Yet I Remain

I first heard of PANDORA’S KEY back in 2017 when they released their first EP Prometheus’ Promise. Although the allusions to mythology bring Greece to mind, this band hails from The Netherlands, drawing inspiration from many legends and folk tales from around the world. Having survived the coronavirus and several line-up changes, Yet I Remain is the band’s first full-length release. Original members Sebastiaan Pongers (lead guitar) and Regine Lotstra (bass) are joined by Vera Veldhuizen (clean vocals), Rik van Schaaik (heavy vocals), Bram Luiken (rhythm guitar) and Dimmy Marcelissen (drums).

If I had to describe this debut in a single word, it would be ambitious. The variety of sounds on offer here is impressive, ranging from catchy to complex, from heavy to delicate. Each song has a unique feel and a new tale to tell. The folksy The Flying Dutchman, for example, incorporates violin and accordion into the mix. The accordion can also be found on De Bockereyder, a song that switches between English and Dutch lyrics based on a legend found in both Dutch and Belgian folklore. The Keening is an epic track that transitions between quiet passages, orchestral bombast and black metal inspired sections complete with banshee screams. My personal favourite is Ariadne, which shows off the best of what vocalists Vera and Rik can do. Rik takes the lead early on, while Vera shows off both her belting and operatic techniques, culminating in the gorgeous bridge as Vera sings of the titular Ariadne’s despair at realizing she has been abandoned by her lover.

One caveat here though is that the production is not quite as clean as it could be. There are times the instruments feel a bit too crunchy, the vocals a bit too low in the mix, the elements a bit too out of balance. This is most apparent on busier tracks like Falls The Shadowand particularlyFreedom’s Call; the otherwise catchy chorus feels somewhat drowned out with both vocalists, orchestral elements and band instruments all present at the same time. However, the rawness of the production suits tracks like Kindling Ilre, a heavy song with Rik taking the lead on vocals and a focus on guitars and bass, with Vera providing some ethereal backing vocals.

Of course, an imperfect production is just the curse of the independent band. Few achieve quite the level of polish as the top bands in the genre supported by a major label and/or a large fanbase.

Overall, there is still much to enjoy here. Though I like third track Ariadne the most, the latter half of the album is generally stronger, with Icarus perhaps being the most accessible song with its catchy chorus and fun guitar solo, and Per Ardua bringing back the epic choirs without overwhelming the sound. With the band’s diverse songwriting and storytelling approach, I would recommend this album to fans of Epica, Visions Of Atlantis and Seven Spires. I hope that PANDORA’S KEY will have more musical journeys to share in the future.

Samantha Shears