Rachel's Surrender are certainly not newcomers to the foray of Goth music. Two of their previous releases, Dreams & Theatre and Blood & Kisses are now both out of print. With the latest demise of Seraph Records, their previous release Within Tears of Winter, which was highly praised by the underground critics, may be on the heels of being hard to find as well. The current release, Summer, extrapolates the moodiness, dark ambience and Reuben's classical music training throughout. There is a hybridization of many genres in order to stir up a unique froth of sound to evoke the recall of a bittersweet memory.
Secret Lives of Angels (prologue) is an instrumental track that is somewhat new wave married to Goth and classical sensibilities. This track clearly demarcates the band's brilliance for executing musical compositions. Soul's Tide delves into a more darkwave realm that is moody and atmospheric. The drawback however is the sing-song style vocals that seemed to mar what could have been a beautiful piece of work. Burn played a bit more with a shoegazer style hybrid with some elements of jazz and new age. The music layers are consistently well done, but vocally the range is quite limited and at times flat which takes away from enjoying the song to its fullest. Crimson Sky attempted a new direction with a Goth sound by weaving a few more jazz percussive elements within the framework of the song. Sadly the vocals sounded as though they were from a bad night at a karaoke bar, again hurting a potentially magnificent song.
Musically this is a tight band with some excellent musical compositions, however the vocals are a bit too untrained for these ears. Needless to say, this was a cumbersome challenge to endure repeated listens in the anticipation that the work would grow on me. Musically, I was snagged immediately, however vocal notes that would have been more appropriate were not reached in the proper range. This heavily deflected from music that is fresh, vibrant and new, causing the songs to seemingly deflate rather rapidly. Despite repeated listens, this reviewer could not help but wince quite often, especially since they have a noted good musical track history behind them. It became impossible to critique each track without slowly becoming unnerved and annoyed. The band does have a number of fans, however, so take this as just one elder Goth's perception.
It is evident that the band spent an enormous amount of time writing and rehearsing the musical tracks. Despite the original and well-crafted music, the band effort and delightful playing remains overshadowed by vocals that seem to be unskilled, self conscious and lacking in depth. The best tracks are the instrumentals found at the opening and closing of the disc, which really emphasize the astute brilliance in their writing skills and musicianship. Without the distraction of the vocals, one can really get into the complexity of only a mere glimmer of what this band can accomplish.
As far as sound quality and musical composition, this would merit a 10 out of 10. With the harsh limitations of the vocal ranges however, the recording would merit a 5, and I am being generous. The time spent on the construction of the songs didn't seem to follow through with the vocals. It is understandable that studio time costs artists a bit of cash, so it is disheartening to hear the developing genius fall short of grace by vocal tracks that are too self conscious and lacking in emotive passion to carry the work. Hopefully the vocal strength can be developed because this is a band that could really kick doors down with their otherwise great sound. These tracks could in fact become underground classics if re-tweaked and aimed in the right direction.
The other shortcoming was with the packaging. In what appeared to be the red/blue 3-D color scheme, reading the track titles without one of those decoders made deciphering a bit of a chore that ate valuable time. This is not necessarily a good move if sending out a press kit to labels. The folks at these companies have even less time to sift through all the nuances and this could also ultimately hurt the band in the long run. As much as I really enjoyed their ability to play and compose, there were just too many variables that took away from what could have been a positive musical experience. Hopefully all the kinks can be worked out shortly.