Exit Eden – Rhapsodies in Black
Label: Napalm Records
Release Date: August 4, 2017
You will not generally find me writing reviews of cover albums, in particular when it is composed of all pop songs. However, the debut album, Rhapsodies in Black, by Exit Eden is the exceptional exception. I personally cannot stand 95% of what passes for pop music these days. It is an embarrassment really. That said, the four incredible vocalists who combine to make up Exit Eden have taken some of the well-known singles from pop’s heavy hitter’s, metallized them, and made them more powerful than ever envisioned.
The quartet is comprised of renowned vocalists from around the globe; Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis, Serenity) from France, Germany’s Anna Brunner, Brazil’s Marina La Torraca (Avantasia, Phantom Elite), and of course, America’s Amanda Somerville (Avantasia, Trillium, Kiske/Somerville). The melange of vocal styles blend beautifully on re-imagined songs by Depeche Mode, Madonna, Katy Perry, Backstreet Boys, and even Bryan Adams and Bonnie Tyler.
The first single from Rhapsodies in Black showcases the group’s diversity on the Rihanna track, “Unfaithful.” The original version is a slow, somewhat meandering piano ballad with pleasant but weak vocals. Exit Eden dial up the tempo, and turn the song into an edgy, symphonic metal powerhouse. Delauney takes the opening lead with her authoritative soprano delivery, which immediately gives the song heft and substance. Somerville and La Torraca blend to add an operatic touch on the chorus before Brunner’s gritty rasp takes over on the second verse. Their cover of the Backstreet Boys “Incomplete” follows a similar theme.
The album opens with the Depeche Mode classic “A Question of Time” which finds the bouncy techo fluffery of the original replaced by rich vocals over a cinematic tapestry. The album’s second single is a modern take on the lilting Shontelle hit, “Impossible”. La Torraca leads the way on a more dramatic and muscular storm of heavy rhythms and soaring vocals.
If these four dynamic voices were not enough of a reason to enjoy Rhapsodies in Black, Epica’s Simone Simons also joins the fray for remakes of Madonna’s “Frozen” and Adele’s Bond theme, “Skyfall.” The group also delivers an electrifying rebirth of Katy Perry’s smash, “Firework,” with heavy riffs and huge vocal crescendos. The album’s heaviest fretwork comes courtesy of their dark, crushing spin on Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” replete with soaring operatic vocals.
While the vast majority of the record is focused on newer music, Exit Eden also give the melodic metal upgrade to Bryan Adam’s 1984 hit “Heaven,” the 1981 Visage track, “Fade to Grey,” and the 1983 Jim Steinman classic, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” made famous by Bonnie Tyler. Masterplan vocalist Rick Altzi lends his voice on the latter track. For my tastes, the Visage cover may be the album’s one misstep. While Exit Eden turn it into something heavier and more satisfying, the original was a poorly conceived song to begin with. Conversely, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is arguably the most finely crafted song on the record, and one would expect with the amazing vocal talents in Exit Eden, as well as the production wizardry of Sascha Paeth (Avantasia, Kamelot, Epica), that this would have been an epic remake. Instead it is a well done make over that missed the opportunity to be a brilliant rendering.
Being honest, if you are a metal elitist, or cringe at the idea of mixing pop and metal, you’re going to hate this record. However, for those who still love melody in their metal or also enjoy popular music along with their heavy rock and roll, then you should love this album. I’m talking to fans of Avantasia, Within Temptation, or simply symphonic metal. For pop fans, this may be your gateway drug to metal, as these remakes are infectious. Brunner, La Torraca, Somerville and Delauney are all stunningly talented vocalists, and Rhapsodies in Black showcases their mammoth gifts, overshadowing the singers who made these songs famous. Whether you consider them metal or not, with Rhapsodies in Black, Exit Eden have delivered one of the most delightful and addictive records of the year.