Music of Light is the debut full-length album from German metal act Arven. The almost entirely female band (except drummer Till Felden) dubs their music as simply melodic metal, and it’s not hard to hear why on Music of Light with the number of influences that are pulled into the band’s sound which ultimately results in an eclectic mix of power metal, folk metal and symphonic metal, with even a few flairs into progressive territory. Music of Light was released in 2011.
On paper Arven may well come across as just another symphonic act with a classical trained female vocalist, and it would be easy to pass over them since on paper they have the typical setup for such an act. Carina Hanselmann’s vocals are melodic, can be operatic, and would definitely fit the template for a typical symphonic metal act but her vocals are actually where any similarities Arven has to acts such as Nightwish or Epica end. Even though the music is still symphonic, it doesn’t fit the typical mould for the style because the power metal inclined riffs of Anastasia Schmidt and Ines Thomé are generally the focal point of the music, along with common but not constant use of folk melodies, that is to say they don’t include the folk on every single track on the album, making Music of Light much more the melodic power metal orientated release than anything else. The folk is pretty common here all the same, and it spices up the music a lot when used, especially since it is coupled with the excellent piano playing of Lena Yatsula which gives off quite the medieval sounding mood to Arven’s music, which is something which is heard straight away with the opening title track. It’s the piano that often strikes me as the real key ingredient here actually. While there is also some more traditional symphonic stuff on the album, the piano is the much more common choice on the keys front, and it adds an interesting layer to the power metal sound, especially in tracks such as Dark Red Desire.
Because of all this Arven’s style is difficult to place into any one genre of metal and gives the band more of their own identity, which is of course a good thing in a metal scene where acts with female vocalists have become quite a big thing and the amount of acts that either don’t bring anything new to the table or go down far too commercial routes are becoming way too common. Music of Light sounds not only fresh and exciting, but is also a high quality debut album. All six of the musicians (which also includes the as yet unmentioned bassist Lisa Geiß) prove skilled at their instruments and there isn’t a track on the album that is any weaker than the rest.
The folk melodies in particular are really great, sometimes to the point that I wished they were used in all of the tracks, because pieces such as Music of Light and Raise Your Cups really stand out as the album’s highlights, though I do like the fact that the album has a high level of variety to it by not sticking to any particular tried and tested formula. You could put down my desire for folk dominance as a personal preference really, since the tracks lighter on the folk are just as good, and each composition is able to assert its own identity within the album pretty quickly. At one end of the spectrum you have the seven minute My Dear Friend, which represents the album’s ballad, and at the other end there are more guitar driven power metal fuelled tracks such as World of Hatred, another highlight of the album.
This debut album proves that Arven has a lot to offer the metal world, and I highly advise fans of power, folk, symphonic and even progressive metal to give them a chance. It has a few very minor flaws to be fair, most notably I can’t help wondering how much more powerful the music would sound if they cracked up the intensity of their riffs a bit more in a couple of places, but otherwise Arven’s debut delivers. The field of melodic metal has a strong new competitor in Arven.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)