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Angel – A Woman’s Diary – Chapter II Award winner

Angel
A Woman’s Diary – Chapter II
by Mark Machlay at 21 July 2020, 4:09 AM

The long awaited follow-up to Norway’s Helena Iren Michaelsen’s solo project ANGEL is finally being released, aptly titled “A Woman’s Diary – Part II”. She is an iconic figure especially within the symphonic metal community. She got her start singing for Norwegian gothic metal band TRAIL OF TEARS, releasing two albums with: their 1998 debut “Disclosure in Red” and “Profoundemonium” in 2000 before leaving the band the same year. Two years later, she was selected by Mark Jansen to be the vocalist for SAHARA DUST for a year, notable as being the band that would become EPICA after she was replaced by the then unknown Simone Simons. Soon after leaving, she would join up with Steve Wolz – who was to be the drummer for SAHARA DUST before leaving with Michaelsen – and formed the band IMPERIA. The band is a true blend of symphonic, gothic and even some progressive metal elements and features members from several European countries such as Norway, Finland, Germany and Belgium.

Imperia remains Michaelsen’s main band since 2004, releasing five albums with them – the most recent being “Flames of Eternity” in 2019. Alongside husband and prolific producer Oliver Phillipps, Michaelsen has sought out other creative ventures on her own through her side project ANGEL. While 2005’s “A Woman's Diary - Chapter I” fit more into the vein of gothic metal, the sequel explores more musical territory, acting more like a story to the listener, taking you on a journey into this amazing woman’s life and allowing you to feel the pain and revel in her joy depending on the mood she conveys. Phillips’ musical accompaniment alongside Michaelsen’s emotionally packed lyrics is amazing as usual.

While many of the tracks are either piano-driven with little other instrumentation or fit into the power ballads of the 80s, experimenting with other genres are sprinkled all over the album but mainly in the latter half. “My Desire” flirts with Middle Eastern drum instrumentation, rhythm and melodies that blends into a full on symphonic metal assault later. Jazz fusion guitar stylings are prominent in “Happy Birthday” and even flamenco infused acoustic guitar is used in “Rock In The Sea”. From the piano driven, nearly operatic emotional poignancy of “Goodbye” to openly aggressive heavy metal “Imprisoned” the music is moving and filled with hooks. The vocal technique across the album is incredible to behold. In the aforementioned “Eg Ser”, Michaelsen displays operatic pipes that would put woman several years younger than her to shame. She even gets rather growly in “Imprisoned”.

I really enjoyed listening to the album and I could real feel the raw emotion Michaelsen was channeling. With great production and instrumentation provided by Phillips, it was hard to find any fault. However, I realize that English is not Michaelsen’s mother tongue – evident by some barely perceptible pronunciation (notably “the”s sound more like “da”s) but you can still clearly understand the words she is conveying. Also, when reading through the lyrics I found them a bit repetitive and at times banal, but I doubt I would have had as much of a problem if I wasn’t reading along with the lyric sheet. I would say, this is a great follow-up and sequel to her previous effort and a great addition to the Norwegian metal cannon.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Never Again
2. Street Child
3. I Don’t Believe
4. Imprisoned
5. Do You Hear Me Cry
6. Eg Ser
7. Happy Birthday
8. My Desire
9. Rock in the Sea
10. Silence
11. Angel Maria
12. Goodbye
13. Angel Maria’s Poem
Lineup:
Helena Iren Michaelsen – Vocals
Oliver Philipps – All Instruments
Record Label: Massacre Records
     


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