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Saeko - Above Heaven, Below Heaven (CD)

Above Heaven, Below Heaven
by Eleni Mouratoglou at 10 October 2004, 9:28 PM

Do you by any chance remember an Aqua happy-go-lucky songie called Barbie Girl some years ago? Part of the refrain was: I'm a Barbie girl in a Barbie world, life in plastic, it's fantastic!. Well, I don't think life in plastic is so fantastic after all.
Saeko is a very beautiful woman as it is obvious by her photos on Above Heaven, Below Heaven's cover and in the booklet. Her debut comes in a luxurious and elegant digipack. It's so stylish that it could easily be in Vogue magazine.
My primal fear that this would be about a woman singing operatically in a pseudo-gothic and fetishist album once more was fortunately refuted. The music here is speedy German Power Metal and the vocalist tries to sing in Michael Kiske's paths. And she does it quite decently when she is kind of aggressive. Yeah, her voice is not that bad indeed.
What is more, the line-up of the album is remarkable; Hermann Frank (Accept) is in charge of the guitars and Metalium's Michael Ehre and Lars Ratz have undertaken many roles, from playing the guitars to singing and producing the album. It seems that this exchange of services happens due to Metalium and Saeko's co-existence in Armageddon Music; Saeko participated in Metalium's latest album, As One (September 2004), in the Find Out track, too.
And now let's concentrate on the substance of this release. Saeko's texture might be good but in terms of articulation she is doing badly. Ballads and narration don't suit her either. I think she cannot pronounce s. Except for that, the vocals remind me of the affection for technology that Japanese people are notorious about. The technical interventions on her voice are so many that you think that the whole thing is artificial. The album's production makes it even worse as the voice is totally drowned. As a result, Saeko sounds as if she was a virtual reality singer, which is not a very unusual phenomenon in Japan.
Almost the same is also valid for the music. The Power Metal played here is extremely typical and conventional and some scarce Japanese folk details cannot offer any originality. There are nice solos and the quite poor compositions are performed with professionalism but that also proves to be negative. The band sound like mercenaries who feel awkward doing what they are doing. The same computer program that gave birth to Saeko's voice is probably responsible for the sterility of the rest.
Saeko is an ambitious woman. She has written all the lyrics and most of the music for her first album. Armageddon Music seems willing to promote her, maybe because they think this is a wise commercial move. But as they don't aim at the Pop audience, where cases like Britney Spears rule everything, they should keep in mind that no matter how much a metalhead would be excited by her looks (at least all male people in the magazine did), there is long distance between plain curiosity and acceptance.
Despite its important flaws Above Heaven, Below Heaven has some good features. I am aware of that I have been very strict in this review but it would be a shame if Saeko did not take advantage of her potential in the future. Now that she will be on tour with Doro she has the chance to assimilate a real Metal Queen's quality. The Aqua songie's refrain ended in an optimistic way: Imagination, life is your creation!.
- Album Highlights: Nature Of Mortality, Seek The Light, Sinners For False Lights and Way To The One.

2 Star Rating

Above Heaven, Below Heaven
Sins For The Gods
Nature Of Mortality
On The Way To Eternity
Seek The Light
Hands Of Might
Sinners For False Lights
Way To The One
Don't Be Afraid
Song Of Delight
Heaven Above, Heaven Below
Saeko Kitamae - Vocals, Piano & Keyboards
Michael Ehre - Guitars & Drums
Sven Ludke & Hermann Frank - Lead Guitars
Mariko Inoue - Bass
Yamato & The Drummers Of Japan - Japanese Drums & Chants
Lars Ratz - Male Shouts & Additional Guitars
Record Label: Armageddon Music


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