REVIEW: Season of Ghosts' The Human Paradox

Fans of popular rock group BLOOD STAIN CHILD were in for a treat a little over a year ago when the vocalist, Sophia, announced that she would be participating in a new project called Season of Ghosts. This particular project is debuting with one of my favorite types of albums: The concept album. Here, Sophia paints us a picture of what it really means to be alive. The story focuses on the life of a time traveling wanderer who begins the album with new life and ends the album with reincarnation: a popular theme, but a great one nonetheless. The time traveller reincarnates to show that there is always life from death and that the flow of universal energy is, in fact, cyclical. Additionally, on this album, MiA from MEJIBRAY plays support guitar on the tracks "Quantum -Through the Looking Glass-" and "Time Travelers."

Sophia is a Venezuelan-born visual rock star who grew up in Greece and moved to Japan in 2010 to focus on her musical career. The nature of her birth is what makes her so unique in a male-dominated visual rock culture and the fact that she isn't a Japanese native makes her story even more inspirational. One really can do whatever they set their mind to.

1. Nothing Disappears Without a Trace
2. Genesis -The Phoenix Syndrome-
3. Time Travelers
4. Dream; Paralysis
5. The Human Paradox
6. [NE]: MESIS -The Kiss of Justice-
7. Beautiful Eternal Things
8. Dreaming in the Gray Lands
9. The Road to Acheron
10. Quantum -Through the Looking Glass-
11. Reincarnation
12. There and Back Again

Coming from a place of total ignorance on BLOOD STAIN CHILD and Sophia in general, I had no idea what to expect from this album. Introductory song "Nothing Disappears Without a Trace" really didn't tell me what to expect either. Being that it was only instrumental, it did set the expectation that the piece was going to be heavily influenced by techno-rock and otherwise gothic and industrial elements. So, for that, I thank it. Where the album really begins is "Genesis," which is the song that really defines what Season of Ghosts is all about. It's about average in length and features stunning clean vocals as well as some interesting harsh vocal choices used sparingly, and as a "flavor enhancer," if you will, rather than the focal point of the song. While there were some techno influences on this song, it was hard rock all the way through. Same with follow up track, "Time Travelers." Sophia sounds brilliant on this track, but it is my belief that this song is more to set up the story of the time traveler than it is to focus on Sophia's actual vocal skills.

"Dream; Paralysis" is where the album starts leaning more away from hard rock and more into the trance/electronically influenced music. The beat of this song is incredible and the overall vibe is just to die for. While focusing a lot on the synths, it does still feature a lot of the metal elements that we've already grown to love in this album. Additionally, this is the first time on the album where we've heard a really catchy chorus rather than just a big, powerfully-sung one. Which may or may not be your cup of tea, she really rocks it out on this track. The title track follows at number five where she brings the energy to a crawl, but only for a little while. This is among the shorter, non-instrumental tracks on the album and is a stunning ballad. Very slow, but not uninteresting. The focus of this song is not on intricate compositions, but on her actual vocal skills which can sometimes take a back seat to production. Following the title track is a song with a title that I believe to be a little too try-hard, but makes up for that in every conceivable way. "[NE]: MESIS" is one of the longer songs on the album and is 100% electronic. Think BLOOD meets Evanescence and you have track six. This is for sure my favorite song so far as it has every element that I love in female-fronted rock music. Innovative composition, stunning clean vocals, lyrical prowess, and more.

While I find it hard to imagine she could impress me any further, we slide into a ballad-esque called "Beautiful Eternal Things." I say ballad-esque because it is a slower song and begins with piano, but totally changes gears when the beat kicks in and becomes a hard rock masterpiece. The overall composition is extremely rhythm-based, so the guitars are more in focus than any other instrument including her voice. That isn't to say her voice is drowned out, but this song is definitely more focused on making you move in one way or another. "Dreaming in the Gray Lands" is another instrumental interlude at less than a minute in length. It doesn't do much for the mood of the album and is somewhat unnecessary, although it is somewhat pretty. Haunting, even. It just feels more like filler than an actual instrumental piece. It does transition well into "Road to Acheron," in fact it could have just been one song because it flows so well. My first thought when she begins to sing on track nine is that it would have fit in really well on the .hack//SIGN soundtrack. Which, for me, is a great thing. Few anime soundtracks are interesting enough for me to listen to repeatedly. Anyway, I mean to say that the song is a true blue acoustic piano ballad with beautiful composition and production. The vocal overlays are probably the most interesting aspect of the song and really bring the haunting vibe from the previous instrumental track into play.

"Quantum," being the shortest full-length song, is easily the heaviest one so far. This is going to be a fan favorite and will be amazing to hear live if I ever am lucky enough to have the chance. The spoken word intro leads immediately into the fastest, most rhythmic, and heaviest guitar composition on the album. The only possible negative about this fact is that the vocals actually do kind of get drowned out and played over. You're not really listening to her sing the lyrics, you're just hearing the music itself and it isn't meshing well. Had the vocal mixing been better, this would've been the best song on the album. Following the shortest full-length song is the longest and theoretical album closer "Reincarnation." This song is incredibly ambient. The atmosphere is light and airy without actually being bright in nature. The general composition is focusing lightly on guitar while prominently featuring the drums and what I'm assuming is a xylophone. Sophia's vocals are on point in this song, but I feel the fact that this song is longer than average is a detriment. It likely could have wrapped up around 3.5 minutes and had a better effect than going on for an additional 2.5 minutes. Actual album closer, "There and Back Again," is a minute-and-a-half in length and is just an instrumental that doesn't really feels like it belongs either. While the introduction sets the mood for the album, the closer doesn't really feel final. It doesn't feel like it wraps up the story successfully, but rather was a way to say the album has 12 songs instead of just 10 without the additional instrumentals. The benefit of the doubt that I would be willing to give it is that it may flow into track one decently well, aiding the general theme that the very nature of life is cyclical.

In any case, I do recommend this project especially to fans of BLOOD STAIN CHILD. Personally, I've never had much love for the female-fronted bands in the visual rock scene and I can't put my finger on why, but Season of Ghosts really changed that. Sophia has a LOT of talent and can really do great things. I just hope that if she continues with this project she will try to not let her voice get drowned out by the background instruments. While I know nothing of her previous work and shouldn't compare the projects, I can easily compare the band to artists like Evanescence and Nightwish, so if you happen to be big fans of either, Season of Ghosts is going to be your next obsession.

You can purchase the album by using any of the following links:
Coroner Records
CD Baby

And you can follow her on her various social media accounts to stay up to date on all things Sophia!

Season of Ghosts HP

Special thanks to Sophia for providing us with the materials for this review!
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