When it comes to rock and metal music, as a general rule, I enjoy male vocals over female. Nothing against women, but men just usually have a more raucous voice. Raspy singing and brutal screaming is something reserved for front men, not women. But, as we all do, I have been through many musical phases. One of those phases was an interest in female-fronted rock and metal bands. I got into such bands as Ashes of Erin, The Agonist, and of course Arch Enemy. But as my musical tastes continued to change, so did my love for these women. Eventually they all faded from view. All but one. The lovely Maria Brink of In This Moment had captured my heart and ears and refused to let go. In This Moment always had a special place on my play lists and was never far from my ears and definitely never forgotten.
These Los Angeles natives have definitely evolved over the course of their three album lifespan. Their debut album, Beautiful Tragedy, featured Maria Brink shrieking for the preponderance of the music, whereas their sophomore album, The Dream, featured Maria showing off her beautiful singing voice. Of course instrumentally they have progressed as any decent band will, becoming more skilled and varied in stylistic choices. A Star-Crossed Wasteland, their most recent offering, features a beautiful blend of clean and screamed vocals from Maria.
The album begins with “Gunshow” which should be familiar to anyone who has accessed the band’s Myspace page recently. The song features not a single sung verse or chorus. Jeff Fabb keeps up a constant but simple beat augmented by low chugs from Chris Howorth. At first I thought the song was boring and a bit cheesy. But after a few listens I began to appreciate the cheesy cowboy showdown lyrics and the simple but relentless pacing. Maria absolutely dominates the show with angry shrieks and intense spoken and yelled lyrics.
This album also features more backing vocals than previous albums. Maria shares the stage with Howorth for many of the songs, and sings a duet, “The Promise”, with Adrian Patrick of the band Otherwise. I felt that Maria’s voice melded incredibly well with Howorth’s but when she attempted to harmonize with Patrick, she was not as successful. They both sing beautifully on their own, but during the harmonies, I felt disappointed. The title track is, although a bit slow, beautiful and haunting. The album production was immaculate with everything being tight and layered exactly as it should be. This is no surprise considering that Kevin Churko, the man who produced The Dream, also worked with them on A Star-Crossed Wasteland. The album is a beautiful fusion of the brutality of Beautiful Tragedy and the catchy melodies of The Dream. Maria mixes her vocals beautifully, bringing in melody when melody is needed and screaming her lungs out when brutality is what is called for. This album is much heavier than previous outings and it is obvious that the players have all been increasing when it comes to skill. Howorth even shreds a few times, with the most interesting solo being at the end of “Blazin.”
Although the album is incredibly enjoyable, this quintet does fail in a few areas. Maria sings beautifully and all of the songs are incredibly catchy, but still are lacking something. Many of the songs contain melodies that long time fans will recognize from previous albums, but that will disappoint by fading into obscurity. And the drummer, Jeff Fabb, often feels like he is just following the rest of the band instead of keeping pace. Every song is a fun romp through the rock and roll forest, but a few songs feel almost like filler. And the final track “World In Flames”, although beautiful, feels like it was thrown in just so Maria could sing a ballad.
Even with these flaws, A Star-Crossed Wasteland is a worthy addition to In This Moment’s legacy. Fans of female vocals will eat this up, as will fans of main stream rock. I would urge even those who are hesitant to check out this album. In This Moment has drawn the line in the sand for every hard rock band out there. The band have put out a monumental work that is utterly and completely enjoyable that sets the standard— and boy is it high.