SEBASTIEN – Tears Of White Roses

white roses

Sebastien is a band/project based in the Czech Republic, specialising in metal with many symphonic and progressive influences. Their press release claims their music is a breakthrough in progressive and symphonic music, but with regard to their chosen musical field, it’s a  struggle to hear anything that doesn’t sound like a bunch of safe, tried-and-tested ideas.

There was always hope that the roll-call of guest performers may go some way towards making this a worthwhile listen, but sadly, their performances aren’t anything special either. Take for example the guest spots by Amanda Somerville – on ‘Femme Fatale’ she gets no more than a few lines in the spotlight while on ‘Black Rose Part II’ her potentially very strong harmony vocal is left hovering somewhere in the back of the mix, somewhere behind Cornerstone’s Doogie White. Thankfully, on this big, theatrical ballad White’s vocals are strong enough to carry the piece (just as they had been on the previous ‘Black Rose Part I’). More should have been asked of Somerville, though, especially since her voice shines among the barrage of male metal voices.

‘Dorian’ and ‘Fields of Chlum (1866 A.D.)’ feature vocals by Rhapsody of Fire and Vision Divine vocalist Fabio Lione. His slightly more restrained delivery is well suited to both pieces. While a (far, far too loud) church organ dominates ‘Dorian’, a chorus where Lione harmonises with Roland Grapow provides what is easily this album’s best moment. Both vocalists are in fine form, and the melody itself is far more memorable than anything else here. ‘Fields’ is a power ballad, and while it contains a similar amount of power, thanks to a decent mid-pace, it doesn’t end up as stifling as most of Sebastien’s material.

‘Voices In Your Heart’ (featuring Masterplan’s Mike DiMeo and Roland Grapow) offers plenty in the way of speed, but far too much macho posturing and relentless double-bass drums make the end result rather unpleasurable. ‘Silver Rain’ (featuring Firewind’s Apollo Papathanasio) is slightly better as it carries a great down-tuned guitar riff riff in places and a great bass chug. The bas could have been put to far better use, mind; the upfront playing disappears after the intro. Once Papathanasio starts to sing, though, any promise is swept away. His loud, heavily accented vocals (delivered at full bore) are just too full on – and not especially tuneful.

The couple of performances featuring Fabio Lione are the only numbers preventing ‘Tears of White Roses’ from being completely forgettable. A couple of the guitar solos are decent and Roland Grapow’s production is solid, but since Sebastien have favoured complexity over memorable material and obvious hooks, they’re never going to be able to compete with Euro heavyweights such as Jorn Lande or Arjen Lucassen when it comes to this kind of thing.

December 2010