Label: Massacre Records
Release: 25-03-2022
Author: Mike Smith

CONFIDENTIAL album01. Prelude To Resurrection
02. Devil Inside
03. Salvation (feat. Jake E)
04. Forever Angel
05. Release My Symphony
06. Historia
07. Queen Of The Dark
08. Brother Of My Soul
09. Prophecies
10. My Evermore
11. My Kiss Of Death
12. Black Angel (feat. Madeleine Liljestam)

CONFIDENTIAL is a symphonic metal band founded by lead vocalist Astrid Klara Mjøen from Ørland, Norway. The band is completed by Frode Hovd (rhythm guitar and mastermind/composer/guitarist of Frode Hovd’s Aldaria), David Hovde (lead guitar), Charlotte Stav (keyboards & backing vocals), and (I believe) Robert Redmax Myrhaug (drums). All orchestration was written and performed by Jonah Weingarten, who has a lengthy and very impressive resume.

CONFIDENTIAL Forever AngelOn September 1, 2021 CONFIDENTIAL made the official announcement that they had signed a worldwide deal with the German label Massacre Records. The record was produced by Frode Hovd, Astrid Klara Mjøen, and Jacob Hansen at ALDARIA Studios. The band released their first video on December 1, 2021 for the song Devil Inside. Their second video for the song Black Angel premiered January 13, 2022. The song and video features a duet with Astrid and Madeleine Liljestam from the band Eleine. It includes a guitar solo by Rikard Ekberg, guitarist of Eleine, who also appears in the video. On February 10th, 2022 the band released their third video for the track Forever Angel. March 2, 2022 saw the premiere of the fourth video from Devil Inside for the track Salvation. This song features a vocal duet with Astrid and Jake E (CyHra, ex-Amaranthe). CONFIDENTIAL says their music draws inspiration from bands like Eleine, Amaranthe and Nightwish.

Lets open this album up and see what’s inside shall we? There are 12 tracks including the intro, which is almost long enough to be a song itself. So I will try to be brief on some of them. Prelude To Resurrection serves as the dramatic intro. We’re greeted with an ominous collage of sounds consisting of thunder in the distance, crows “caw”ing, and a single toll of the bell. A sudden loud crack of thunder and then with a bang it transitions into a symphony of pounding drums, cymbals, bells tolling, horns, strings and a choir of Angelic splendor! The song continues to rise, fall and build for nearly two more minutes. It inspires images of a great army riding in victory after an Epic battle. Or perhaps I’ve been watching too many Viking shows! This sets the tone for the album and serves as a glorious introduction to the title track.

Devil Inside opens with a sinister blast of power chords and drums which stands in dark contrast to the intro! Astrid snarls and spits out the lyrics: “Come on boy let’s play a game / You will never be the same / If you break my heart / You’ll see my work of art in hell”. Yikes! While spinning this track a famous quote was brought to mind: “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”. I may be interpreting this wrong, but it sounds to me like someone has made the unfortunate mistake of breaking Astrid‘s heart! Which brings to mind another (not so) famous quote: “I Pity The fool!”. Astrid’s vocals sound really fantastic! She reminds me a bit of the Swedish band ABBA. Not just her main voice, but also the way she does her harmonies. I like it! The song also has an awesome keyboard solo! Something you wouldn’t really expect to hear in a song this heavy… but it works! The keyboard solo is immediately followed by a really nice guitar solo. It’s a fantastic, memorable and powerful song both lyrically and musically! It’s easy to see why this was chosen as their first single and also the first song they filmed a video for.

Track 3, Salvation, is the longest track on the album, clocking in at 5:11. It features a vocal duet with Astrid and Jake E. The bell tolls, the cymbal swells and the guitars, bass and drums collide! The drums pound while the guitars chug as the choir sings: “Find my savior, can you see him? He shall bring me to salvation”. This appears to be a deeply personal song for Astrid as she sings: Where is my light, I feel so lost / The only thing I see at night / Are demons inside my head / My tears are turning red. It may have been shortly after the writing of those lyrics that she penned these words: “For me, these are incredibly exciting times ahead. Within the next few days I’ll be sitting with my headset on and probably tears in my eyes listening to the first draft of my songs!. I wasn’t familiar with Jake E before this and I’ve never even heard of CyHra. I am of course familiar with Elize Ryd and Amaranthe, of which he apparently was a founding member. After listening to the song and watching the video though I find he has a really good voice and the two of them sound great together! Great song and the video is very well done! It also features Jake E. as well as Andreas Nergård from the band Nergard on drums, although I don’t believe he played on the album, nor is he a member. There’s a fantastic guitar solo as well!

