I had the good fortune to come of age during the "golden era" of metal. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) was in full swing, "Ride the Lightning" had just come out, "Reign in Blood", "Peace Sells" and "Among the Living" would soon follow along with countless bands who would disappear into obscurity.
I watched and listened as metal splintered into various sub-genres; thrash, speed, death, symphonic and so on. Within each of these sub-genres there emerged new and exciting levels of virtuosity and experimentation. Then, as now, most metal was performed by men but, occasionally, a group would emerge with a female vocalist at the helm.
Certainly, female vocalists in popular music were nothing new. Even in the hard-rock arena we had the Wilson sisters of "Heart", Pat Benatar, and Joan Jett, among others. But metal was a different story. I don't know if it was simply a lack of opportunity or lack of desire on the part of women to front a metal band but, suffice it to say, there weren't many female fronted metal bands around.
That brings me to the new release from Dutch metal band "ReVamp". "Dutch metal", by the way, is not a new genre (that I know of). "ReVamp" is from Holland. The press material included the note "female fronted metal" attached to it. This got me thinking of the female fronted metal bands of my youth; "Vixen" (composed entirely of women), Lita Ford and "Warlock" fronted by Doro Pesch. Generally speaking, these groups were metal bands like most other metal bands except they had a female lead singer. With this as background, I expected more of the same from "ReVamp". I was wrong.
There is a lot going on here on "ReVamp"'s second album, "Wild Card". Fronted by the amazing vocalist Floor Jansen, "Wild Card" combines all of the previously mentioned sub-genres of metal into one cohesive listening experience. There are elements of symphonic metal, speed metal, death metal, pop and opera and "ReVamp" has used those various elements to create a pretty special album. A word of caution... if you like your metal in 4/4 time with simple lyrics regarding rocking all night and partying every day then you may want to pass this one by.
To sum up "Wild Card" briefly is an exercise in futility. Combine one part "Dream Theater" with one part "Mr. Bungle", one part Pat Benatar and just a little "Candiria" for good measure, sprinkle lightly with some death metal growls and a dash of "Carmina Burana" and you'll begin to get something that resembles "ReVamp".
Not surprisingly, there are six official members of "ReVamp" including the aforementioned Jansen and nearly another half dozen guest musicians on the "Wild Card" album. I say "not surprisingly" because the effect of the production resembles a modern day "wall of sound" ala Phil Spector. Keyboards, synthesizers, orchestras, choruses, percussion, and rockin' guitars create an impossibly interesting layering effect without becoming muddied. And the vocals, oh, the vocals. Fantastic.
There are moments to bang your head and there are moments where the operatic feel gives you goose bumps. You'll find pop music stylings juxtaposed with death metal barking. The complexity of the arrangements is intoxicating. On the first run through of this album I sat mesmerized in slack-jawed awe. The second time I thought, "this is amazing".
The song that hooked me was the fourth track, "Precibus". It is a four minute 27 second summation of everything else on the album. I promise you will not be humming this song to yourself throughout the day but you may find yourself counting the moments until you can hear it again.
Admittedly, "Wild Card" may not for everybody but I became a believer. "ReVamp" is melodic enough for the average listener and complex enough to impress the most demanding musician. I recommend giving it a listen. I think you'll like what you hear.