The problem with most female-fronted symphonic / gothic metal bands coming out these days is that they’ve spent the last twenty years worshipping Nightwish. Admittedly, Nightwish thoroughly deserve that worship for their innate ability to combine operatic vocals and keyboard driven melodies into catchy, perfectly executed songs. However, operatic vocals and keyboards do not a Nightwish make, and most of the clone gothic bands out there these days fail to distinguish themselves in any way.
And then there’s Red Queen Theory.
I haven’t heard a female-fronted band in a long time that I liked as much as these guys. Front woman Liz Tseng has one of those voices that immediately stands out – she blends classical and operatic styles with a blistering modern edge. At times, she reminds a little of a J-pop singer, but without the nasal tang that grates on the ears. If I could compare her to anyone, it would be Jonsu from Indica, especially with her vocal melodies, but where Indica’s commercial sound fails to breach the rock/metal genre, Red Queen Theory storm through the gates. Tseng’s pitch and range on “Of Ravens and Blood” transform this song from being simply “good” to earning a place on my iPod’s most played list.
The heavy use of middle-eastern instrumentation dominates the melodies, so instead of tinkering keyboard permeating every gap in the vocals, you’ve got these Elegy-era Amorphis riffs and melodies. The guitars, while not prominent, are also not wimpy.
For a debut EP, I’m surprised by the quality of the production on Red Queen Theory. With this style – clean vocals and keyboard melodies – it’s of vital importance to have crisp, clean production, and too often gothic metal bands forsake this in favor of cheaper, more rough sounds. There are sections I wish had a greater depth to sound, perhaps with more layers in the guitar and bass, but overall, Red Queen Theory have created a professional and listenable album. My only complaint is that I think the order of songs on the album should be re-arranged (the strongest songs come one after each other on the album – I think “Revens” should close) and the artwork doesn’t exactly sell me.
This Seattle outfit puts paid to the belief that you have to be European to pull off a stunning suite of dramatic, operatic metal. You can hear three songs from Red Queen Theory, including my personal favourite, “The Dream and the Tomb”, on their reverbnation page, and, if you dig them, buy the Red Queen Theory EP on iTunes or CDBaby.