Sarah Brightman’s “Symphony”
This is a good solid album which probably delivers what die-hard Sarah Brightman fans have been yearning for over the past five years since her last studio release of Harem. Harem was quite a departure from the crossover realm that Brightman created with Eden and La Luna, and for those hoping that she has further branched out with this album in the same way will be disappointed, as this album is of the same skeleton of those two albums. For critics of Harem and for safe listeners that wish for Brightman to never change, this album will be their delight. Harem‘s package promised a Eastern influenced sound, which it definitely delivered.
The album cover, and the promo that led to this release led us to believe that this album was going to be heavily symphonic metal influenced. I understood she couldn’t go down the Within Temptation route, as it would have alienated a lot of her fans, but only two songs (or maybe three, if you include the intro ‘Gothica’) has any real gothic influence which does not justify the misleading marketing.
Fleurs Du Mal, the opening number and the most “gothic” influenced (and arguably, the only) song of the album gives me an impulse to reach for a Within Temptation album instead of Symphony. I understand it maybe liked by the faction of Brightman fans that are not familiar with the Nightwish/Within Temptation/Lacuna Coil circuit, as it sounds refreshing and new, but for those that are, the artificaility of the song is easy to recognise. It sounds as if Brightman, Peterson and team have copy and pasted Within Temptation’s Stand My Ground, Angels or See Who I Am from The Silent Force album. This in unlikely to be a coincidence, as Brightman’s fans have been screaming about this band on her official forums on a regular basis, and how Brightman should try out their sound. Her fans wishes have been granted, and it was a good move. But for more die-hard fans of these type of bands, this song is extremely pale in comparison.
There are more covers than usual on this album. Her interpretation of Sanvean is notable, different and very enjoyable. The original is far more atmospheric (Lisa Gerrard’s voice is something else completely), but in a different way. Brightman has created such a different sound that you can feel like putting one of the other on, depending on your mood. Her cover of Where the Lost Ones Go by Sissel is atrocious compared to the original, basically because it is interpreted in the exact same way, but also because it is performed inferiorly. What is really disppointing are the original songs, excepting Let It Rain and Fleurs Du Mal, the originals are quite bland. Let It Rain is a very sweet pop song. It’s one of those songs that draws you into the album as it is instantly catchy and memorable, but does not hold much substance for long.
The highlight of the album is definitely Canto Della Terra. I’ve heard it several times before (Katherine Jenkins included), but this version blows all the others out of the water. A fantastic interpretation. This is the first example of true crossover done well, as a classic piece is given a dramatic and “symphonic metal” arrangement. Fans of Andrea Bocelli will enjoy this, as he delivers a powerful chorus (Brightman’s verse lets the song down a little). As someone who has never really enjoyed Bocelli, this song is very persuasive to his cause.
Sarahbande is a bonus track for the UK release, but loyal fans may already have it as a bonus track for the Harem album, where it fitted more nicely. It is a powerful and somewhat electronic rendition. It certainly throws a punch, and on an album that is immensely eclectic anyway, it easily finds it place here, especially after the song Running which is a more tame and paler version of the format of A Question of Honour.
Unusually for Brightman, there are no lyrics in the booklet, but the packaging and the booklet are stunning. The booklet itself is in the same glossy material as the Harem and La Luna booklet and the photos are more lavish and hyperbole than ever before. To stay true to the gothic theme, an over paint-brushed Brightman is pictured in gothic outfits in front of over CGI’ed backgrounds such as castles.
Over all, I was a bit let down by this album. The classical crossover trick is getting tired now – unfair, as Brightman basically created it, and there have been scores of copy cats since that have tired out her sound (Katherine Jenkins, Hayley Westenra, Il Divo, etc.), but that’s what happens when you are away from the market for five years. The time of poppifying classical pieces, and turning pop songs into italian translations is surely past? Simon Cowell has his hands in this genre now, and the genre has been transformed into a novelty sector of the market, marketed for Christmas and Mother’s Day. Having said that, Brightman is still above her copy cats, and she is still able to dodge this type of audience as her albums are genuinely injected with her vision and creativity, rather than the Katherine Jenkins gag, who spurns out one to two albums every year with very little creative thought, but with a lot of marketing ploys in mind.
I hope, that for the next album, she can be a little more original. A lot to ask for, considering the originality she has presented to the world over the past two decades, and the sound she currently creates is one that she innovated. Still, I hope she does not create yet another Eden or La Luna as she has done with this album. Brightman has promised that she will start composing – already a very talented lyricist, I am eager to hear her compositions in the near future.