Music Reviews


= Stream of Passion (SoP): Embrace the Storm ==
This album flows like a collection of poems or a novel...with different shades of the darker colors.

I'd describe it as: dark, passionate, melodic, haunting, with large contrasts in sound and emotions, creative.. fresh... intriguing...Wonderful, mysterious, loving, wailing despair, driving, sinister, joyous, determined, celebratory, sad, lonely, soaring, longing, melancholic, moments of thoughtful wonder, personal, revealing.. Truth

My rating   A--          ( actually B+ because of the frequent literal repetition that often occurs in the last verses of the songs, but compared to other recent music an A)

Arjen Lucassen , guitars (composer)
Marcela Bovio (from Elfonia), vocals and violin .. a Perfect voice for this music
Johan van Stratum, bass
Alejandro Millan (from Elfonia), piano
Davy Mickers, drums, (has a distinctly "modern" style, he adds great rhythmic drive)
Lori Linstruth lead guitars (wonder playing, a distinct metal style focusing on melodious flow, to me that, plus her sensitive use of vibrato and wah-wah pedal most define her style)

Dutch composer, Arjen Lucassen, is amazingly creative and varies widely in the styles that he writes, has many projects without a consistent band, picks up musicians uniquely for each project (there are about 5 CDs over the last 10 years until the band name "Ayreon" that are wonderful
(his other projects not as interesting to me)

Stream of Passion is his latest project, the style is "Goth" dark-metal. This is the first band Arjen has put together in the last 10 years, and may continue on as a group. Female vocalist Marcela Bovio is from Mexico (has a band Elfonia) performed on Lucassen's Ayreon CD "The Human Equation".

"The Human Equation" is easily the best of his previous music. It is a 2 CD Rock Opera, a masterpiece of wide-ranging styles
(as I listen to it, I could make a list of at least 10 bands, ranging from Pink Floyd to the Beatles, that influenced it),
the first time I heard it, was one of the great musical experiences of my life... I was up all night listening to it, repeatedly, until the sun came up.

Compared to the earlier Aryeon CDs.. SoP has a more modern sound, more of a live ..rock/metal band sound than the Ayreon CDs (which sound like studio/production CDs. .)

Arjen composed the songs for the SoP album on acoustic guitar and then sent recordings to Marcela and she created the lyrics and melodies. (explains the Latin influence)
Marcela Bovio - the impact of this CD is equally dependent on the lead-vocalist. Her voice is rich, clear, with a wide range of expression and delivery. One of the best new (to me) vocalist in years. (She sounds somewhat like the lead-singer from The Gathering).

Stream of Passion: Style could be described as Gothic Progressive Hard Rock or as symphonic metal and sometimes by the media as gothic metal.
**Arjen Lucassen describes it as “progressive/art/metal group formed in 2005”
**Marcela Bovio (lead singer and also wrote all the vocal melodies and lyrics) describes SoP as    “progressive rock, heavy metal, and maybe dark or gothic.”

The album title Embrace the Storm is sort of a metaphor about changing, hard times in life, accepting them, and getting the most from them. It’s not like Ayreon which has that whole storyline; it’s more personal and human.

About the Songs: They’re mostly melancholic and a bit dark I think, but there are also little mentions of light and hope.

SoP.. Song List: (my favorites are marked +)

1. Spellbound
2. Passion +++
3. Deceiver +
4. I’ll Keep On Dreaming
5. Haunted ++
6. Wherever You Are
7. Open Your Eyes +++
8. Embrace The Storm+
9. Breathing Again ++
10. Out In The Real World
11. Nostalgia
12. Calliopeia +

"Embrace the Storm" - the title means.. grasp life's passions

The CD has a distinctive ambience, a deep, brooding mood, often dark, but always beautiful.
Production is very clean, the often over-dubbed vocals and instruments are distinct, always have clear detailing, and are never blurred.

Here's my notes on each song:--------------- (A), (B), (C) label the musical ideas

Two of these songs, took a great deal of listening and contemplation to win me over...
8. Embrace The Storm and
12. Calliopeia (more notes about this below in the songs)

Songs 1-3 build in intensity/rising passion
Song 8. Embrace the storm
These songs are addressing passionate living itself as the subject.
The other songs address individual life experiences themselves.

xxxxxxxxxxxx  Listening Song by Song  xxxxxxxxxxxxx
---1 "Spellbound" -------
A prelude/invitation to the rest of the CD, the music sets the mood.

