Minstrelix – Tales of Historia

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Review by Brian McGowan

The label, StayGold, describes the music of this Japanese band as Melodic Speed Metal. That’ll do fine. Or maybe Symphonic metal would be more descriptive. Yeah, let’s call it Symphonic metal.

On their third album now, Minstrelix have ditched the lovely Lola and brought in Leo Figaro (this might not be his real name) as new vocalist. In time honoured fashion, each track on ‘Tales Of Historia’ has a figure from history as its subject matter. Joan Of Arc, Adam&Eve, Delacroix, Marie Antionette, Marie Curie and several, more obscure, but nonetheless legendary figures all get a song devoted to them.

The music is real foot-on-the-monitor symphonic metal, filled to bursting with hi speed bpms, dramatic keyboard flourishes and heroic, tuneful axe soloing. The songs launch like Formula One wannabes, twisting and turning as they speed through musical chicanes, pushing the pedal to the metal on the verses, rushing for the finishing line’s climactic chorus. It’s a breathtaking ride, but where other bands depend totally on speed and heavy riffs, Minstrelix place equal emphasis on melody. Like they’ve unravelled several Manigance and Stratovarius albums, ditched the intensity, then very artistically stitched them all together by their own hands into one substantial, colourful quilt of symphonic metal moments.

While there’s still an echo of the youthful enthusiasm apparent on the previous two albums, ‘Tales…’ sounds like the work of a wiser, more worldly band with a point to prove. The effect is distinctly cumulative, however there are a handful of standout tracks. On ‘Goddess’, ‘Venus And Adonis’, and ‘Art With Mercy’ mainman, guitarist, producer, songwriter, Takao ensures that the music stays the sensible side of elaborate. By its very nature, Symphonic metal is bombastic, ornate, but he ensures that the intricate keyboards, strident guitars and intense vocals are whipped up into something that is musically theatrical and entertaining, while avoiding the bloat and bluster trap that snares so many others. Elsewhere, ‘JDA’ and ‘The Minstrel’ are symphonic rock nuggets, swathed in major colours, each supporting a soaring vocal melody, buffed and polished till they gleam. Occasionally, as on ‘Gratia’ and ‘Bloody Rose’, Figaro’s heavily accented English is something of a barrier, but his escalating operatic tendencies are held in check by Takao’s sharp arrangements, adding a shining veneer of grandeur to each of the tracks.

This style of music often gets a bad press, especially in the UK, but there are enough truly affecting moments scattered around ‘Tales Of Historia’ to indicate a healthy future for Japanese band, Minstrelix.