Up next is Forever Angel. In reference to the song I found this: “This is a deeply emotional ballad that touches a sad topic. When a mother loses her son, that pain will never go away. Astrid wrote this song after singing in the boys funeral“. Accompanied by nothing but a piano, strings and synths for the first minute and a half of the song Astrid sings with incredible emotion, beautiful melodies and lush harmonies. The chorus: “My love for you is strong / And I know where I belong / The angels called your soul / My pain, I can’t control. Then, a very brief but beautiful guitar solo takes us to the next verse and chorus. A slightly longer and even more emotional guitar solo plays and then the full band joins in for one final epic chorus. A really beautiful and powerful song!

CONFIDENTIAL SalvationTrack #5 Release My Symphony  is an uptempo rocker. After a brief symphonic intro with choir and a beautiful haunting melody from Astrid, it takes off like a bullet train! Double bass drums thump away during much of the song, giving it a little bit of a power metal flavor, but it alternates between fast and slower parts. Astrid sounds really fantastic and powerful! Plenty of those wonderful trademark harmonies as well! We’re treated to a very nice melodic and impressive guitar solo from David and then, just past the midway point it quiets down for a symphonic interlude and Astrid sings: I will fly like the eagle so high / Leave behind all my worries to die / On your grave I will whisper goodbye / My wounds will heal over time. After the interlude things build back up with heavy orchestration and then it dives back into the metal and they close out with two final choruses. This song appears to be about her struggle within to overcome negative thoughts and fears and find the strength and courage to release her true potential. It’s a very inspiring and uplifting song that I’m sure will inspire and encourage many.

CONFIDENTIAL AstridHistoria” Opens with a brief piano and then a symphonic intro which gives way to drums pounding in unison with guitar power chords while in contrast, Astrid begins to enchant us with her beautiful voice. The song has a mystical ballad like feel but not quite a ballad, it’s a little too heavy. Astrid sounds fantastic, singing with both power and elegance! Beautiful ABBA-like harmonies create a wonderful textured sound which I believe is sort of her signature. I would imagine live, Charlotte will be harmonizing with her along with maybe some backing tracks, but I’m willing to bet Astrid recorded all the lead vocals and harmonies herself for the album. What an incredible job she’s done! Another fantastic song!

Track 7, Queen Of The Dark, has a very nice lengthy build-up with nothing but Astrid‘s beautiful soothing vocals and orchestration. It’s almost a full minute and half before we hear any drums, bass, or guitar and then things really kick into gear! Lots of dynamics! Wonderful music and vocals and a fantastic guitar solo! This is a very epic and powerful song! Absolutely majestic! One of my favorites so far!

Brother Of My Soul is a beautiful ballad. The lyrics are so meaningful that I was compelled to do a little extra digging on Astrid‘s personal Facebook page. I was curious to see if I could find any clues as to the inspiration that lies behind these powerful and emotional lyrics, and see what I might be able to share in my review without being too intrusive. I found a post she made about her first brother and how he was there for her in a big way during a very dark time in her life. I could be way off,  but I believe this song may be written out of love for him. Even if it’s not, it’s a great song regardless, with real depth and emotion, fantastic vocals, solid musicianship, a very nice guitar solo and many other qualities as well! And she did a really great job of writing the perfect music to compliment the lyrics!CONFIDENTIAL promoProphecies is up next and wow what a song this is! Musically, this one is heavy on the symphonic element and also very grandiose! A magnificent and glorious metallic opus! All instruments sound fantastic! Outstanding vocals from Astrid! Lyrically it addresses the tragedies of war and questions the true purpose for it. It also invites and encourages the listener to love instead of hate one another. I could say much more, but I’ll cut this one short and just say that you’re in for a real treat!

As the next track plays I realize that I am becoming overwhelmed with the intensity of this album! And I still have two more songs to get through after this, including Black Angel! Time for a break!Ok I’m back! It is now the next day, more than 24 hours later, and I’m coming back fresh to review these last three songs. I’ve thought a lot about it during the time in between, and one thing that keeps coming to me is that this album is intense! The music is intense, the lyrics are intense, the whole mood of the album is intense. In other words, if you’re looking for music to play at your party, this probably won’t be among those chosen. This is music to listen to when you’re feeling reflective, when you’re in the mood for a journey, or perhaps when you need something to help pull you out of a tough spot.

