Patrick : Karelia was founded five years ago by Matthieu Kleiber and keyboarder Lionel Vest, who already left the band to concentrate on other classical projects. Karelia have given themselves the name of a region between Finland and Russia, but the band is French Following the release of a demo and shows with acts like Kamelot and At Vance, Karelia signed with Drakkar Records and released their debut, 'Usual Tragedy', in spring 2004. Next to Kleiber, the line-up consists of Bertrand Maillot (keyboards), Erwan Morice (guitar), Loïc Jenn (drums) and Gilles Thiebaut (bass).
The openings and title track 'Raise' is full of grandiloquent choirs, propelling rhythms and a speech from moustached Adolf from Nazi-Germany, which, in combination with the underlying sound of the piano, adds a lot of tragedy to the song. And that is something in which Karelia are very good: putting down a grandiloquent pompous, almost magical atmosphere. This mood is in almost all of the songs on the cd and makes it an expedition itself to listen to the cd. The songs of Karelia are stripped of any platitude within the genre, but they remain accessible. With progressive rhythms, driving guitars, and, again, the enormous ambience, Karelia knows how to make great songs. But despite all these qualities, there is just one thing that shatters this cd. The pronunciation of the vocalist is really wretched and, because of that, irritating, that it keeps me from giving this cd a good assessment. He speaks his English so miserable that one can hardly hear what he is singing about. Just listen how he pronounces the word 'misunderstood' in the song 'The Hermit'. Also on 'Tearful Clown', which is a fine composition, the vocalist totally knows to nullify the song with his unintelligible jabber.
Not until Karelia comes with a vocalist who one can understand decently, I will be able to give an appreciation which describes the value of the songs more genuine. If you, just like me, like to be able to hear what a vocalist has to tell, you can better avoid this release.