(A) stormy drumming, eerie piano , sustained bassline (cello)
Voice with an ascending melody,
the lyrics ("I'm ready, with my eyes open wide ... to devour")
..meaning.. opening to the experiences of the shadow-self ("as every sun has faded"), which the rest of the CD explores..

(B) entrance of violins/bass .. ("soon, as every sun has faded.." "follow.." is an invitation)
melody is a descending melody..(then leaps up)
now it kicks up the intensity after a shift in drumming , lead guitar over the drumming.. sustained strings..

next section..dark/thick guitar and bass chords with Lori's guitar over the building intensity
(A2) ("I'm ready.." ascending melody). (( the rhythmic guitar chords that are thematic through the entire CD))

(B) ("Rest assured..".."Come closer".. "let go" invitation)
then fades to the coda (refrain of piano..opening drums)

[[After this song, our mind, senses are opened, receptive to experience..]]

---2 "Passion" --------
a great song!! ... expresses it's title perfectly.
(I) opening instrumental introduction with violin arpeggios over dark (very gothic) guitar/bass line, gives way to the

(A) opening melody ("a dangerous stream...") over crashing drums, bass, (piano) .. the melody has a large leap upward- expressing desire/passion/willingness (leaping into..)
(A2) ("my fingers..") 2nd verse... then

(B) hammering drums/rhythmic strings .. adds a wordless (pure sensation), soaring voice (multi-voiced)(great!, gives me chill bumps)
(B2) then addes bass and guitars ( "this feeling's rushing") ascending, to greater intensity, driving
(B2) .. the voice soars even higher... (peaks with the word "surrender")
section closes with "I'd give it up for you"

(I) return of the opening violin arpeggios (and gothic bass) form a transition to the recap.
(A) "a dangerous stream.."
(A2) "emotions.." (the same leaping melody, but now it sounds more intense this time "determined to wander freely")

(B) hammering.. (wordless) then drives forward,..
(B2) "this feeling" building towards a great climax
(B3) a guitar solo.. passionate with a great soaring last note
then instead of returning to (A) (which would be less intense)
the music stays with
(B) to continue the intensity...(wordless)
(B2) ("this feelings...") faster.. driving ..
>>>to me .. this reaches a feeling of ecstasy/passion.. totally absorbing
(B2) with an interesting rhythm change (at 4:56) in the drums and strings
continues to push to the end

---3 "Deceiver" ---------
lyrics are about
(1) the same idea ... the opening to experience .... "my crimson wings unfold..need to fly" and
(2) deception... her life before this opening was not honest (neither in showing herself, nor true to her needs)

the music
(I) opening quieter beginning, rocking bass, distant piano,
(A) voice, alluring, feeling of excitement, anticipation (sinister?).. which then quickly ('arise') rises to ..

(B) "I am not who you think I am" a very full sound
(the passages where Marcela's multi-voicing over the metal guitar chords...pulses...are very effective)

(transition) piano, rocking bass, a solo violin ..back to

(A) "you think" the 1st melody again..
(B) "I am not who you think I am" repeated again
then a brief, intense, guitar solo , suddenly gives way to a solo violin (transition) to the recap.

(A) "step back.." (even though quieter, it stays intense)
(B) "I am not who.."
and Coda (with a nice instrumental build up at the end)

[[ the first 3 songs have been a continual intensification to this point. Now it's time for a change in the next song]]

---4 "I'll Keep On Dreaming" --------
has no introduction..
(A) quiet, voice/piano opening, ("I have waited..")
(A2) 2nd verse ("Life, the finest thread") adds cello and drumming (nice acoustical effect with the drum channeled through a filter)

(B) piano solo (powerful and darker mood) followed by
(B2) a great (always too brief) melodic guitar solo , begins low, climbs, soars to that last highest note (again)

(A) returns ("Years are passing by...") (with the drums, cello),
then builds, intensification to ("dreaming")
(B) ("Life, the finest thread") same lyrics, varied music, more intense (climax) and then suddenly a quiet conclusion.

