Debuting in 2015 with their critically acclaimed album Hyedology, Symphony of Pain (vocalist Tracie Laws and classically trained multi-instrumentalist Pam Chowhan) return with their follow up album, Virology, a darker, harder and more powerful beast of an album.
This time, along for the ride are acclaimed drummer Johanne James (who needs no introduction, his drum style is unique and instantly recognisable), some stunning guitar work from Jonas Costa and Mark Bloxsidge providing superb bass work.
This is an incredibly intelligent and intense musical ride, with the Symphony of Pain trademark mix of harder edged rock, married to Pam’s sublime violin work and Tracie’s wonderfully emotive vocals pulling no punches with topics and styles.
From the sinister and powerful opener, My Laboratory (celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein being published, by the way), Tracie absolutely lives and breathes the characters he inhabits on the songs, and his versatile vocal style works perfectly as he adapts his tone and pace for each song.
On the powerfully catchy driving Virus, describing humanity as the virus on the planet (I told you, the topics here are directly political and pull no punches), the wonderfully fluid violin of Pam duels with Jonas’ guitar, and the way the two intertwine are essential to the sound of this album. I’ve always loved the idea of marrying classical instruments and style with rock music, and when done well, like throughout this album, the results are a delight, an absolute joy to listen to.
This is one of those albums that you must sit down and listen to, and immerse yourself in, you can’t just dip in and out, otherwise you will miss crucial points, and styles.
The darkly powerful progressive metal tinge on Down, with some real soaring guitar work, and of course Johannes ever powerful drums in the background, married perfectly to Mark’s wonderfully fluid bass, really gels, and with Pam’s wonderful violin solos trading licks with Jonas, Symphony of Pain have really pulled together some cracking rocking tracks.
There are arguments in various arenas about whether music should be political, but to my mind, in these fractured times that we are living in, we need music of this nature, artwork reflects the eras in which it is created, and if this is material Tracie and Pam feel passionate about, then who are we to dictate to an artist what their art should be about?
It’s not all doom and gloom however, on the hard rocking Green Eyes, with its great riffs and big old pounding beat, it tells the tale of a supernatural ménage a trois under the moonlight and has that great old school rock feel about it, I imagine it’ll be a belter performed live as well. You can tell from the feel that the band had fun making this one.
In fact the sense of enjoyment flows through the album, the band are confident and powerful throughout and the album has some truly beautiful moments, the incredibly haunting Suspicion being one, Pam’s beautiful violin sound joined by highly acclaimed classical cellist Jiaxin Lloyd-Webber who adds some beautiful colour and shape to the song. Tracie’s vocals are wonderful, and the subtle light and shade provided by Johanne James make this a real stand out track.
This album is a complete work of art, from the cover and packaging which reflects perfectly the themes contained, to the music and lyrics, a lot of thought and care has been put into Virology, and you can tell.
Ending on a couple of the strongest songs, Futile and War Machine, both of which are bemoaning the state of rudderless leadership the country currently has, and the fact that there’s no profit in peace, it’s not a happy ending, but its message is stark and clear: if we want things to change, we have to be the ones to do that, and if art like this can inspire us to start to make a difference, then maybe – just maybe – there’s hope for us all.
Symphony of Pain have created an intelligent, entertaining, and all round brilliant successor to their debut, and I enjoyed it. I hope to see them live at some point as I am sure, from the band performances here, they are going to be on fire as a live act.
01. My Laboratory (4:35)
02. Darkling (5:13)
03. Virus (4:23)
04. Down (5:16)
05. Green Eyes (3:31)
06. Suspicion (5:35)
07. Ghost Moon (2:11)
08. I Can’t Believe (4:20)
09. Futile (4:27)
10. War Machine (6:41)
Total Time – 46:19
Tracie Law – Vocals
Pam Chowhan- Violin, Keyboards, Piano
Mark Bloxsidge – Bass
Johanne James – Drums
Jonas Costa – Guitar
Jiaxin Lloyd-Webber – Cello (track 6)
Latana Phoung – Mezzo Soprano (track 10)
Record Label: Lawsome Records
Date of Release: 29th March 2019
Symphony of Pain – Website