lanvall certainly has good reason to look upon The Bonding with pride. The orchestral sections, whilst not overpowering the songs, bring an incredible sense of both subtlety and splendour to the music; something that could only have been achieved with a full, living and breathing orchestra. For the third consecutive album in a row and with the help and funding of some very supportive fans, that's exactly what Edenbridge deliver, courtesy of the Klangvereinigung Orchestra of Vienna.

The scale of what the band have achieved here should not be overlooked. This is no run-of-the-mill, female-fronted Nightwish clone: this is an intricately carved, full-on symphonic extravaganza, utilising a full orchestra to bring to life the band's grandiose vision and ambition, adding levels of scope and dynamism and surpassing anything the band have achieved previously.

No keyboard can recreate the sound of a real orchestra, and few bands have been able to recreate the sounds and emotions on disc as effectively as Edenbridge have with The Bonding. Go on, make this band as huge as they should be, especially if you want to see the orchestra with them on tour as much as I do!