---5 "Haunted" ------
A song about the loss of innocence (I like this more every time I hear )
Starts with

(A) a great (attention grabbing) opening rhythmic pulse, marching drum..piano, then bending guitar cords .. Spanish speech, sets a dark, gloomy, tense atmosphere/mood.. .. (see translation)

Then a sudden shift/balance, in sound, mood, English lyrics
(B) ("I live in fear") acoustic guitar, piano, active bass guitar lines,
,then the melody turns darker (strings enter)
(C) lush orchestral strings ((gothic) organ like), (duet, "haunted")
guitars over the drum and bass pulse English voice
turns darker with the return of the rhythmic pulse ..

(A) Spanish text .. moody (distant vocal background)
(B) ("I live in fear") returns (English)
(C) and another great guitar solo (great use of vibrato and wah-wah pedal)

return to the opening sound
(A) but this time spoken in English "with every breathe.."
(B) returns ("I live in fear")
.. the coda builds, closes with crashing piano chords

---6 "Wherever You Are"----
I think the lyrics are about emotional (not physical) distance

a song with constantly changing textures, dynamics
The main point is the contrast of sounds, varied arrangements..
(A) quieter opening, thin sound (clear melody, over piano)
(B) "wherever you are"
(C) (instrumental) dense power chords, rhythmic drive (descending string chords)
(A) "every moment" (notice the mood effected by the filtered drum sound and the change)
(B) "wherever", guitar chords
(C) (instrumental) MIDPOINT.. another great guitar solo (note, her use of vibrato and wah pedal)
(A) "I believe".. (filtered drum sound again)
(B) "Wherever you are.. I'll find you"
(C) (instrumental) as coda

---7 "Open Your Eyes" ++++
is a ballad. One of the great songs on the CD
(lyrics at the surface, are about a lost lover's death/suicide, but I think there's also a deeper level, analogy)

(I) Opening introduction has a beautiful, unique, guitar sound (this descending melody is thematic, expresses "wailing" later) then
(A) "Tell me.." voice, cello, drums

(B) ("Oh, My body froze") high voice over strings (the descending melody from introduction), describes the moment of his death (but yet the music is beautiful, because feeling so deeply is 'beautiful' of itself) .. motion (with very effective background multi-vocal) chilling..
(B2) guitar solo plays the descending melody, from intro makes a intense passionate statement , captures the mood perfectly
(C) ("open your eyes") voice filtered (distance effect, talking to the departed spirit) over cello, drum, then sustained strings (almost religious)

(A) "all at once.." voice (unfiltered), piano, drums, bass

(B) ("Oh, My body froze") high voice(s) over strings, guitar
(B2) followed by the guitar melody (more intense).. solo first..repeated..
then repeated doubled along with violin, keyboard.. growing passion..truely wailing..

(C) ("open your eyes") cello, voice at first filtered, distant, moves forward to the climax,
(B) ("Oh, My body froze") (multi-voiced, also with the (C) melody "open your eyes") followed by the ending with the guitar solo.

poignant - Profoundly moving; touching: a poignant memory, painful:
distressing to the mind or feelings

---8 "Embrace The Storm"----
a "catchy" number, lyrics about embracing the shadow self (storm, hidden thoughts, clouds) ..
The basic musical idea is simply the contrast of (A) and (B) ;
but, for me, there is (was) some question, some mystery here about the song.. it is interesting to me
what exactly are the emotions intended to be conveyed?
It's a strange mix of lyrics and music.. (at first listen) they don't (didn't) seem to fit.

(I) brief piano intro.. disarmingly simple

(A) "A storm" opening melody, over solo piano,

[[ This section was very curious to me..what's the mood? ..because only the lyrics ("storm", "raging", "unraveling", "hidden" and later "absolute horror" etc.) convey any tension or discomfort, the music is peaceful, not what I would have expected from reading the lyrics, the accompaniment is peaceful, the vocal melody has some small tension created by the jagged melodic lines.. but doesn't reflect the lyrics....
.... So I guess the point is... the storm is there.. the person has not yet entered the storm
.. I give another answer at the end of the song]]

(B) "embrace the storm"... then a WONDERFUL instrumental melody, guitar/violin doubling on a rising melody (over guitars, bass, drums)
[[so this is the "embracing of the storm" and it's not dark at all, confident, fully entering the experience, no fear, even joyous.]]
>>ending with a solid cadence ....

then repeats
(A) "the storm is blinding.." (cellos are added 2nd verse, very nice .. beatlesque, even more disarming)
.. again the lyrics are dark.. "blinding", "absolute horror", "the day has come" ..but the music doesn't feel it... words imply fear, but it is not felt in the music..which is still "detached"

