ESSENZA — Devil's Breath (review)

ESSENZA — Devil's Breath album cover Album · 2009 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Time Signature
Playing acrobats...

Genre: traditional metal / US power metal / hard rock

As far as I understand, Essenza started out a melodic hard rock band with blues rock tendencies - and this style is featured on their two first albums Suggestioni (2000) and Contrasto (2002). However, their third album Devil's Breath documents a radical change in the musical direction of Essenza: not did they start singing in English, but they also took up a much heavier and aggressive style.

"Devil's Breath" was released in 2009 on the indie label BigMud Records, but is still being promoted, so a review here towards the end of 2011 is definitely not out of place. There are no traces left of the blues rock tendencies of the early Essenza releases, and, while there are still some hard rock elements of Devil's Breath and Flying Acrobats - most strongly present in the motorcycle-friendly 'Rock 'n' Roll Blood' - the overall style of the album is all out heavy metal music, which often ventures into US Power metal territory and also contains a couple of more thrashy moves. Tracks like 'Devil's Breath', '(Universe) in a Box', and 'Edge of a Collapsed World' have the heaviness and attitude associated with US Power metal, and this also applies, to some extent, to 'Deep Into your Eyes', which is more of a melodic metal track though full of heaviness and groove, while 'Dance of Liars' is more of a Maiden-inspired twin-guitar attack song with some power metal leanings. Like 'Deep into your Eyes', 'Fighting the Wind' is heavy and melodic, but also seems to draw on alternative metal.

I would say that musically, this is a quite good album. It has heaviness and power, but also melody, and I quite like the way that hard rock and US power metal elements are juxtaposed. Productionwise, the sound is quite unpolished and organic - at places even raw -, and normally, I do not have a problem with that, but I think that in this particular case, the album suffers a bit from the production (it's not unlistenable or anything like that, and I am sure that many listeners will appreciate the authenticity of the production, though). Also, Carlo G. Rizzello's nasal vocals are not the most powerful vocals in the world (I can imagine Essenza would benefit from a vocalist with a more Dio-esque voice) - I suspect that this type of singing is quite popular in Italy (I mean, just take Eros Ramazzotti as an example), but international listeners might have to make an effort getting used to it. Rizzello also is responsible for the guitars, with which he does a brilliant job, and perhaps being a power trio is more important for Essenza than being a power metal band.

In all "Devil's Breath" is a solid heavy metal effort and which its drawing on US power metal, hard rock, traditional metal and a bit of thrash metal, it definitely makes for a varied listen, and, despite the production issues, it is definitely an album that is worth many listens.

(review originally released on seaoftranquility.org)
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