Woods Of Wonder – Lost
Woods Of Wonder is a massive Symphonic Metal opera that is the brainchild of Gideon Ricardo. With a colossal cast of characters voiced by incredible singers worldwide, it is a project that rivals anything currently in production. Telling the story of Owen and Emma and all the people they meet along their journey to find home, this an epic story that needed every one of the musicians listed (and what a list it is!) to pull off the project. There is hope, turmoil, and drama, everything an opera needs, and it is all voiced/played by a who’s who of the Metal world.
- Gideon Ricardo –Compositions/Lyrics
- Charlaine van der Loon – Lyrics
- Guest Musicians:
- Gideon Ricardo – Vocals (Owen, tracks 1-9)
- Stefani Keogh – Vocals (Emma, tracks 1-9)
- Archie Caine – Vocals (Martin Kaene, tracks 2, 9)
- Ulli Perhonen – Vocals (Racha, track 3)
- Guido Macaione – Vocals (Rylo, track 3)
- James Delbridge – Vocals (Marwen, track 3)
- Marius Danielsen – Vocals (Anderson, track 3)
- Herbie Langhans – Vocals (Ahnmwok, track 4)
- Blaze Bayley – Vocals (Wuzush, track 4)
- Carys Serries – Vocals (Nightmare, track 4)
- Alina Lesnik – Vocals (Serena Deer, track 5)
- Jon Soti – Vocals (Nestor, track 6)
- Jack Reynolds – Vocals (Quinn, track 6)
- Alessandro Conti – Vocals (Abramo, track 6)
- Ralf Scheepers – Vocals (Fergus, track 6)
- Lilly Seth – Vocals (Abby, track 7)
- Laura Guldemond – Vocals (Lucy, track 7)
- Susy Eskarlett – Vocals (Romy, track 7)
- Fabio Lione – Vocals (Yado, track 8)
- Daniel Heiman – Vocals (Ybur, tracks 8, 9)
- Danny Meyer – Vocals (The Dragon Slayer, track 8)
- Jon Pyres – Vocals (the Darkness, track 9)
- Luigi Soranno – Vocals (Fynn, Track 9)
- Zsolt Szilagyi – Guitar Solo (track 3, 4, 7)
- Luigi Soranno – Guitar Solo (tracks 2, 5, 9)
- Armando De Angelis – Guitar Solo (track 2)
- James Delbridge – Guitar Solo (track 6)
- Zachary Wojtowicz – Guitar Solo (track 8)
- Gideon Ricardo – Keyboard Solo (track 3)
- Philippe Giordana – Keyboard Solo (track 9)
- Andrea Atzori – Keyboard Solo (track 9)
- Luigi Soranno – Rhythm Guitars (tracks 2, 4-9)
- Christian Weber – Rhythm Guitars (track 3)
- Zachary Wojtowicz – Rhythm Guitars (track 4)
- Thomas Schmitt – Bass (tracks 2-9)
- Max Rudolph – Drums (tracks 5, 8)
- Alessandro Kelvin – Drums (tracks 2-4, 6, 7, 9)
October 7, 2022
Love Anarchy Records
- Woods Of Wonders
- Owen And Emma
- Elvish Hell
- Inside A Dream
- The Witch’s Daughter
- Castle Of Wisdom
- The Pirate Queens
- The Dragon Slayer
- The Darkness
There is a lot to unpack on this record. It opens with “Woods Of Wonders,” a symphonic piece using a lot of spoken word to set the stage for the rest of the album. Ominous keys and airy strings set the tone while the spoken lyrics introduce us to the two main characters, Owen and Emma, played by Gideon Ricardo and Stefani Keogh. This is where the tale’s heroes are lost in a magical world after finding a door to this new realm. This is just kids playing when their lives are completely upended. We’ve heard stories like this before.
The story continues 20 years later, still in the magical woods. Here, Owen and Emma tell you about getting lost in the woods. They finally meet someone, though. Martin is a stranger who tells them he can take them where they need to be. They are finally offered hope and the possibility of getting home, but the journey is just beginning. As with any epic trek, some tests and challenges must be mastered.
Musically, this track introduces us to the modern instrumentation we will hear for the rest of the journey. The orchestration is still very present and helps to maintain the consistency we long for going forward thematically. Once the heavy section starts, after a spoken word interlude that provides context to the story, a heavy riff joins the fray with subdued bass tones and a hint of what is to come. The musical interlude has a hefty dose of keyboards to accompany the guitar work, including the solo from Luigi Soranno. The drums are Power Metal done right, and the whole composition helps build the world we will learn more about over the following seven tracks.
“Elvish Hell” is the story of Fynn’s disappearance. The music is quiet to start, with forlorn strings and an acoustic guitar setting a mournful tone, matching the loss of a child to the one known as “the Darkness,” who we meet later in the story. Fynn is tied to Owen and Emma through a prophecy, the gist of this entire tale. The song builds slowly, getting heavier and bigger, then dropping back out, only to crescendo again. The elves and humans have to get to the point of understanding that these are the prophesied two who are to save their child before trust starts to bloom.
The guitar solo is melodic and beautifully paced, and the voices often overlap, layering in chaos and tension until they discover that this is the pair fated to save the day. A mixture of powerful singing and spoken storytelling move the tale forward. The next phase paves the way for the vocal onslaught that takes the story to the end of this track and the transition to the next part of the journey with more spoken lyrics. Not only does this song build, but the entire tale is also building and growing musically and vocally.
