A cathartic journey through female-fronted melodic heavy metal
Shear are a young band hailing from Finland and playing melodic heavy metal where raging and “hopping” guitars are interspersed with pompous/”siren alarm”-like keyboards and guitars, and where passionate and high octane female vocals of Alexa Leroux shine all along.
The album reviewed here, ‘Katharsis’, the second of theirs, starts with an instrumental overture that is deceiving as the first notes are in a ambient mood with eerie keyboards followed by folky guitar, soon turning to martial symphonic music – as a prelude to the “cathartic” metal battle that will follow (in line with both the title of the album, Katharsis, and the description of the band above).
What is striking is that chorus is in different moods depending on the tracks: emocore (Last Warning where all vocals, both lead and backing, are perfomed by Alexa Leroux), power metal (on For The Restless and Turmoil), symphonic metal (Home with almost Tarja Turunen-like vocals and Whispers Follow You with passion put to the extreme), pop (Heaven Into Hell bringing to mind the swedish ABBA-inspired prog-metal act A.C.T., Hollow, Black & Cold with its “wo-ho-ho…ho-ho” reminiscent of Katy Perry’s Roar, A Hopeless Tragedy with its ear-candy intonations à la Lene Marlin in-between more Daniel Gildenlöw inspired vocals), prog-metal (I Care with its orientalizations at 1:47 and 2:57 and a folk overture with Tracy Hitchings-like vocals, followed by a twisted metal maelstrom where Monika Edvardsen of avant-garde metal band Atrox rushes to mind), AOR/melodic rock (Not Myself with backing vocals by the male bandmates, that I would call the “shearettes”, as a wink to Def Leppard’s leppardettes). As for describing the vocals, I would say that they could compare with Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq) or Sam Brown having received an electric discharge, with a slight touch of Dalbello at times (around her collaboration on Start Today on Alex Lifeson’s project Victor) and of course, a dose of the iconic metal lady, Doro Pesch.
Shear’s music is deeply rooted in the symphonic metal of fellow country band Nightwish and despite presenting with some twists, it remains accessible, together with dynamic structures, and a cohesive whole where somehow winks to some obvious references can be noted (Judas Priest’s famous Painkiller in Heaven Into Hell, Alex Lifeson’s echoing guitar riffing in the verses of Hollow, Black a Cold, Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir but also Derek Sherinian’s majestic soloing and Tony Bank’s siren alarm-like of Genesis’ In the cage in A Hopeless tragedy, Meshuggah’s “go and stop” trademark – the overture to ObZen springs to mind in Not Myself).
Altogether, this album makes for a very enjoyable listening moment, thanks to the great musicianship of the band and all the energy that vocalist Alexa Leroux put in her performances.