I used to tell myself that visuals and aesthetics don’t really matter much when it comes to music, but I’ve found this to be less and less true over time. The way a band presents themselves and conveys their message plays an increasingly important role in how much I really enjoy their music. Songwriting and the quality of the music itself is number one of course, but aesthetics can really help with the immersion of music especially when it comes to fantasy laden genres like power or epic metal. It can lift a band up and take them to the next level. It’s for these very reasons that I had an averse initial reaction to Flame, Dear Flame, but luckily I was proven wrong.
When I was first introduced to Flame, Dear Flame I saw an odd name, an EP titled The Millennial Heartbeat (note: it’s actually used as an adjective and not a noun like I initially thought…), and a “hipster” looking band photo. I almost immediately closed out of my browser, but the band cited Atlantean Kodex, early Manowar, and Hammerheart-era Bathory as primary influences and this was enough to keep me around. What I heard pleasantly surprised me – the music was far closer to the claimed influences rather than the aesthetic presented.
Musically, Flame, Dear Flame fall squarely into the epic doom metal subgenre with their slow, deliberate pacing and central emphasis on clean vocals. True to their influences, the music shares stark similarities with Atlantean Kodex, but with one very important difference – the presence of vocalist Maren. Rather than the triumphant grit of someone like Kodex’s Markus Becker or Manowar’s Eric Adams, Maren brings us a hint of melancholy alongside her femininity. There’s a certain clarity and quality to her technique that sets her apart. It’s definitely different than the norm, but it’s a welcome breath of fresh air in this case. The end result of is a style that’s quite similar to last year’s Lethean full-length. While it doesn’t seem like Flame, Dear Flame have taken direct influence from Lethean, they both draw from the same well and the end result is a similar sound and emotion.
Maren is the shining star here, but the instrumentation doesn’t slack either. The rhythm section sets the mood while the guitars alternate between crushing doom riffs and sorrowful acoustics. The brilliant production brings out the best out of these instruments. The drum tone is full, the guitars have just enough bite for this style of music without sounding too harsh, and Maren’s vocals cut through the mix without burying any of the instruments. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed that this was a full length album from an established band and not an independent EP.
Overall, The Millennial Heartbeat is well executed, even with its questionable visuals. However, I can’t help but feel like there’s something still missing from the equation. The songwriting is good, but it doesn’t deviate very far from their influences. The samples of crashing waves, the song structures, and the characteristic lead guitar bends are all straight from the Atlantean Kodex playbook. This combined with the fact that the three songs on the EP don’t differ drastically from each other leaves me feeling like Flame, Dear Flame still have room to innovate and carve an identity of their own. Despite this, The Millennial Heartbeat is quite enjoyable and shows a lot of promise and there’s not much more I can ask for out of an initial EP.
I never thought I’d be so welcome to classical female vocals in epic doom metal – yet here I am. First with Lethean and now again with Flame, Dear Flame. The emotional range is simply different and this sound fills a particular niche that’s been missing. I think there’s great potential still untapped with Flame, Dear Flame and The Millennial Heartbeat is just the beginning for this young band. Let’s just hope they’re a bit better with the naming conventions on the next one!
Favorite track: The Millennial Heartbeat Pt. I
Release rating: 84/100