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Review: Seraphim - Ai

Label: Magnum Music Taiwan
Year released: 2004
Duration: 69:36
Tracks: 13
Genre: Power Metal


Review online: April 2, 2004
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Readers' Rating
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Rated 3.9/5 (78%) (10 Votes)

Taiwan's prolific power metallers are back with a third album in 4 years. Due to a busy schedule I had to ask Sargon to take care of reviewing the second album, so I'm limited in what I can say in comparing "Ai" to its immediate predecessor. I did listen to it a couple of times before sending it off at the time. "The Equal Spirit" was sticking pretty much to the same formula as the debut album, and "Ai" is pretty much the same way as well - the band has seemingly chosen to stick to a proven formula and not steer away from their established sound. Whether this is a good or bad thing is really up to the listener. Personally I like the band's style, essentially female-fronted with operatic vocals that cannot escape the Nightwish comparison - but Seraphim's music is much more guitar-based, as opposed to Nightwish's mostly keyboard-centric material (I don't have all their material, but that's what I got from what I do own.) This would give Seraphim the edge if the material was memorable, but that's their weakness: The music is good (when not simply great), but once the album is over I can't help but feel that I do not remember it much! Weird. In that aspect, "Ai" does show some improvement over its predecessors, with a few memorable melodies - but not enough. I can't really explain why something that sounds so great on the moment just vanishes from my memory afterwards, but that's the feeling I have. It's as if there's a little something missing somewhere...

That said, you can still very well "enjoy the moment" while listening to "Ai". From very mellow ballads to speedy symphonic power metal songs, there's quite a bit of variety on this album. The sound is crystal clear and it's easy to distinguish the various instruments. The operatic vocals are not overdone and turn up to be very relaxing even in the fastest songs. The band's growler still makes an occasional appearance here and there, something that'll surprise those unaware of this small peculiarity of the band! :) Did I mention this is all sung in Chinese? That makes it a bit difficult to sing along, but I'm not sure I'd want to hear myself sing operatic vocals anyway.

Once again the booklet is worth mentioning. Seraphim sure know how to make first-class booklets and "Ai" is no exception. Great artwork, and the lyrics are printed in both Chinese and English.

So this is it. There is some improvement in the variety of the material (while sticking to their sound), and this time a few of the songs do stand out, but not enough to make the album memorable. Seraphim have the musicianship right (which went up a notch this time around), but the songwriting need some work to really grab the listener past the playtime of the album. Despite the shortcomings, this is still a very good power metal album. Sargon was most likely right when he reviewed the second album: Seraphim have a classic in their future. "Ai" is not it. Fourth album maybe? In the meantime, their first three albums are worth checking out. Hell, you can even get them in Chinese AND in English. How's that? ;)

More about Seraphim...
Review: The Equal Spirit (Chinese version) (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: The Soul That Never Dies (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Interview with Kessier (guitar) on August 13, 2002 (Interviewed by Michel Renaud)
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