(B) guitar/violin doubling again..(feels embracing, no fear) .. cadence

(A) "Now I know.." again darker lyrics "never behold the sun", "amongst the clouds" with the same detached, calm music ..
((why? what's it mean??? the next section makes it clear))

(C) then an important contrasting .. mid-section,
a---wordless, hammering drums, (mood, stormy, the stormiest in the song)
b-----guitar solo with new beat (confident, striding forward)
a---wordless, hammering drums, (stormy)
b-----guitar solo with beat (soaring, striving)
a+b--THEN combined guitar/hammering/voices (storm+soaring reaches the peak = total harmony with the experience)

Next a perfectly timed return of
(B) the 2nd melody...guitar/violin doubling (this time the cadence feels very strong, positive, since it's concluding a larger section)

Song concludes with a repeat of
(A) "the storm is building"
(B) the instrumental

So what's it "mean" musically/emotionally ? How do I resolve my question about the music's mood with the lyrics?

Two possibilities::
1. -- the mid-section explains it all to me , and makes the song work::
These lyrics make the point:

"Now I know we will never behold the sun again. Our path is perfectly clear: we belong amongst the clouds."
We choose to enter life fully, we prefer to dance with the excitement, shadows of the storm clouds, to live a passionate life,
rather than simply, quietly basking in the sunlight on the beach.

Now each time I hear the phrase "EMBRACE THE STORM" it sounds as if it is being sung by the Muses (inspiring us on..)
Listen to the song again, and listen for that phase and the music/feeling that follows it each time..
and how the middle instrumental (C)
following "we belong amongst the clouds" feels like the "embracing".

2. I guess another way to view the structure, is to see the :
(A) sections as declamation, explanation (mind's view)
(B) and (C) as the experience, feeling (heart's view)

---9 "Breathing Again" ----
A beautiful song about falling in love and totally giving to that so to become alive (breathing) again.

The music starts more reserved and expands throughout the song's duration.

(A) voice / piano (about knowing someone so deeply, before love appears)

(B) ("But little did..") acoustic guitar/ moving voice (melismatic melody, multiple notes per syllable, was a way to express ecstasy in ancient Gregorian chant; fitting here)
love arrives, is realized
a very beautiful cadence (the rise/chords "so many long for", give solidness to the feeling, of knowing Love)

(A) ("We sat..") (about getting to know (open the key) to the other).. music > acoustic guitar instead of piano, violin added (then cello)

(B) ("But little did..") fuller ... cadence ... full, satisfying sound = Love.

MIDPOINT---Lori Linstruth's guitar solo (over piano chords) is a high point for me

(C) followed by new vocal phrase "for everything".. , intensification (over rhythmic chords) climax of feeling/passion .. "I give..."

(B) return prolongs the emotion.. cadence (repeated twice, "so many long for")

--10 "Out In The Real World"------
A great string arrangement gives this song a unique sound, driving.
It's a very positive song, about being authentic.. "No matter how hard it may seem, we should never hide the little things that make us real."

introduction then
(A) "I've hidden wishes" voice / cello / drums / sparse piano

(B) "Puedo ver esos", guitars, voice over arpeggiated strings, great beat, uplifting
(B2) "Out in the real world" multi-vocals juxtaposed over a modern, trip-hop beat.

(A) "I lack the will.." voice / swinging acoustic guitar / drums / sparse piano

(B) "Puedo ver esos" voice over arpeggiated
(B2) "Out in the real world" multi-vocals

piano.. wordless
..guitar solo...
(A) voice / cello / drums (filtered) / sparse piano
(B2) voice over arpeggiated strings.. guitars

(Nice, HOWEVER, in the middle, and near the end, I do wish he'd varied the repetition's of the opening ideas, not enough variety, too predictable, too exact repetitions lose my interest )

--11 "Nostalgia" ----------
vocals and piano,
(the wordless vocal duet is very nice)
(coda is cello, multi-voice)

okay song , but I think it is one too many slow songs I would have preferred a couple faster songs instead.

--12 "Calliopeia", ------------
I didn't like this song so much originally, I had expected some great passionate climax to complete the CD, fulfill the intensity
with which it had opened. (this song seemed so different, out of place, like a last minute improvisation or add-on,
and didn't seem to conclude the subject, and the style is more progressive).
HOWEVER, now that I've come to understand it more deeply, I appreciate it greatly..and think it's a great climax..conclusion..

