Scarlet Hollow: What If Never Was

ScarletHollow

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The members of Ventura, CA four-piece outfit Scarlet Hollow are clearly metal connoisseurs. For What If Never Was, their first full-length record, they’ve culled together ten impressive tracks that pull their influences from across the genre – the intense riffs of death metal, the melodic keyboards and sweeping solos of power metal, and even, in places, the grandiosity of early proto-metal pioneers like Heart. This is a hefty list of influences to wear, and Scarlet Hollow tributes them all with noteable skill.

This band’s biggest asset is definitely lead singer/songwriter/acoustic guitarist/synthmaster Allison Vonbuelow. Her range as both songwriter and instrumentalist is impressive. Again a Heart comparison seems apt; there are moments when her powerful vocals channel Ann Wilson’s stately lower ranges. Granted, Vonbuelow’s pipes never really reach the heavens like Wilson’s, but then, few singers can. One of the standout songs here is, in fact, Vonbuelow’s showcase, the acoustic “Behind the Lines,” a track reminiscent of some of Coheed and Cambria’s menacing and epic unplugged numbers. Vonbuelow’s synths add a lot to this record, too. From the moment strings kick in on opening track “The Path,” it’s clear that Scarlet Hollow isn’t just another run-of-the-mill metal outfit.

Besides Vonbuelow, electric guitarist Gregg Olson also does a fantastic job bringing a variety of compelling sounds to the table here. He can switch from lightning-fast riffing to grand lead melodies without breaking stride. For a sampling of his talent, listen to “As the Blade Falls,” which displays this duality perfectly. The eleven minutes-plus epic “Around the Bend” also gives Olson a chance to embrace a variety of styles across a few different movements.

This record’s biggest drawback is probably its production. At times the instruments unfortunately sound a little muted; a little more reverb and depth would have gone a long way towards supplying an epic sound to match this album’s epic scope. Additionally, despite the notable variety within the songs, after a while some of the album does start to get a little same-sounding, at least if you’re not in a totally metal mood. That’s not an awful thing, but you’ve got to be pretty committed to the genre to listen the whole way through.

Still, those are minor quibbles, and the members of Scarlet Hollow are more than talented enough to overcome them. What If Never Was marks an impressive full-length debut for a band that has a serious love for the metal scene, not to mention a band that shouldn’t have too hard of a time leaving their mark on it.

For more information on Scarlet Hollow or to hear sample tracks visit their website.

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