• 小雨 / Rain - 繁华落境 / Downtown Fall Border (2014) - Progressive and sacral symphonic metal from China - 94% (20/09/14)

    小雨 / Rain - 繁华落境 / Downtown Fall Border (2014)

    Xiaoyu or Rain in English is a promising symphonic power metal quintet from Guangzhou in the People’s Republic of China. Founded back in 2005, the band released a first full length record in 2008 which can be loosely translated as “Forest Pavilion” and delivered a strong follow-up by the end of 2013 which is a little bit tougher to translate but where the term “Downtown Fall Border” probably sounds most harmonious to me. The four young men on bass, drums, guitar and keyboard as well as the female singer convince with a diversified song writing including calm and sometimes neo-folk driven passages in the key of Empyrium, great melodic guitar solos and a sometimes atmospheric but also progressive use of keyboards which puts them close to bands like Edenbridge and also a few more gothic metal driven passages in certain songs where the gracious and sometimes high-pitched but never annoying female vocalist gets the support of some hoarse and rather unique male growls as in groups like Epica.

    After a great atmospheric introduction, the quintet from Guangzhou immediately delivers in form of the gracious “Silence” that unites all the different elements cited above in one single song with a gripping songwriting. Calm moments carried by decent atmospheric keyboard parts, occasional acoustic guitar passages and angelic vocals meet faster power metal driven parts with well executed melodic guitar solos and some up-tempo parts with a few distinctive hoarse back vocals. The song has a running time of seven minutes and a half but it neither gets redundant nor does it lose its clear guiding line.

    “Warriors Underneath The Sun” is more of a up-tempo track with gripping riffs, fast power metal solos and sacral organ sounds where the hoarse male vocals are used more and even better to contrast the elegant female vocals. The great middle part of the song that gives us a short break introduces some almost Celtic folk passages with powerful gang chants that could also be found on a Gwyllion release.

    The almost medieval flute sounds in the laid back “La Porta Di Luce” spin the use of the laid back elements even further. The calm tribal drumming and the dominating bass guitar can also shine in this track while the sacral female vocals don’t fail to touch the listener. Old Nightwish fans should also dig this track as well as the similar and maybe slightly catchier album closer “The Path To Paradise” that might be a potential single candidate.

    While the first few songs on the album should immediately to a wider audience, the second part of the album is not only calmer and more sacral overall but also more progressive with songs reaching running times of above ten minutes. The emotional violin sounds, gloomy piano passages and the chilling extensive neoclassical guitar solos in the mysterious title song meet what is probably the most outstanding female vocal performance on this release. Pang Yuet, also called Xiao Xiao, reaches the highest vocal ranges and performs as amazingly as a professional opera singer without ever sounding annoying. This track really lives from her effortless performance and you can’t but fall in love with her voice if you like laid back classical music or symphonic metal. This is the kind of song that is a little bit more challenging at first contact but will turn out to be the outstanding highlight on this release. If you had to listen to only one song on this excellent release, this is it.

    “Sad Voice” also has a very spiritual sound with dominating sacral and folk sounds conducted by the strong keyboardist Berry. Guitarist Shi Yu delivers once more one of his melodic signature guitar solos. His play could become so inspiring and unique that he might one day be referred to as the Chinese Timo Tolkki. The song itself starts like a neo-folk epic from Dornenreich but soon turns into a joyous and playful power metal track that could also come from early Xandria.

    The ten-minute long “Spirit Of The Night” has a similar elegant instrumental approach but the calm passages soon harmonize with harsher gothic metal riffs and passionate growls. This song reminds me a little bit of the middle years of Therion or also Seraphim which are very good references in my opinion.

    Apart of the slightly redundant transitional instrumental “Twilight Flowers By A Rainy Night” and a well done short introduction, Xiaoyu’s second output includes seven creative and touching high-quality symphonic metal tracks that might grow on you with each spin. Along with the latest releases by Epica and Xandria, Xiaoyu’s record is easily among the very best symphonic metal releases of this decade. Among many promising obscure Chinese metal bands, Xiaoyu as well as progressive metal sensations Moyi or The Last Successor and Haishishenlou or Mirage are the three bands you should definitely check out and keep on your mind for future endeavors. I highly recommend you to listen to Xiaoyu’s release for free by visiting their Douban homepage.

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