release date: 27-01-2024
Female Fronted Symphonic Metal is a genre the Netherlands is known for. More so, outside of our tiny country, cause Within Temptation is one of our greatest export products. Soon we might add Pandora’s Key to that list. With their latest album Yet I Remain they prove that the Netherlands should still be known for great symphonic metal besides just tulips and cheese. Let’s dive into this 45 minute-long symphonic album and see what we think.
Pandora’s Key is a female-fronted symphonic metal band from Breda. They started ten years ago, releasing their first EP Prometheus’ Promise in 2017. This year, the band is back with a ten-track full-length album, Yet I Remain. And Remain, they will. Not all band members though. Since the start of Pandora’s Key, only two original band members remained. The current line-up however is filled with musicians who’ve gained experience with other bands. That translates to a mature sound and stage performance.
While female-fronted is used as a term to define a genre, the genre ‘symphonic metal’ would define Pandora’s Key a lot better. While there are plenty of other influences. Freedom’s Call, for instance, starts with a thrash riff. However a comparison with Within Temptation is easily made. With Yet I Remain, Pandora’s Key shows that they’re more than capable to follow in their footsteps and claim the stage as the new Dutch Metal export. Sadly for the band, metal as a genre is a lot more popular outside of our tiny country.
Yet I Remain
Yet I Remain starts with the intro track 1779. It sounds a lot like the intro for The Witcher, with a hurdy-gurdy, sounds of rain and thunder, and horses in the background. It sets the stage for an album filled with folklore and myths. After this intro, the album finally kicks off with De Bockereyder. Pandora’s Keys lyrics are mainly in English, but for this track, some Dutch is added. Rightfully so, because a song about our Dutch myth sounds best in our language.
A band stands or falls with their vocalist. Too often I hear bands, usually female-fronted, where the vocal skills don’t quite match the rest. With Pandora’s Key, however, Vera shows that she is a versatile singer who can hold a steady tone and produce some powerful lines. The ending of Ariadne is a good example of this, and Vera reminds me of Simone Simons in the end. It’s easy to compare Pandora’s Key to other bands in the genre. However, the only thing that I was really reminded off besides all the obvious names like Within Temptation, Epica and MaYan, was Rave the Reqiuem. The chorus of Freedom’s Call reminded me of the chorus of ‘Are you happy now, Fidelio. Similar vocal line, but a similar powerful vocal display as well. Pandora’s Key really does stand on it’s own though.
Layers layers layers
Besides the heavy riffs and grunts, there is plenty of room for more vulnerability with breaks and parts like the verse of Falls the Shadow. That song is a perfect example of how to combine the heavy wall of sound you get when you add multiple layers with a more sparse verse, to create some dynamic and interest. The chorus makes even more of an impact because of the sparse part that precedes it.
More of the emotional and pretty piano music with The Keening… until you get past that part and Vera just starts screaming. Literally. This might be the heaviest, weird part the band displays and another example of the multiple influences besides ‘just being a symphonic metal band’.
My favorite track for this album has to be Icarus and I wouldn’t be surprised this to be the song that gets the most airtime on Spotify. It’s a symphonic metal party track, with a great memorable main riff on synths. That riff, that starts the track, works even better when it’s layered with the vocals as the chorus part. The transposing of the second chorus did not come as a surprise at all. With this track, Pandora’s Key can certainly compete with the bigger names in the genre and come out on top.
Yet I Remain is a great debut album for Pandora’s Key. Usually, this genre is a bit of a hit or miss, and the bands fall or stand with their vocalists. In that regard, Pandora’s Key couldn’t have made better choices. Of course, there are some tracks that I don’t enjoy as much, or that might feel a bit too generic, but overall, it’s a really good album. My personal favorite is Icarus. If you just listen to one track, I’d say go for Falls the Shadow, because I think it displays the band’s abilities best.
Track Listing of Yet I Remain
- De Bockereyder
- Freedom’s Call
- Falls the Shadow
- The Keening
- Kindling Ire
- The Flying Dutchman
- Per Ardua