Stream of Passion's "A War of Our Own" is their fourth album and it marks a new chapter in their 10 years spanning career. Starting off as the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen, the band reshaped after Ayreon's departure. Main ingredients are progressive elements and dramatic passages under a melodic gothic veil. A gothic underscore which is mainly derived from the female vocals of Mexican diva Marcela Bovio. However, unlike many of the vocalist in the genre, Bovio is not leaning on the soprano high pitches, but rather on the melodic soulful panache she has at hand. Stream of Passion has a lot more to offer than the regular gothic acts, and this "A War of Our Own" proves a turning point in the present and future of the band.
The crowdfunded album reveals true progression on all accounts. The music is much heavier, without lacking the Mexican influences Bovio provides. Stream Of Passion has clearly managed to cast aside the burdens of the past and reveals a more aggressive and diverse sound than ever before. The theatrical and dramatic passages are still present, but from the opener "Monster" onwards, the band displays an almost aggressive drive which is captivating. The lyrics of "Monster" also reveals a social political side to the band addressing the problematic circumstances emerging from the drug wars taking place in Mexico, affecting the entire community. The title-track of the album addresses the same problems in a much more dramatic and theatrical manner. Alongside Bovio it is Anathema's Daniel Cardoso taking the spotlights on the song which provides an amazing vocalic interaction between the two.
Taking the spotlight most is of course Bovio above all. The vocalist is gifted with a crystal clear almost fragile voice, but easily falls back on power and passion, vacillating between dramatic extremes. Bovio's Latin American roots are present all over the album and she shifts from English to Spanish ("Exile") occasionally to highlight the lyrics. It's that unique approach which, in combination with her violin playing, adds up to the unique overall sound of the band. "Delirio" is packed with Latin-American scales and is sung in Spanish, making it a stand out track without feeling estranged; it all fits the Stream of Passion bill perfectly.
Aside Bovio the solo spot is swung onto drummer Martijn Peters, who's interaction with powerhouse bass player Johan van Stratum lays down a rock solid foundation. Drums blasting away and the shuffles and percussion work of Peters provide the band with intensity and depth. This in combination with the spectacular guitar sound of Hazebroek and Schultz marks the typical S.O.P sound. Flowing and highly harmonious melody smelt into jaw dropping twin solos and loud ravaging riffs which pull the album forward with temperament. The melodies are lit out by the tasteful swirling keys from Revet, who occasionally powers up the wall of sound, pasting the guitar parts solid with multi layered keyboard parts. Abrupt mood swings and breaks hit you like a sledge hammer and give the band that typical progressive face needed to stand out in the genre. When Bovio and Revet team up for some sublime piano/keyboard and violin interaction, the band displays sheer magical finesses. "For You" is simply stunningly beautiful and will nest inside you head on the spot. It's that fragile and tasteful interaction which makes "Autophobia" (check out the amazing riff) an absolute wonderful track as well. Goosebumps will erupt over your body and the melancholic vocals are gripping and passionate.
However, the band is still at it's very best when the pace goes up and the hook-laden riffs spit away. "The Curse" is one of those absolute highlights which mark that new found passion, which will have fists flying up during their live shows. Much like the thundering "Burning Star", the song leans on the powerful bass and drums interaction. In "Earthquake" the band manages to capture the tension of disaster as well as they do literally manage to shake the sound with turmoil.
Another side of the band is displayed in the extremely tragic "Secrets" about the 3 year old Mara fading away duet o a neuroblastoma. The song is deeply moving and the music is as gripping as the dramatic story told in the lyrics. "Don't let go" depicts the same tragic circumstances now shown from the side of someone who does not want to live anymore, facing his repeating agony of a dawning new day. The contradiction between two stories melts together in the elements embedded in the melodies of both songs.
"Out of the Darkness" and "The Distance between Us" throw the pace up a couple of notches and cast the melancholic mood away to make the album end with a groovy blast.
"A War of Our Own" is more diverse and more driven than any of its predecessors. Stream Of Passion redefined their sound and moved into an assertive direction without lacking the ingredients of their past, making this simultaneously their loudest and most melodic record to date. The dramatic and theatrical elements work magically with the harsher dimensions added to the overall sound. S-O-P experiments towards the future and that works surprisingly well. And let's not forget the transparent production of Joost van den Broek, who managed to capture the key essences of the band better than anyone else. I'm interested to hear what the future holds for Stream of Passion.