Leah represents yet another artist that I’ve known about for years, but haven’t heard until now. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a Facebook ad for her music every day for the last 3 years. I’ve always been interested, but never took the leap. Well, Leah has a new album releasing on October 5th called “The Quest”, and I thought now would be a good time to hear what so many people apparently love.
Leah McHenry hails from British Columbia, Canada. She handles vocals and writing, but has an amazing array of musicians that are present, as well. This list includes: Troy Donockley (Nightwish) on pipes and flutes, Barend Courbois (Blind Guardian) on bass, Timo Somers (Delain) on guitars, Sander Zoer (ex-Delain) on drums, and Chen Balbus (Orphaned Land) on the Saz and Oud. That’s quite an array of talent, and the genre of music should be obvious, as well.
I’m going to be honest: I figured that Leah would simply be an Epica clone. I get so many of that type of promo, usually turning them off within a couple songs. Why? Because they try to sound like Epica, but don’t come close, so what’s the point? Leah, however, is anything but an Epica ripoff. While I would obviously place her in the same realm of progressive symphonic metal, and she obviously loves fantasy and epic presentation, Leah has far more of a folk influence than I expected. This organic and personal sound grounds the flourishes of the music, drawing you in further.
This folksier version of symphonic metal means that we get lots of textures and sounds, mainly flutes and pipes. It also means that there is a certain cinematic feeling to the whole album. Contrasting with that is Leah’s very modern vocal melodies, which are honestly a major highlight of every song. Leah’s voice is one of sincerity and purity. She doesn’t try to sound like Simone Simons, and she focuses on clarity and melody, rather than on theatricality or showiness. I appreciate that, and I think it really adds weight to her spiritual and fantastical lyrics, again grounding the album even more.
“The Quest” is full of wonderful songs. It seems like every single track has its own little twist, so it’s difficult to single any out as favorites. Despite that, I’m going to do that right now. My favorite track actually starts the album, and is one of my favorite songs this year. “The Quest” title track has a great central melody, with metallic portions that really rock, though the overall feeling of the song is one of variety or progression, never sticking to one sound. I love the way it transitions vocal melodies near the end, as well.
Several other tracks deserve a mention, though. “Edge of Your Sword” is a great single to release. It has a fantastic chorus, but isn’t as simple as it first appears, always keeping my interest. “Heir” has an addictive chorus; as does “Ruins of Illusion”, which has a folksy central melody with a strong chorus, making it feel shadowy and mysterious. “Oblivion (Between Two Worlds)” is probably my second favorite on the album. It reminds me of one of my favorite film soundtracks, “The Secret of Kells”, with the tight and spiraling folksy melodies. The song also has a great chorus, but those amazing pipes really accent this song for me. Finally, the “The Water is Wide” is a wonderful ballad to end the album. It is emotional and hopeful, and leaves you feeling satisfied with the album.
Leah’s “The Quest” has revealed more depth than I expected for my first foray into her music. This album is complex, progressive, epic, folksy, and highly melodic. The lyrics are hopeful and encouraging, portraying the journey of life as we face trials and good times, battles and peace. Even if you aren’t a fan of the typical symphonic metal approach, I encourage you to check out this album. You may find more depth than you expect.
Find Leah online: