Revontulet is a relatively new Russian Symphonic sound, the release here is only recently available. There’s been some sprinkling of the sound previously but this is the first full release. And, it’s a good one. The band is, in some respects, two people. The vocals and writing are done by Alexandra Revontulet (she took the last name from the name of the band, as is the custom of a number of Russian vocalists) and the second full time member is drummer Sergey Zorg. There’ve been a number of guitarists involved in the project. But the sound is a big one. Heavy symphonics, lots of instruments and choral components. This one tips the scale in the direction of the beautiful, although there is enough metal to qualify it in the genre. And that beautiful is driven by one of the finest vocals you’re likely to hear. It’s no surprise that the band is participating in a concert in Moscow entitled “Russian Tribute to Nightwish”. Alexandra’s vocal takes a back seat to no one.
The band’s name is interesting. Their website addresses the title thusly: " ‘Revontulet’ is a Finnish word meaning Northern Lights, literally ‘Fox Fire’. There is a Finnish folk story: a fox in the north runs on the snow, and sweeps its tail so that sparks fly off into the sky. Also in the old Finnish language there is a word resembling to the word ‘fox’, but meaning ‘to make magic’. So, Revontulet is a ‘Magic Lights’ too.” Actually, that’s not the only link to Finland in the release; we’ll get to the second one directly.
Beyond the vocals it’s interesting to note that Hear Me was mixed largely by Alexandra and Sergey. Alexandra tells me she is in possession of a Master’s Degree in Sound Production so she clearly knows her way around a board. And, that technical excellence is a significant part of this release, I don’t know what the budget was for this production but it’s as technically sound as you’re likely to hear. You can hear that sound here. There’s also a few interesting videos I’ll point to as we move along. Alexandra’s is a trained vox. She commented, “I have been taking singing lessons for a few years from Emma Sarkisyan, Russian opera singer, she performs in Novaya Opera and Bolshoi Theater.” She is classified as a mezzo soprano. Not exactly the same classification as Tarja and I’m not sure who to compare Alexandra’s voice to.
There’s a theme to Hear Me. When you first listen to the release, you’re rather blown away by the music, both the vocals and the instrumental work. I didn’t spend a lot of time initially paying attention to the lyrics, even though Alexandra has virtually flawless English. When I checked out the lyrics, which can be found here, I found them to be dark enough to qualify as Gothic by most standards. I asked her about the theme, she responded, “I just always say, that there are only three things that worth writing about: live, love and death, and any combination of them...” And you get that in most of the tracks. You don’t always get that Gothic sound with the Russians. Again, when I made that comment, Alexandra responded, “Well, I really love Lacrimosa, and Sergey, the drummer of Revontulet, likes Theater of Tragedy. So, Gothic metal is one of the most powerful influences on the band... And I guess, the "spirit of Gothic" has nothing to do with the country or nationality... For example, if you'd like to listen to Russian true Gothic Metal, you definitely have to check out Pesante”. I’m working on that one, stay tuned.
The release is composed on 8 tracks. None are particularly short, and the final track, Hear Me, is actually three complete segments, totaling some 15 and a half minutes. The work begins with Blizzard. This one is reminiscent of several Western European Symphonic sounds. We get a clear classical beginning, orchestration featuring strings and moving softly towards the vocals. The classical background continues, although the metal components are blended in, especially the drums. But, a more metal oriented sound takes over about half way through the track. You don’t lose the classical, you just add more metal. And the vocals take a more aggressive approach; a more focused metal direction, one with that continued devastating voice. You’re introduced to that strong mixing component as the vocals are presented in a variety of ranges. The girl can go high and low with virtually no effort.
Infernal Angel begins with a harder metal sound than the previous selection, although we continue to get a solid symphonic. This one provides a more Gothic lyrical direction, and Alexandra’s vocals seem comfortable recounting the tale. It can be argued that nothing tells a Gothic tale better than a beautiful femme vox and we get that here. The drums are more pronounced on this track, there’s even some guitar although it’s probably not as pronounced as the strings. Suomi has a similar direction. Now, I don’t think many of us have a clue what that word means, I know I didn’t. I asked Alexandra, she replied, “Suomi is Finland in Finnish language”. I love to be multi lingual in my reviews. And, as Alexandra says in the video, this is a song about Finland:
In your lakes and your forests dwell silence and calmness
Rainheart begins differently. It’s like a child’s musical sound, very light, like children’s bells only representing rain as Alexandra recounts in the video. We move to the classical and another beautiful track with the drums keeping a metal undertone. This one includes three parts, that trilogy that seems to influence so much of this music. The pace of this musical approach, however, seems to drive several of the tracks, although some, like the following track Velvet Night move more heavily in the metal direction, more guitars to drive the music forward.
The Pianist of the Darkest Night takes us more closely to true metal. But, it’s dark metal, almost a chilling sound. We feel the Russian winter here, there’s the feel of a storm. The pace moves from soft to pounding and back, like a wanderer lost in a winter wilderness. The lyrics again reinforce this emotion:
Child of December cold winds / Fly on a melody’s wings
Hear Me is the big one. And, again, there are three distinct parts. You get a feel for this one in listening to it. But, I wanted Alexandra’s take on the material. She replied, “I think, I've already told everything I wanted in the music and the lyrics itself... The song is just a perfect combination of these three themes, and the parts of it are named accordingly: ’Love’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Pass’.” You get an entire lifetime in this one. And you get a musical tour de force. Lovely strings, fantastic choral work, solid drumming and a voice that can communicate the story as no other.
Russian Femme Metal is capable of a lot of musical directions. But I’m not sure there’s another that can compare with what Revontulet does so well here. I’m not sure anyone does it better. I know I’ve liked her for a long time. I’m more than a little pleased to finally have a full release to appreciate. Symphonic metal has another gem in the collection. A Russian gem.
9.5/10 - Terry Thompson, Sonic Cathedral