Marco Polo: The Metal Soundtrack


SYMPHONITY is the brainchild of Czech guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Libor Křivák, assembled in 2006, the […]
By Chris Hicklin
July 4, 2022
Symphonity - Marco Polo: The Metal Soundtrack album cover

SYMPHONITY is the brainchild of Czech guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Libor Křivák, assembled in 2006, the name itself is a portmanteau of "symphony" and "eternity" aiming to deliver, in the band's own words, "expansive, timeless compositions, characterised by technically filigree lead guitars that surprise again and again with melodic variations." A bold claim. Indeed, following up from 2016's concept epic "The King of Persia," this third full length release hops forward a couple of millennia and is intended to be a musical journey through the travels of the thirteenth century Venetian explorer and writer Marco Polo, utilising exotic scales and musical influences from the countries he travelled in. Certainly, this seems to be a highly ambitious project, you might even call it a Rock Opera, so let's see how they did.

Although not listed as a band member the operatic vocals for the intro and outro sections, detailing Marco Polo's departing from and returning to his home of Venice, are performed by world-class mezzo-soprano Jana Hrochová. The album opens with a piano led voiceover, giving us a little historical context before Hrochová treats us to a powerful and resonant performance. There is absolutely nothing Metal about this part of the album, and a little more voice-over fills us in on Polo's progress as he approaches the war-torn lands of Armenia and Persia, the latter now known as Iran, and an area which was home to the globe's oldest civilisations. First track "Crimson Silk" is an explosion of progressive riffing which makes full use of Western Asian harmonies and scales, and features a bit of flute (a Ney, I believe which is a very early Middle Eastern instrument) giving it an earthy feel. The symphonic elements are mostly keyboard led, but they manage to sound authentic and not just like synth effects. Libor Křivák demonstrates his enviable guitar skills with an epic solo, full of informed and flavoursome licks.

Now, I won't go through each song, there is so much happening at any given moment that we will be here forever. Suffice it to say, each track comes with a well researched and creatively written historical backdrop which places you right there with the man on his travels, there is a beautiful acoustic guitar piece that cleaves the whole work in two, there are vast orchestral flourishes and oodles of highly authentic musical influences, and the Metal sections exude exceptional power and skill. While the main thrust of the album is a mix of Power Metal with traditional folk elements worked in, there are a number of more exclusively Western sounding piano and string led ballads as well in "Dreaming of Home"and "Prisoner". Unusually the band boasts two lead singers in Konstantin Naumenko and Mayo Petranin who, between them, can cover just about any vocal requirements you can imagine.
Particular mention should go to ten-minute epic "Part 5: Mongols," which opens with a majestic symphonic section, and mashes up laid-back traditional throat singing sections with breakneck riffing and thunderous drums, more traditional sounding Power Metal takes over at times, while other sections display something much more aggressive. This song also features a wide variety of traditional Middle Eastern and Chinese instruments, including a wonderful solo performed on a Morin Khuur which is a traditional Mongolian bowed instrument and the backbone of Mongolian folk music. All this works in perfect unison with the western bass sounds of Tomáš Sklenář who brings out the traditional vocal sections with a superbly tasteful performance. A magnificent piece.

The production across the album is excellent, I felt it sounded a little thin at first, but once my ears had settled into the sheer number of different elements at play, the levels seem well judged. The writing is tight and efficient, many bands would be tempted to artificially inflate these tunes with lots of repetitive refrains, but SYMPHONITY maintain more restraint than this making every note count. On the longest track, the aforementioned "Mongols" there is not a boring moment to be heard. This album is likely to be a bit much for Power Metal purists, as the actual Metal content almost takes a backseat to the folk elements, theatrics, and cinematic style of composition, but for those with a slightly more adventurous nature, there is much to dig into here.

8 / 10









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"Marco Polo: The Metal Soundtrack" Track-listing:

1. Part 1 : Venezia
2. Part 2: Crimson Silk
3. Part 3: The Plague
4. Part 4: Love Theme
5. Part 5: Mongols
6. Part 6: Dreaming of Home
7. Part 7: I Found My Way Back Home
8. Part 8: Prisoner
9. Part 9: Venezia Finale 

Symphonity Lineup:

Konstantin Naumenko - lead & backing vocals
Mayo Petranin - lead & backing Vocals
Libor Křivák - guitars, keyboards
Tomáš Sklenář - bass
Josef Cigánek - drums
Johannes Frykholm - keyboard solos, additional keyboards

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