Listening to the beautiful voice of Sabine Dünser on ELIS' album "Griefshire", it is difficult to believe that she completed these tracks before her untimely demise. She sounds so vibrant and full of life that the thought of her exit from the mortal world is as unbelievable as it is incredibly saddening. "Griefshire" is a concept album dealing with religious fanaticism and contains the trademark Napalm sound, that being lush instrumentation, gothic/ethereal atmosphere, and a siren's voice enhancing the melodies tenfold. In this case though, ELIS ups the heaviness factor considerably by incorporating a substantially increased emphasis on the riffs, as well as guitar solos, and a frequently pummeling double-bass led rhythmic delivery. It's not as though "Griefshire" marks the transformation of ELIS into a Gothenburg death metal band (not by a long shot), but the album definitely strikes a delicate balance between power drives and orgasmic melodies."Griefshire" plays like the complete package that it is, the pacing done in a manner that maintains momentum the entire way through its 53 minutes and offers hooks at every turn. The balance struck is most evident on the excellent album opener "Tales of Heaven or Hell", said riffs and kick drum providing near perfect contrast to the infectious melody. The same can be said for the speedy "Remember the Promise" and the expertly arranged "The Burning", the latter sporting effective death-growl backing vocals (it is most certainly an album highlight). "Phoenix from the Ashes" is damn near thrashy and includes an eerie guitar line and plodding rhythm, softened only by keyboards and Sabine's mellifluous voice. The more traditionally melodic songs, such as "Show me the Way" (another highlight, thanks to a great chorus), "Brothers", and "Innocent Hearts" are solidly tuneful and memorable. Rounding out with dreamier piano/string ballads "How Long" and "Forgotten Love" results in a smartly constructed album that works from start to finish. A complete package indeed! It's a shame that Sabine is not around to work on another majestic opus. Rest in peace.
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