Shangri-La is much more intriguing than I expected. I’ve previously found Edenbridge a generic symphonic metal band, but there’s less average in this release. From some memorable guitar lines to consistently technical drum patterns the band cement their legacy one song at a time. Sabine remains a delight as the lead singer with her strong vocals and accent quite memorable, but with a few passionate solos she sounds even better. You’ll even hear a flute solo in this album – expect the unexpected.
Shangri-La is beautifully crafted whether it be melodies, the guitar tone, or the rhythm of certain choruses. The songwriting is the crowning achievement, effortlessly mixing power metal and old school progressive metal flavouring with gorgeous symphonic melodies. I did not expect the first track to be slightly over eight minutes long, and it surprisingly works (though it gets long at the end). Edenbridge envelop the listener with their melodic aura, a pleasant soundscape. It seems a great soundtrack for a trip to Shangri-La on the big screen. There’s a dose of mystical whimsy here that I can’t quite explain.
Captivating and not overblown, the orchestral elements effortlessly compliment their metal portions. They provide memorable accents and practically a moviegoer’s experience. It’s what you expect from the genre, no more and no less. The vocal talent gives extra oomph to tracks when the symphonic portion is routine. Sabine has an old school symphonic metal voice reminding me of the original singer of Leaves Eyes’ – it works. Building up the tight soundscape are harmonized vocals from the backup singer; it sounds a tad retro when he sings aaaaaa in the chorus of The Road to Shangri-La, but it’s so smooth I can’t help but like it.
Some might say Edenbridge don’t have all the bells and whistles that other bands do, but they tend to make simplicity effective. They may not have breakdowns and excessive harsh vocals, but they’re arguably unnecessary. Edenbridge understand the old adage, “Less is more” and insert spicier riffs when the need arises. Overall, the intent is powerfully melodic tracks that bring to mind Epica – quite a compliment. There’s no reason to shrug this band off now when they can compete at this level.
To say there’s nothing average here would be a grandiose overstatement. Tracks are steadily solid, with easy flowing melodies that are skillfully played, but I’m not ready to call Edenbridge unique. The album is certainly easy on the ears but with a progressive motif, tracks drag. I appreciate the attempt to build up an atmosphere, but I often hoped another blistering track would occur. Tracks begin to feel a little too similar halfway through the album and for good reason.
Edenbridge’s desire to pace themselves in the album gives variety, but a lack of engaging tracks. There’s a handful of energetic riffs but soon enough Edenbridge splash into a quiet pool. Tracks are largely unmemorable as well, which kills the potential here. The album is quite easy to tune out, and the forgettable lyrics do not help. Shangri-La is ultimately enjoyable but flawed, with not enough engaging tracks to keep the listener invested through the entire length of the album. It’s a solid release, but I’m sure Edenbridge have more up their sleeve that they’re withholding.