When I first stumbled upon Almora last year, I was blown away. I honestly thought it was one of the best musical discoveries I'd made since Nightwish. Combining romantic and fantasy themes with rich classical vocals, classical instruments like the flute and violin, and some Turkish folk elements with wicked melodies made for a powerful mixture. Composer Soner Canozer, like Tuomas Holopainen, knows his shit, even though he lacks the epicness Holopainen produced in songs like "Ghost Love Score"; almost all of Soner's songs are under six minutes long and have fairly simple constructions. But I think the simplicity of the music is its strength. The songs are just so damned pretty and well-executed, and in this case the "more is less" philosophy serves Almora well.
The jewel in Soner's crown, in my opinion, is Kıyamet Senfonisi, sometimes in English translated into Judgement Symphony. I love pretty much everything about this album, even though I don't speak a word of Turkish (this is Almora's only Turkish-language album; previously there have been just a mere scattering of Turkish-language songs on their other CDs). This is a case where the language of the music itself transcends language barriers. I didn't care that I couldn't understand the lyrics; I was just transported by the music, and I loved that feeling.
After looking for this CD in Canada for almost a year now, I finally found it on an American site for a decent price. Amazon.ca doesn't keep Judgement Symphony in stock and will special order it for you at the special price of nearly $40. That is absurd. The site I used, The End Records, sold it for $12 - and it was in stock. Luckily, I had a birthday recently, so I splurged (I also pre-ordered Tarja's new CD from this site, incidentally, as at the time it wasn't available on Amazon.ca).
When I finally got the CD in the mail, I was pretty stoked. Even though I don't understand Turkish, however, I was able to glean a few things from the CD's insert. For one thing, the singer of my favourite song on the album, "Tılsım", is Bilge Kocaarslan, Almora's flutist and long time backing singer. I was surprised because I always remember her as a blonde bombshell with more of a backseat role, but in the video she looks like a completely different person! It made sense, though; the vocal style of the song is not classical and differs from the rest of the songs on the release.
Speaking of the rest of the songs, I also discovered from the CD booklet that Almora went through another vocal change. Gone is Nihan Tahtaişleyen, who also used to play violin. Previous to her departure, lead vocalist Ahmet Söğütlüoğlu left the band in 2005, according to Wikipedia (where I got that piece of info; it's hard to find facts on Almora in English!). According to the CD booklet, the vocalist in Judgement Symphony is Duygu Şahin, and she's really good. I don't know if she's a permanent fixture with the band, but I certainly hope so.
Which brings me to the second part of this post: Soner's solo album with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Masalcı'nın On Beş Yılı. I have no idea what this translates into, but this CD is essentially Soner's celebration of 15 years in the music business, and the 10 tracks are remakes of Almora songs completely unplugged and performed 100% with a full orchestra. I got this from the same place as Judgement Symphony and for a similar price! It doesn't even make an appearance anywhere on Amazon.ca, so I felt really lucky to get a copy at all.
There are a few interesting guest vocalists here, including Doro Pesch, who guests on a remake of "Princess of Rain" from Kalihora's Song. I really love this CD; it's relaxing, it's beautiful, but it has one weakness: that remake of "Princess of Rain". Even though it features Doro, it's much more boring than the original. The highlight for me was the revisioning of "Candle in the Night"; this is from Almora's debut, The Gates of Time. The original singer was Almora's original vocalist, Ahmet Söğütlüoğlu. I found her voice quite sharp, but this newer version has a much softer-toned classical vocalist named Umut Akyurek, and she sounds lovely. Another song I have always loved is "Kaf Daðýnýn Ardýnda" which I always thought very beautiful, and the version on Soner's solo album is also a treat to listen to.
So there you have it; horns up to both these releases! \m/
I really encourage you all to give Almora a try; they are unique in the metal scene, in my opinion, and I think they need way more attention because they are such a talented group!