Whilst Ukrainian chanteuse Apolinara isn’t the first to attack the symphonic metal fortress with melody as well as brawn, she’s certainly one of the most adept in that style that this reviewer has chanced across in a while. Based now in the US, Apolinara has teamed up with producer Max Morton (who has worked with another band from the Ukraine, Ignea, in the past) to produce a sleek, appealing sound that is sure to appeal to all existing fans of the genre.

The pair have shown great skill in putting all this together, treading the tight rope between the obvious and the subtle with practised ease and skill. Opening track Wonderful is heavy and striking enough to make a strong first impression, yet repeated listens reveal an impressive dedication to subtlety from the vocalist who inserts some beautiful ear worm melodies into the overall sound almost unnoticed.

Dragon Dance is pretty much the perfect example of symphonic metal in 2022 and features some searing guitar contributions from Vyacheslav Khabarov; The more playful Slowly brings back those sylphlike, dancing melodies, this time cleverly juxtaposed with some growling male lines that don’t overpower but somehow act merely to highlight the fragility of the main vocal. Again, you’ll find yourself sitting back and admiring how well everything fits together as you start to live with the album.

And live with it you will, as there’s an addictive quality to Apolinara’s voice and storytelling that compels you to keep coming back for more. Each time you return, something new reveals itself and adds to the delight.

It’s not all sylvan clearings and elfin filigree, you’ll be pleased to learn; The Smile of the Demon harnesses powerful drumming from Alexander Kasiarum and some muscular riffage and sharp soloing from Khabarov alongside Apolinara’s crystalline voice to provide some great power metal, the latter leavened by some sparkling keyboard work that again balances the heavy and the melodic out very well indeed without surrendering any power.

In pure and simple terms, Shadows & Signs is a hugely enjoyable album to listen to, no more no less. Apolinara is clearly a huge talent, who has cleverly surrounded herself with a sympathetic supporting cast, and this is an admirable introduction to her world – give it a go!

Shadows & Signs Releases on February 22nd.