ANTHEA - “Tales Untold”

By Dark Starr

While ANTHEA doesn't reinvent the wheel, their version of symphonic and progressive metal is an intriguing blend of sounds. They can get brutal, but also lush. It has technical moments along with more visceral. This is a strong album based on an inventive example of melding varying types of metal into something unified.

That title track starts the set, and symphonic metal, with both angles on full display, brings it into being. It is a furious and intense ride as it gets underway. It is such cool stuff. There are thrashy moments along with more technical ones. It's a really dynamic cut. It even drops back to a mellower, balladic section. It fires back out to the song proper to take it to its closing. "Ascendence" comes in driving and yet symphonically tinged. It drops to a more stripped back section for the first vocals. The song screams out further down the road. It's quite a varied and dramatic ride.

Coming in fast-paced and suitably symphonic, "Song for Winter" drops back to an almost balladic approach for the first vocals. It intensifies to seriously powerful symphonic metal for the chorus. When it drops back to the mellower section for the next vocals, it's more meaty than it was on the previous verse. Again, we power back out to more symphonic metal from there as the chorus hits.

Coming in dramatic, "The Deceiver" works out to some seriously thrashy zones as it kicks into overdrive. The vocals on the tune are on the brutal side, at least on that section. This thing moves through a lot of different movements, and we do get more melodic vocals further down the road. It is a real powerhouse with a lot of different things built into it.

"Sapiens" is next, and tribal percussion starts the cut. Some other world-music textures emerge to take it from there. We're nearly a minute in before it turns metallic. Even then those world music things are still there. It turns to something that is like a mix of thrash and klesmer music further down the road. This thing just keeps reinventing itself. I love the tastefully staccato pattern that serves as the backdrop for the first vocals. They retain the world-music things as it grows. For some reason I'm reminded just a little of RAINBOW's "Gates of Babylon," but this is much fiercer. It turns seriously proggy as it works onward. There is some killer keyboard work at times. They take us out into some extreme metal stuff for a time. The number is so dynamic and diverse.

Intricate acoustic guitar with some icing on the cake accompaniment starts "Memoriam." It builds in melodic ways from there, remaining mellow. The vocals come in over the top in balladic ways. It doesn't get into seriously metallic zones, but it does get more involved and rocking at points. "Looking Glass" has a great combination of extreme metal, symphonic and other concepts. It is a diverse song that covers a lot of territory.

"Empyrean" gets very brutal at times. Yet it also has some seriously symphonic metal sections, and it drops to mellower, almost operatic territory. There are some of the most effective symphonic metal sections of the whole album built into it. The song has some real crazed moments. It also has a lot of magic. It might not be epic in terms of length (just over four minutes), but it's definitely epic in scope. It is one of my favorites here. Everything about this just works so well, and it seems to encompass all sides of the band's sound.

Fierce and powerful, "Sunder Heart" is another great example of the dynamic and driving nature of this band. It gets into some brutal zones at times, but it's also symphonic and at times on the mellower side. On the closing "In Time" they cover a song written by a guy I've gotten to know as a friend over the years, Robbie Robb. They put in a powerful metal version of the tune. It's driving, dramatic and anthemic. They restrain some of their more diverse tendencies here, but still manage to make this their own.