CONFIDENTIAL Black AngelAstrid says: “All the lyrics have a deep personal meaning to me. I wrote most of the songs in my living room trying to get through a deep depression. The music became my therapy. I hope my music can be therapy for others as it was for me“. On her personal Facebook page she states: “The lyrics to this music are like a diary to me. It all started with me just having to drain all the thoughts that were raging inside me that made everyday life heavy”.Now I think we’re ready for Track 10, My Evermore. This is another ballad. More like a power ballad of celestial proportions! It begins with a beautiful intro featuring dream like piano melodies, strings and a flute. Astrid‘s beautiful voice begins and cuts through the music with an incredible clarity and crispness. I stand alone I’m on the floor / Feel my darkest fears / At the edge of our nevermore / Can you see my tears? / The angels crying in the night / A cry to find the lightAstrid sings incredibly beautiful melodies and harmonies over a heavenly symphony. At almost exactly two minutes the drums come in and the power part of the power ballad begins. The only thing missing is a scorching guitar solo! Instead the beat suddenly goes double time, the chorus gets repeated once more in a higher key and the song ends. So I was a little surprised by that and it made the song seem a little short to me even though it was five minutes in length. Still a great song regardless!

My Kiss Of Death starts off with Astrid singing very high pitched in an almost operatic voice, she’s joined by an eerie sounding choir and then just when I thought we were in for another ballad, suddenly the crash of guitar, bass and drums and… Toto I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore! This one takes off and never lets up! It’s a real barnburner! Musically it’s perhaps the most progressive song on the album. Lyrically it appears to be the story of a woman who has decided to take her own life. About 3/4 of the way into the song there is a gruff male voice spoken part. While dramatic music plays, he says: On a cold winter’s morning / She was found, draped in her finest dress / With a single red rose in her hands / Covered by the mist of the morse / She had found peace beneath the willow / In which she once so proudly carved her name. One final chorus and it’s over… Wow, that was colossal!

And finally we arrive at Black Angel. They saved this one for the end for good reason. This is the remarkable duet with Madeleine Liljestam from the band Eleine. There’s also a fantastic guitar solo by Eleine‘s guitarist Rikard Ekberg! Now I must confess, I really haven’t listened to much of Eleine because they frighten me a little… and I don’t frighten easily. I’m kidding, but they do seem a little on the scary side. In fact, the video for this song sort of turned me off towards CONFIDENTIAL at first and when I was asked to do this review, I sort of reluctantly accepted. The song begins with a dramatic and eerie sounding choir chanting something in Latin I believe, along with piano, horns and strings. Then Madeleine comes in with a beautiful slightly operatic and haunting melody. It’s an eerie song and yet sung by two beautiful mesmerizing voices. The back and forth between Astrid and Madeleine is marvelous! The lyrics seem to tell a story of good vs. evil, light vs. dark. In the video Astrid wears a white dress, which seems to represent the light, and Madeleine wears a black dress. At one point Madeleine even sprouts black wings. She clearly represents the Black Angel. I imagine most of you reading this have already watched the video and heard the song so I probably don’t need to describe it to you. If you haven’t you need to go watch it right now! It’s a magnificent song and the perfect culmination of this tremendous album!CONFIDENTIAL band with Jake EIn summary: Once again, I am surprised and impressed with an album that at first didn’t seem all that interesting to me. It happened with the SHEWOLF album and now it has happened again with CONFIDENTIAL. With 12 songs this turned out to be a very long review, and I still feel like there’s so much more to say! I really enjoyed the journey of this great album! Astrid has poured her heart and soul into these songs, not just the lyrics, but also the music. I believe she wrote much of it on the piano and some of the melodies are among the most beautiful and memorable I’ve heard! Every song is really incredible! It’s a little confusing trying to figure out who actually played on the album, but Astrid is clearly the heart and soul of these songs. I feel this could very well have been a solo album, but apparently she wanted it to be a band and she’s done a great job of finding the right people and musicians to help her complete her vision. Astrid says: “What a journey this has been! A roller coaster of my own feelings. From me sitting alone in the apartment, crying in front of the piano. I just had to get my feelings out, put words and tones on them. Suddenly it turned into an album. Absolutely indescribable.. Thank goodness for the music”.

Thank goodness for the music… indeed!