British symphonic rockers Apparition have been grinding away for some thirteen years now to little acclaim, but with the release of this third album, The Awakening, on Italy’s Aural Music there’s hope that that scurvy situation might change.

Although the album is frustrating in places – opening track Hold Back the Night sounds too much like a band struggling to get out of a third division battle of the bands competition – there are more than enough pointers to suggest that this band is ready to make the jump to the next level.

Dames in Darkness, the second track on the album, is startlingly good in comparison to the clunky opener, the sumptuous symphonic backing more than showing that this is a band to be reckoned with, and Fiona Creaby exhibiting a gorgeously sensual style to complement the operatic default that her vocals are set to for the most part of the album.

The Other Side is similarly impressive, the band dialling back on the bombast and allowing Creaby – who for sure is the ace in the pack here – to carry the weight with a splendid performance.

Resonance is stentorian, early century symphonic metal – think Century Child – with Creaby giving a good impression of the ice Maiden Tarja – but really there is more to Apparition than mere tribute or imitation. Most of the songs here aren’t quite at the level of Tuomas Holopainen – yet-  but on tracks like Resonance you really do get a whiff of greatness in the nostrils.

The Night an Angel Dies isn’t quite so memorable but does feature some strident power chords from Amy Lewis and Paul Culley, and the same could be said for the slightly sluggish Eternity, which never really gets going despite some more solid performances from all concerned.

Much better is the stunning ballad Home, which is ushered in by some cinematic keyboard work from David Homer and a quite amazing, crystal-clear production that sounds like the work of a band working with a serious budget and that captures every nuance of Creaby’s beautiful enunciation. I’m not usually a fan of tracks like this but, frankly, when done this well it’s hard to put up any cogent argument as to why this song shouldn’t feature here.

The final third of the album is ushered in by the forgettable Break the Chains – alongside that opening track the weakest song on the album – but Our Story Lives On is another smasher, featuring the best lead guitar on thew album and another beguiling lead vocal from Creaby, who here sounds more than a little like Candice Night – no bad thing in this reviewer’s book!

Penultimate track Twilight, despite being well-executed, is probably one ballad too many, but the album ends with the distinctly Gothic As Shadows Play to resolve matters on a suitably rocking tip. If Paradise Lost circa Host is your idea of rocking…

I jest of course. But for all my ribbing I have to say that, after that opening track mishap, Apparition have delivered a classy, mature take on the Gothic/Symphonic genre, and at least half the album is certainly of a quality the established greats of the genre would be happy to release. And in Fiona Creaby Britain might at last have a female heavy metal voice to take on the Jansens and Den Adels of the world…

The Awakening is out now.