By Boris Lee
In the late winter of twenty-fifteen, while starting up as a local show promoter and review writer, I entered a Sunday matinee show taking place at Hollywood haunt known as Loaded. One band playing this free show was Los Angeles band, Edge of Paradise.
Immediately I thought, ‘This band is bigger than the gig they are playing.’ The stage presentation was ready for a larger venue, and the music was worthy of a recording contract. Playing songs off their twenty-eleven debut, Mask and twenty-fifteen release Immortal Waltz, Edge of Paradise had me hooked with their original music and then reeled me in with a killer cover of the Black Sabbath classic, “Children of the Sea.”
Four years later with my return to entertainment journalism and the relaunch of my column, Symptom of the Metalverse, fate would have it that Edge of Paradise would release their fourth album, Universe in synchronicity with these events. As with any artists true to their craft, Edge of Paradise have improved their music, found their sound and released a record worthy of the headlining European tour they are about to embark upon.
Front woman Margarita Monet has an identifiable unique voice. Her ability to take vocals from a haunting ear kiss like whisper to powerful well balanced screams directs the instrumental creativity of her bandmates into metal music magnificence. Margarita’s talents as an accomplished classical pianist round out much of the music on Universe, complimenting the guitar melodies, particularly on the acoustic version of the track, “Alone,” which is arguably the standout song for the album.
“Alone” is an anthem for many of us today. The acoustic version offers a warm feeling of hope for damaged souls overcoming a respective cold darkness. While the standard version of the song presents strong tempo changes for a musical emotional aesthetic touching the warrior within the lost, the acoustic version relies on more of a storyteller feel that calls to the souls of the flawed and scarred. The acoustic version of the song is a modern ballad kissed by beautiful piano work with a timeless heart.
Edge of Paradise guitarist Dave Bates once again proves his ‘Beastial Mastery’ of the axe. Dave inter-grades his shredding skills with modern guitar rhythms that thrive with raw old school power, creating a solid sound both the commercial market and headbanger will enjoy with vigor. Dave’s talents flourish on the instrumental track, “Burn the Sun.”
I have always been a fan of heavy music instrumentals. “Burn the Sun” is a battle hymn and muscle car cruiser slammed into one classic metal music overture. This is a true to form old-school guitar instrumental worthy of Satriani and Malmsteen status. The addition of second guitarist David Ruiz has helped to give the overall guitar riffs a more complete, full sound on “Burn the Sun” and throughout the rest of Universe. David’s guitar work gels with Dave’s blistering abilities, and Margarita’s keyboards accent the symphonic bliss. Bassist Vanya and drummer Jimmy Lee do precisely what a grounded rhythm section is supposed to on “Burn the Sun” and the rest of Universe. Their work is methodical, balanced, and the power boost songs need for energetic emphasis.
When it comes to writing modern anthems housing a powerful message to let inner strength lead today’s youth through adversity, Edge of Paradise has the blueprints and the patent on the formula.
“Fire”, burns through your speakers and ignites a desire to stand up and overcome the distractions and delusions placed forth by society and inner misdirection today. The song opens with beautiful piano work by Margarita, which is quickly married to an intense musical march from her supporting cast. Margarita’s vocals are at their best on Universe with “Fire,” balancing the musicianship of the band, giving all members an equal energy in what your senses consume. There is not much I can write about this song that does it justice. “Fire” would be the song I used to introduce Edge of Paradise to new listeners.
Following the blazing trail of “Fire,” listeners enter the “Hollow”. Another anthem, the song follows a more balanced approach in music as band members complement each other with a tenacious pulse, tempo change and overall voice.
The title track to Universe opens with a science-fiction feel that is joined by a catchy guitar riff which beams the listener into a magical stratosphere of instrumental paradise. Margarita’s vocals are in classic form, showing her incredible range and sustain. The guitars and rhythm section transcend with Margarita’s vocals into a melodic inspirational experience.
Where strength rises, weakness lies. “Perfect Disaster,” “Stars,” and “World,” are all good songs. However, these tracks lack the energetic heights the rest of Universe attains. Also, the album’s overall commercial formula and sound detracts from the heavier foundation the band was built on prior to the twenty-seventeen release, Alive. That’s not to say Universe is not as good as previous Edge of Paradise releases, because it is.
Point of fact, when checking all the boxes for creating a successful, great sounding album, Universe is the strongest offering from Edge of Paradise thus far. Margarita’s vocals were never weak or subpar on previous Edge of Paradise releases, yet she continues to further her balance between strength, tone and range. Margarita’s piano work is awesome and carries with it the joy she has in creating music. You can FEEL that positive energy when the music encompasses your senses.
If I were to write here, I KNEW how great a guitarist Dave Bates was prior to my listening to Universe for this review, I would be lying. Dave Bates impressed me when I heard him playing “Children of the Sea”, four years ago since the Edge of Paradise rendition was so good, and Dio era Black Sabbath lives in such a deep shadow of Ozzy era covers you rarely hear one. Hearing Edge of Paradise play the song was refreshing to my horn raising appetite. It would be in my preparation for this review that I learned how accomplished a guitarist Dave is. With his introduction of acoustic guitar work on Universe, sticking with a heavy riff foundation to build upon, while evolving the riffs into an intense modern flow, Dave Bates is on course to becoming a modern guitar legend. Lay “Shredtastic” leads atop that formula, sprinkle in Vanya, Jimmy, and David’s structured musicianship, you have modern heavy music paradise. Throw in the production and mixing quality of Universe being the best of the Edge of Paradise albums, and you have a great record.
I give Universe 4.5 of 5 raised horns. You can pick up a copy of Universe through Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and other retailers November 8.
Checkout the video for Edge of Paradise’s latest release, “Fire” and head over to their website here for more information on the forthcoming European tour and their latest release, Universe.