So to explain my view.. a little more introduction is required..
I think this song is about the Greek Rites (Elysian mysteries, about spiritual awakening) and the Muses (Calliope), seen as the voices that
deliver the insight, spiritual ecstasy

Nine by number, the muses were the daughters of the Titan Mnemosyne and Zeus. They were the goddesses of all arts and sciences, and gave the artists and scientists their inspiration

Calliope (Calliopeia), the "Fair Voiced" and the eldest Muse, is the muse of epic poetry and is seen holding a writing tablet in hand, sometimes seen with a roll of paper or a book, and crowned in gold.

In the Greek Mystery Schools the hidden secrets of nature and man were unfolded. Clement of Alexandria says that the evolution of the entire universe was divulged in the Greater Mysteries, "for in them was shown to the initiated Nature and all things as they are." Their moral value was stressed by Epictetus, while Plato asserted that their real object was to restore the soul to its primordial purity, that state of perfection from which it had fallen.
Song "Calliopeia"

The music is intense, with a more "progressive" feel, with instrumental breaks, shifting time signatures.
Parts of it remind us of the opening track and other songs (Deceiver)

(I) Instrumental introduction (sounds like it's going to be the introduction to a Epic progressive song)
(A) EARTHBOUND .. a rocking bass ..vocals ... a mood of preparation...(anticipation for the Greek rites (Elysian mysteries) that are
about to be entered. There is some possibility that the initiates were given a herb or drug (possibly Ergot) to trigger the experience)

lyrics are "reality's fading... as our minds fly" .. as we go into the next section

(B) SOARING "A heavenly glow" "Muse" ... awakening feeling
The repeated notes/driving bass raise us, and the "mystical" chords (3rd relations, traditionally used in classical music to represent the "mystical"), represent the new state of mind, consciousness

(I) transition back
(A) EARTHBOUND... (voice filtered) return to the mood of preparation.. "search"

(B) SOARING... awakening "A heavenly glow" repeated notes/driving bass this time the music is extended... guitar chords (3rd relations)

then suddenly back
(A) EARTHBOUND... with a mood of regret (or perhaps.. despair of temporality) or of regret of returning? (after the Mystery Experience.. life is the dream, lost in Reality?..

Here there is an instrumental section [[ harsh guitar = "reality"/despair, behind keyboard chords (3rd relations)]]

rocking bass returns as transition to..
(B) MUSE again rises.."A heavenly glow" "Muse" .. then
(B2) drumming with a wild guitar solo, then pressing forward. --keyboard chords (3rd relations),a driving bass and drums rise to the climax

Epilogue.. a quiet.'dream".keyboard chords (3rd relations) (unexpected .. the distant voice "gave my soul...")

So at the conclusion: I'm left alive, alert, vibrating, with a feeling of melancholy and thoughtful wonder
and the first thing that hits me is that I want to hear it all over again.

The lyrics feel so personal, so meaningful; they express the joy, pain, hope, longing and loss of life and relationships.

I am aware of the painful truth of life's experience... and cherish my ability to enter into life so fully and to savor it's cherishments.

Here's more on the Greek mysteries:

Eleusinian Mysteries were divided into the Lesser and the Greater. The former were held at Agrae where, after a period of probation, the neophytes were known as the Mystae, or the "veiled." The latter were held at Eleusis, and those who were initiated therein were known as the Epoptae, or those who saw "face to face."

The Eleusinian Mysteries, from one point of view, were schools of Eastern psychology, in which the students learned the true nature of the soul, its relation to the body, and the method by which it could be purified and redeemed. The Lesser Mysteries illustrated, through dramatic performances, the condition of the unpurified soul, still entangled in the meshes of its own Karmic actions. The Greater Mysteries demonstrated the bliss of the soul which had been purified through spiritual vision and Self-realization.

In the Lesser Mysteries the neophytes were shown that the soul, when invested with a body, undergoes a form of death. "It is death to the soul," Plotinus wrote, "to be wholly immersed in a body and wholly subjected to it." This was demonstrated in the Eleusinian Mysteries by a dramatization of the myth of Ceres and Proserpine.

-=---- The End of my notes on SoP ---========================

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Updated: November 18, 2011 09:03:14 PM