If words like “beautiful,” “ambient,” “fantastical,” and “relaxing” sound like words that you want to describe your music, or if you’re a fan of bands like AURI, ALTAMULLAN ROAD, or DELAIN, surely you managed to participate in the crowdfunding campaign for EYE OF MELIAN‘s “Legends of Light,” which was self-released during midsummer this year. This album features an unusual lineup of songwriter Martijn Westerholt, lyricist Robin LaJoie, vocalist Johanna Kurkela, and orchestrator Mikko Mustonen, and includes guests like Leah and Troy Donockley. Check out our interview with Martijn and Robin here.
The album begins very strongly with “Doorway of Night,” which boasts beautiful pianos, magical strings and pipes, and Johanna Kurkela‘s most gentle and beautiful vocals. With just enough drama to make for an interesting opening track, it also sets the stage for the rest of the album. Sharing in the lovely delicacy is “Vita Nova,” the band’s first single that helped allure us listeners into their crowdfunding campaign. The song has an interesting ambient vibe that feels like it is constantly building up to a very unique feeling in the chorus that feels extremely dramatic without being remotely aggressive.
If you’re expecting something heavy, you may be in the wrong place, as this music feels far closer to the soundtrack to a fantasy story with lyrics to anything else. A little more moody and mysterious, “The Homesong’s Call” somehow invokes the lore of J.R.R. Tolkien in its tinkling sounds – perhaps Mikko Mustonen is a fan of Howard Shore? The song also benefits from lovely vocal lines (without lyrics) added for flavor by Johanna throughout for a little bit of extra depth. There’s a mystical feeling to “Under the Grey Sky,” with a hint of Renaissance bardic sound in the backing music, though the slower, ambient, and a tad moody feel dominates. Choirs lead the intro to “The Bell” with additions from Johanna here and there. This song’s dynamics are dramatic yet very delicate, which makes me wonder why I’ve never heard of Mikko Mustonen before, because he’s fantastic at balancing orchestral sounds with the tenderness of Johanna‘s voice. The big push in this song is really effective.
If there is one song on the album that knocked me right out of my socks, it was “Everstrong.” The delicacy of the beginning is magical, the little details that are added for atmosphere as the first verse builds up are very emotional, and the harmonization between Johanna and the male vocalist (whom I had incorrectly assumed for many months was Troy Donockley, since we’d already heard his pipes on “Doorway of Night” and “Under the Grey Sky”) is purely perfect. This song, incidentally, seems to be about someone speaking to a loved one from beyond the grave, which is likely why it makes me cry buckets every time I hear it.
“Wings of the Dawn” can only be described as beautiful, with the truly most gently bombastic backing orchestrations in recent memory, which picks up really vividly in the chorus and takes a very dramatic turn just after the halfway mark. “Adrift in Eternity,” interestingly enough, invokes the METAL DE FACTO track, “Echoes in Eternity,” for a similar cadence of the songs’ titles when sung. This, however, is not a power metal track, but a pretty and dainty peace that would count as one of the closest tracks to a ballad in an album of generally very peaceful music. However, if you think the album can’t get any more ambient, we then reach “Light,” which is even softer and sweeter than its predecessor. This track features guest vocals from Leah, whom you may know as a Canadian Celtic/fantasy musician who has gained a strong following on YouTube. The harmonization between her and Johanna is very subtle and as it builds up, they really soar towards the end.
“Rainfall” again boasts some really lovely use of the pipes (thanks again, Mr. Donockley!), which is nicely done, as – while the album is magnificently beautiful – the use of these extra instruments keeps the tone shifting just slightly, keeping it from getting monotonous or falling too far into backing music territory. It also has a little bit of kick to it that allows the listener to feel as though they’re not quite ready for the album to be done yet, and I always appreciate an album that leaves the listener wanting more.
Ultimately, EYE OF MELIAN proves that you can make fantastical soundscapes with vocals, without a record label, and find full support from listeners and critics alike, if you know what you’re doing and do it well. “Legends of Light” is exactly the sort of album you need if you want to relax after a tough day, or even space out in the sauna. If you’re looking for something gentle and soothing to be the soundtrack to your moment, this album is an excellent choice.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- Doorway of Night
- Vita Nova
- The Homesong’s Call
- Under the Grey Sky
- The Bell
- Wings of the Dawn
- Adrift in Eternity
Martijn Westerholt – songwriter
Robin LaJoie – lyricist
Johanna Kurkela – vocalist
Mikko Mustonen – orchestrator/producer
Troy Donockley (Nightwish)