CD Review: ‘The Crystal Ceiling’ by Bella D

Written by Danielle Boise

When I first started to listening to Bella D’s, who happens to be is a steampunk-infused symphonic rock songstress, debut LP, The Crystal Ceiling, due out on May 13, the first thing that came to mind was a vision that if Sarah Brightman had a baby with Emilie Autumn and the badass that is Lzzy Hale, that it would be Bella D. Her voice is one to be reckoned with –  it is fiery, fierce and full of inspiration.

What is so fascinating about The Crystal Ceiling is it is a conceptual album, which, let’s face it, doesn’t happen that much anymore. It’s a trend that I’m happy to see resurface. To have an entire album tell a story, any story, and allow us as the listener to take an active journey with the artist is fascinating, because you truly never know where you will end up by the time you reach the conclusion of the story. What wounds the songs will bring out in you while going along with the ride of the album? The idea of whether or not you will survive, what sacrifices you will make in the process of feeling the entire album from start to finish is an intriguing concept to me. That’s why I love them so much. It takes you out of your own reality, and places you somewhere else for an hour or so.  Another intriguing fact is that in conjunction with the release of the album on May 13, Bella D will also include the first installment of a comic book series that brings this conceptual album to a whole new realm by incorporating the musical story into a visual realm.

With The Crystal Ceiling we get to go on this intriguing journey, a mystical journey, where you may be thwarted at every turn. There is a sense of doom lurking around you at all times, which comes from Bella D’s love of dystopian novels and video games and translates very well into the creation of The Crystal Ceiling with a sense that the circumstance in which you find yourself in is beyond overwhelming, but you don’t give up. You battle your way through the layers of demons (real and imagined) in your life for your survival. Not just for your existence, but to keep your soul intact. In the process of fighting your way through this dominion, you realize that love, as grand as it is, it won’t necessarily save you in the way you think it will and YOU are your OWN White Knight and don’t need anyone else to save you, which is perfectly illuminated with the song “Save Me,” the lyric “my morbid curiosity drew me to you, but you left me alone in anguish and fear” is the perfect representation of this.

The Crystal Ceiling is a powerful 12-track album that starts off with the otherworldly “Breaking Free,” and when Bella D hits the note for “Free” all you can think is Damn!, because you realize you are listening to magic. “The Shatter Mirror” is truly reflective in nature. It makes you think about one’s mortality and lifespan in a different perspective. The concept of realizing the life you have always envisioned or may want is no longer an option, that it’s shattering around you, and in that moment you have a choice. You can choose to live in that moment of sorrow forever or you can collect the pieces and make something new out of it. “Battle On” is hauntingly sublime. “Invincible” is filled with turmoil and chaos, but empowering because of the unwillingness to give up, which really is the thesis statement that runs throughout the entire album and that survival is the only option. “Dio Solitario Della Notte” is heartbreaking gorgeous. It’s like going to the opera and listening to beauty and awe of being enraptured by a voice that is heavenly. “Starlight” is the conclusion of the album, filled with questioning, angst and a need for answers from the unknown.

This is an ambitious project, one that Bella D undertook and did it exceedingly well with grace, especially considering amidst the recording process, she found out that she was fighting for her life, literally, as she was diagnosed with BRCA positive aggressive Breast Cancer and had to undergo not only terrible rounds of chemo, but go the route that Angelina Jolie did by having a double mastectomy and the removal of her ovaries. The album took on a whole new meaning for her; it was her real life battle and struggle to live that you hear from the first note to the last. “I cannot live in fear,” sums up the album perfectly.

This is not a Disney fairy-tale, rather a Brother’s Grimm sort of yarn; so for fans of artists like, Sarah Brightman or Emilie Autumn or films like, The Genetic Opera and The Devil’s Carnival, The Crystal Ceiling is right up your alley. It infuses a sense of a defying nature of stubbornness by not giving in with the power and substance of life, even a hard life with hints of dramatic elements interlaced. It’s the perfect eargasm.

CD Review: ‘Uprise’ by Nemesea

Dutch rock band Nemesea blend hard rock with electronica on its fourth album, Uprise. The opening track “Hear Me” is reminiscent of Queens of the Stone with its driving stoner beat. However, the similarities end there once frontwoman Manda Ophuis’ operatic vocals kick into high gear. The single “Twilight” is a unique mix of classical and electronic music with a hard rock edge. The musical ambience provides a strong musical landscape for Manda’s vocals. The band takes a slight detour into symphonic metal territory on “Forever.” The open guitars crash like rain hitting the ground while the keyboards create a mood of melancholy. The anthemic and empowering “Time To Make It” is a plea for those to take control of their lives and shape their destiny. The song contrasts between soft and loud, with Manda talking to the listener before shouting the chorus. It works very well and is sure to be a fan favorite. The tranquil “Light Up The Sky” is a beautiful ballad that paints a picture of a couple under a star-filled sky. The short piano solo adds an emotional touch before the electric guitars kick in.

Uprise is not a symphonic or goth metal record. There are elements of both subgenres, however Nemesea is a hard rock band. Uprising is a smorgasbord of hard rock, electronica, goth and metal with a commercial appeal. Some may criticize Uprising for being to soft and mainstream. Nonetheless, Nemesea has found its niche and it is successful. The production is solid and the songwriting is good.

Uprising is a great hard rock record that will please fans of Xandria, Delain or Within Temptation. It is a short record that does not drag on and features several great tracks. This band keeps rising up.

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