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Monday, September 26, 2022

Review: Symphonity – Marco Polo: The Metal Soundtrack

Label: Limb Music

Date: May 20th, 2022

In the year of our Lord 2006, six guys from Czech Republic started their metal journey. After “Voice from the Silence” (2008) and “King of Persia” (2016), in 2019, 2020 and 2022, as a prelude to their third album, Symphonity released three singles: “Marco Polo (Part 2): Crimson Silk”, “Marco Polo – Dreaming of Home” and “Marco Polo, Pt. 3: The Plague”. On the new album, they are bringing us back to the XIII century when Venetian Marco Polo started his journey…

It all began in the year of our Lord 1254 when Marco Polo was born in Venice… Young Marco loved to listen to sailors’ fabulous adventures about distant lands…

Listening to the first audio passage “Venezia” my mind instantly teleported me to the beautiful city where I could vividly hear and feel bell chimes, waves hitting the coast and when I heard beautiful operatic part delivered by Jana Hrochová, mezzo soprano, I knew this will be a massive album. And listening to it, it will show that I was right. Well developed story around the main theme, behind which is obviously hard work and a lot of research, ethnic instruments, guest appearances bring the Symphonity opus on higher level.

Drama continues to grow in “Crimson Silk” where, as the song title reveals, Symphonity put an accent on Eurasian trade route that was active till the mid of XV century. Marco was travelling through Asia along the Silk Road for around 24 years, and Symphonity tried to summarize it in six minutes and they did it well. The band uses a lot of Oriental instruments such as oud, saz, nay… Besides many guests, on this song appears Marek Ashok Smerda (Cradle of Filth) who has a duel with Libor Křivák, Herbie Langhans (Avantasia, Firewind, The Lightbringer of Sweden…) in choir parts and Ladislav Šiška – percussion.

And then came “The Plague”… Marco had a plague in the city of Hormuz. The road of every great mind is not covered by gold. Many sacrifices had to be made, and Marco also faced many problems during his journey. The Black Death. Heavy theme is followed by massive heavy sound. Oriental elements dominate the song, and to complete the atmosphere, the band used Armenian duduk. Besides it, Turkish violin is also incorporated into composition.

Marco had no option but to refuse to die.

“I never meant to die, wondering what fate’ll send to me,
Beyond the dark, a bright tomorrow there’s to see,
It’s the only way to our destiny.”

During the dark times, Marco had a love affair with the Mongol princess Kököchin. Short instrumental: “Love Theme”, depicts a short adventure intertwining acoustic guitar, violoncello and horn conjure up romance.

After a journey through the Silk Route, Marco at the roof of the world almost died in a snow storm. He was saved by monks and there he met the Mongols. Mongols were primitive, brutal, violent, cruel savages. What can depict that more than powerful drumming and mighty choir roars all together with authentic instruments (motin-khuur, daruan, xiao, zhonghu, guzheng, pipa)? After Marco mentions he would die for his homeland we have the great Oriental twist. Now the female choir brings an absolute beautiful dimension to the song. And the song finale will absolutely blow your mind.

After Marco, Niccolò and Maffeo served to Khan Kublai, they were homesick and it was about time to go back home. “Dreaming of Home” is the story about their return to Venezia. Guitar solo perfectly fits in sadness which is the leading emotion of the song.

Khan Kublai did not want to let their servants go, but Marco with his old father and uncle started a journey to the home. After 20 years they sell away to the homeland.

“I Found My Way Back Home” accelerates, and I can just guess that in the same rhythm blood was boiling in Marco’s veins after he finally got back home.

Marco and his crew were imprisoned on their way back home in Genova. Instead of being hailed as a hero, Marco became a prisoner. Piano opens the song “Prisoner” and the violins continue to lead us through the journey and perfectly depict sorrow. The song summarizes Mark’s life experience. Although Marco dreamed of going back home, he never forgot the Far East, his second home. He longed to go back to China, but that never happened. “Venezia Finale”, as well as the first audio passage “Venezia” closes the album in the most powerful way involving Jana Hrochová again.

Listening to this album, it will bring you the impression you are actually involved in the story. You can easily go back eight centuries into the past and experience Marco’s adventure thanks to the great, educational concept album. This is the story I could easily imagine in theater or in the movies and that gives it extra charm.

Big step forward to Symphonity. Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant, explorer, and writer who travelled through Asia along the Silk Road between 1271 and 1295 is immortalized once more, this time thanks to dedicated musicians from Czech Republic. And if you have not yet, it is time to discover Symphonity throughout Marco Polo story.