“Inside A Dream” starts with a typical sibling interaction, with sarcasm and subdued fighting. Here, the tale goes into dreams, describing the prophecy in greater detail, providing more context to the opera. We’ve heard many exceptional voices so far. Still, here, we get treated to Blaze Bayley going full operatic belting, playing his role with one of the more stunning performances on a record full of amazing vocal pieces. The tolling bells, the addition of harsh vocals, and the ethereal strings all take the story in a more sinister, darker direction. Carys Serries as “Nightmare” creates another later, one which will expand when we meet “Darkness” later.
The guitar solo is closer to shredding. The bells tolling with the forlorn strings at the end of the track, both the higher-end violins and lower tones cellos, blended with the almost Gregorian chanting and sporadic xylophone strikes, set up the final section. All the modern instruments come back before the spoken piece that previews the next track, carrying the story along with what ends up being almost narration. Those spoken interludes answer most of the questions the listener might have, completing the story without needing to constantly refer to the liner notes in case you missed something. I personally think this helps immensely.
We are introduced to Serena in “The Witch’s Daughter.” She sets up the next part of the journey with a combination of breathy vocals and belted high notes. The strings are both forlorn and haunted, and the voices often echo this. The next challenge will be dangerous and needs to be undertaken with care and caution. The vocalizations that build to the massive musical surge are stunning, as are many of the performances on this album. The more I listen to this, the more I appreciate the whole thing and how well-constructed the entire opera is.
“The Castle Of Wisdom” opens with spoken word and a choir setting up this portion of the story. Owen and Emma are told their journey is just beginning and that there is much to accomplish, but they are in the right place to learn how to defeat Evil and rid the world of Darkness. The early guitar solo, performed by James Delbridge, is melodic, tempered, and dreamy. It doesn’t try to overwhelm the track but instead works to fit in and match the tone of the composition. The Pirate Queens is introduced, and we will meet her in the next song.
Meanwhile, the keys rule this song in many areas, often coupled with strings and/or piano tones. The music ebbs and flows through a series of waves, swelling and lulling. The second guitar solo is equally as impressive. Covering a lot of ground, taking the time to have ebbs and flows, much like the song as a whole. The warnings in this song are dire, getting gloomier as the final test nears.
So, I’m on my 10th consecutive trip through this album and have decided “The Pirate Queens” is my favorite track. As much as I’ve grown to love this album as a whole, this song hooks me hard. The strings and guitars are foreboding, dark, and ominous. The drums are almost tribal in their feel, and the whole piece comes across as an epic task to be mastered. All three Pirate Queens are vocal goddesses. I don’t even know which amazing singer is which in all of the overlapping voices, but I know they all absolutely crush this one.
Some screams and belted notes blow my mind, such as the line “it’s time to pay the price.” Part of me thinks that might be Laura Guldemond. Having seen her live, I know she can hit those notes, but to be fair, I’d bet any of the three of the Pirate Queens could handle it. The guitar tones, the vocal tones, and the rhythmic drumming just hit me square in the face, leaving me wanting more. This is one of the best songs of 2022, hands down. The guitar solos are fantastic, and the layered vocals are absolutely incredible. There are layers of sound over layers of sound. The composition is complex and so far beyond stunning that I can’t find the right words.
As part of the prophecy, Owen and Emma must save the dragons and bring them out of enslavement. To do this, must defeat The Dragon Slayer, which they do with magic he does not understand. And while this is a good thing, even he knows the last challenge, to beat The Darkness, will be the most difficult trial to overcome. The strings, drums, and guitars for this song are wild, fast, heavy, and beautiful. The galloping drum line, especially where the strings are at top speed, is a work of art. The horns built into that interlude add so much texture to the song as a whole. There is so much to hear on this track that I had to start it over a few times just to make sure I caught it all.
This tale concludes on a track made to wrap up an epic quest. “The Darkness,” which is a title and a character voiced by the incredible Jon Pyres, is where Owen and Emma meet Fynn, the vanished elf from “Elvish Hell” that they are supposed to save. The strings and keys are dark and ominous, setting the tone for the track. After the spoken lyrics, one of the first things you hear is a trademark Jon Pyres growled scream, letting you know the fight will be intense here. Fynn is fading, and Owen and Emma are there to help restore him to his full glory.
Evil laughs and harsh vocals underscore the coming battle. Of course, the light triumphs over Darkness, but the fight leaves everyone drained and damaged. Haunting tones, chilling laughs, and a vocal war ensue. The keyboards and guitar simulate the conflict, and the drums and keys provide an epic backdrop. As the battle rages, keyboard and guitar solos fight for dominance as Darkness makes his final stand. The last thing we hear is a knife being thrown and striking flesh. Someone dies, and the story will have to continue. Can good ever truly defeat Evil once and for all?
This record is epic in all the right ways. The story is engaging, the music is outstanding, and it just gets better with each listen. The various personnel used really create a sense of different characters. You can tell the differences in most of the voices as you go, especially with some of the more iconic voices that take part in this project. I don’t know every voice, but I feel like I know enough of them to pick up on some of the differences. Fabio Lione, Blaze Bayley, and Herbie Langhans alone are worth the price of admission, then you get the rest of them. I’ve gotten to know James Delbridge a bit, and I’ve met and interviewed Jon Pyres, both of whom are incredible persons and immense talents.
Add to that the stunning array of musicians, and you get a project that rivals almost anything over the past decade. Masterful guitar work, expansive keyboards and orchestration, and amazing rhythms, all topped by some of the most astounding vocal performances, end up coming together in a modern masterpiece, a Symphonic Metal Opera.
- Guitars – 10
- Rhythms – 10
- Vocals – 10
- Songwriting – 10
- Production – 10.00
- Overall –