Em Sinfonia Intimate Portrait

There's nothing wrong with the stylistic changes that Illinois's Em Sinfonia have made since the crushing potential of their 1999 debut, In Mournings Symphony, it's just that they may have made them too quickly. For some reason, more vampiric, goth-y elements are pushed to the forefront, like Rick Alexander's formerly restrained, now overbearing keyboards and new recruit Bunny's dominating female vocals (which replaces the previously sparing vocals of April Domet). This encumbers the once densely packed doom that spokesman Brian Griffin (also guitarist for death metal maven Broken Hope) has worked so hard to establish. Plus, Bunny must fight on two fronts: first, to be taken seriously with such a wacky name and second, to shirk the inevitable tonal comparisons to the Gathering's Anneke van Giersbergen. Though "Testimonial" and "For Crimson Lust" plod valiantly down a My Dying Bride lane, Bunny's vocals and the wimpy keys trip up these lumbering behemoths. "Estranged" is just that - flaccid Van Halen (circa 1984) keyboard flurries and pseudo-mournful violin intro, then opening to jagged MDB riffs and fluid metal bridges unheard since Broken Hope's Loathing, and more gruff/angelic vocal exchanges reminiscent of Theatre Of Tragedy. Bunny even adds Heart-like harmonies to "Counting Shadows" and "Insatiable." The title track apes no-nonsense MDB chordage throughout, but the interludes are another matter altogether; Novembers Doom kept them heavy, Em Sin do not. The band does offer a splendid cover of Iron Maiden's "Revelations," in spite of Bunny and the slightly cheesy violin. Ultimately, Em Sin embraces the realm of melody-laden Euro-doom ¾ a boon for those who crave light metal, but a bane for others who prefer the extra calories. (Martyr)