Over the years, symphonic metal has remained stagnant, allowing bands that have remained in the game to continue releasing albums while new, fledgling bands have to stand out by incorporating new elements in the tried-and-true method of operatic vocals and death growls. In short, it’s a battleground where bands have to prove they have staying power. Now, that doesn’t mean that bands have to add new things in order to stand out – sometimes, having the same formula in your albums is better than throwing different elements at the wall to see what sticks. In the case of MaterDea, their fifth release Pyaneta does a little bit of both, eventually changing into something more cohesive and consistent.
To start things off, I was not impressed with the first half of the album. It felt like a sub-par version of Krypteria’s Bloodangel’s Cry, especially vocalist Simon Papa sounding a lot like Ji-In Cho. It also didn’t help that that the aforementioned first half lacked cohesion and direction – a lot of the folk elements MaterDea incorporate into their music sound mismatched and badly placed, as if they hadn’t been mixed properly. MaterDea had, essentially, thrown a lot of things together to see what could stick, but failed to fully develop those ideas into something cohesive. For a while, I had the hope that things would improve and they would eventually hit their stride while sorting out what didn’t work for them.
And that it did. The more the music transitioned from song to song, the more things improved – an added fiddle and backing cello added dynamics and emotion on “The Return of the King” and Papa’s vocals go from copycat to a melodic tour-de-force by “Neverland.” Here, the band catches their stride, adding a children’s choir and removing various elements that weren’t working for them earlier on. By this point, everything is cleaner and more cohesive, eventually coming to fruition on “S’Accabbadora.” From here, the music improved significantly and the various ideas the band had incorporated into the first half came alive in the second half. Because of this, Pyaneta became enjoyable – at one point, I was tapping my foot in time to the beat. The music also becomes more emotional and ethereal, allowing for majestic, melodic introductions and vibrant tones that were missed on the first half. In short, it’s a massive improvement without needing a major overhaul.
All in all, Pyaneta is a good album that remains true to MaterDea’s aesthetic. The first half may not be great, but the second half makes up for those shortcomings. Obviously, this is an album that needs to be played several times in order to be enjoyed, but, once the listener has gotten over the first half, they will have a great time.