Leah McHenry is a Gothic Celtic singer from British Columbia, Canada. I have reviewed her albums in the past so when I found out she had a new album coming out, The Quest, I knew I had to hear it.
Leah’s music is perfect for this time of year, when the clouds surround the Sound, the leaves begin to change color, and the nights become darker and chillier. It’s time to bring out The Lord of the Rings Blu-rays and celebrate fall, and The Quest draws perfectly on themes from the The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and the Chronicles of Narnia lore.
For The Quest Leah has brought together an international cast of top–notch musicians, including master of the Celtic pipes Troy Donockley. On the title song Leah’s voice sounds so similar to fellow Canadian Loreena McKennitt that you might not be able to tell the difference. The soft, calm way she opens the song is like dew on a fog covered morning on the moors, slowly lighting with the sun’s rays. Orchestration takes over with the sounds of pipes, flutes and stringed instruments, like The Lord of the Rings reaching out for the fall and roaring to life again. But Leah is not Loreena McKennitt, and the heavy metal bass, lead guitar and drums make their presence known. Beautiful piano remains as the song reaches triumphantly towards a climax with Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon-like thunder and power mixed well with McKennitt beauty. It’s the best song on the album to open.
Edge of Your Sword is one of the first singles released from the album, opening with birdsong, Leah humming beautifully to the accompaniment of guitar. The soft beginning is soon overwhelmed with heavy drums, bass and keys, before the guitars and strings return. Leah’s beautiful a capella vocal harmonies towards the end of the song are some of the best on the album.
Lion Arises opens with far off lead guitar, deep bass and drums. The guitar drift is one of the coolest fade ins on the album, arriving as if from across the ocean. Leah’s voice is delicate and wonderful throughout this song as golden keys surround her words. The keyboards just past midway are excellent, then metal guitars take over with thunder drums and bass.
Heir is another powerful heavy metal fortress of sound, guitars, drums and bass filling the air. Legends and lore fill the air as Leah sings with magical keyboards and Celtic woodwinds. Ruins of Illusion is another wonderful McKennitt inspired song with Celtic woodwinds, soft drums and violins with lyrics reflecting the Irish countryside, all amid orchestration that surrounds you with the feeling of being there. A song full of wonder. Labyrinth opens with strong drums and soft keys, along with more Celtic woodwinds and Leah’s voice sounding like Clannad. Powerful drums and lead guitar make for a memorable track.
Abyss opens with cool, unique keyboards, lead guitar, bass and drums. Woodwinds and keyboards join in to build a soundscape of majestic tranquillity. Epic guitar work also fills this song. When the Celtic sounds and heavy metal compete you get one of the most memorable moments of the album. Oblivion (Between Two Worlds) starts with beautiful piano, woodwinds and soft orchestration, Leah singing, “I stand between two worlds. There is no middle ground for me”. Just perfect, another of the best songs on the album.
Ghost Upon A Throne is full of monster guitar, bass and drums, Leah’s soft voice the only interlude from the thunder and orchestration surrounding. The Water is Wide has Leah singing with woodwinds surrounding, her voice echoing like she’s in a valley in Scotland, on this Scottish folk song classic.
With album artwork by Jan Yrlund, go out now, during fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and enjoy this album full of fall images and sounds. The assembled legendary artists that felt compelled to participate on this album, lending their musicianship to its beauty and power, is worth the price of admission alone. One of my favourite albums of the year, and the best of the fall so far.
01. The Quest (10:19)
02. Edge of Your Sword (5:02)
03. Lion Arises (4:41)
04. Heir (4:09)
05. Ruins of Illusion (4:19)
06. Labyrinth (5:16)
07. Abyss (5:34)
08. Oblivion (Between Two Worlds) (5:06)
09. Ghost Upon A Throne (4:31)
10. The Water is Wide (3:19)
Total Time – 52:16
LEAH – Vocals, Keyboards, Orchestration
Troy Donockley – Pipes & Flutes
Barend Courbois – Bass Guitar
Timo Somers – Rhythm & Lead Guitars
Sander Zoer – Drums & Percussion
Chen Balbus – Middle Eastern Saz & Oud
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Canada
Date of Release: 5th October 2018