Milana Zilnik – Metamorfosi

 Milana Zilnik – Metamorfosi

Milana Zilnik – Metamorfosi – Album Review

Let me tell ya folks…I put on a record like Metamorfosi by Milana Zilnik, and it’s the kind of album you’ll find me ecstatic about having access to long before it came out, you know what I mean?  I ain’t gonna lie to ya…the perks of a music critic’s life are pretty far and few between when it comes right down to it, but if you’ve got amazing stuff to share, and I get to keep that a secret while also getting to listen to it in advance, SIGN ME UP – it’s one of my favorite things, if not THE thing I love the most about what I do.  Anyhow.  The waiting is officially over – as far as I’ve been told, Metamorfosi is out and available TODAY!

Just don’t forget – I’ve been listening for about a month already – and remember to be jealous of that.

Okay…so…I figure you’re going to need some proof regarding my excitement.  I can promise you this – it should be as easy as pushing play and listening to the stellar array of musicianship and melody at work on the very first track called “The Hatch.”  If you can’t hear the combination of art, beauty, and mystery spread throughout a song like this & be completely intrigued by what you hear…then I’m not sure I can help ya.  You might be beyond help and/or at least need some circulation, because this music is ALIVE & just about as engaging as it gets.  You’ve got drama & intensity, impeccable instrumentation, and serious craft in the composition that speaks volumes on its own behalf.  The last thing I should need to do in this world is advocate for the kind of music that Zilnik makes – she’s phenomenal, that’s a fact, and full stop.  LISTEN to the way “The Hatch” pulls you in will ya?  From the spectacular sweetness of her piano, to the remarkable additions of elements like the harmonics surrounding her, or the guitar’s most searing notes in the mix, the mastery of percussion used along the way, the ethereal vocals – you name the part or the instrument and I am tellin’ ya that Milana made sure to make time for it to be featured in the spotlight.

It’s enchanting really…perhaps that’s the best way to describe everything you’ll hear.  Continuing the deep dive “Down The Rabbit Hole” as the set-list continues, you really can’t help but admire and marvel at the level of commitment you’ll find in this material.  Not only are the compositions completely and totally remarkable, but they’re interesting in ways many people aren’t exposed to inside of the realm of instrumentally-based material.  Milana is singing on these tunes as well, so don’t get me wrong, there ARE vocals to be found – but we can have a glorious debate about how her voice is being used in these songs.  To me, there’s no argument at all; clearly she could have chosen to use words instead of the way she chooses vocalizations instead – but that should be your first cue to tell your ears that she’s using her voice as another instrument in these illustrious compositions.  In my opinion, some of the best singers I’ve ever heard have never even used a single word – and I’d definitely put Zilnik right up there with the most incredible talents you’ve heard on a microphone.  “Down The Rabbit Hole” features a plethora of amazing reasons as to why you should listen of course – all these songs do – but you’ll likely notice just how much of a significant role Zilnik’s vocals play in these compositions and their overall allure in this second track.  She’s a large part of the structure and what generates our interest in what we’re hearing, and whenever she’s not singing, the music surrounding her has no problem at all taking over the starring role.  I absolutely LOVE the way she’s written the songs on this record, the ensemble of outstanding talent she’s enlisted to play it with her, and the results completely speak for themselves.  Listen to how a song like “Down The Rabbit Hole” builds its story through its intro and main parts of the song to follow, leading to a verifiable finale and conclusion that’ll genuinely make you wanna stand up & cheer!  This is art & music combined at the highest level, to create something you cannot take your ears off of.

She’s even getting titles right I tell ya – I love the name of the third track, “Curiouser And Curiouser.”  You’ll likely notice a lot of Alice In Wonderland references along the way throughout the lineup of songs on Metamorfosi – and you’d be right to.  That being said, Milana has put in a brilliant twist on the concept that’s crucial to understanding what she’s really going for with this record.  Alice In Wonderland really serves as the overall inspiration, yes – but according to Zilnik, Metamorfosi is “a conceptual album again, following the story of a composer who decided to write music for “Alice in Wonderland” story and by doing so accidentally opened a portal in her piano, fell down the Rabbit Hole and found herself in a Steampunk-ish Wonderland where she went through a series of metamorphoses turning into different characters from the story – manifestations of different sides of her own inner character.”  To which I ask ya – HOW COOL IS THAT?  “Curiouser And Curiouser” is a great example of the feeling that could create in a composer pursuing art and getting consumed by it as a result…it’s fascinating, eerie, mysterious, bold, and beautiful – and it’s all of these things at once!  This album is wildly innovative on a cinematic level, and it’s vivid & lively tracks like “Curiouser And Curiouser” that really can’t help but captivate our attention in-full.  Whether it’s the textures or the tones you hear, or the absolutely award-worthy use of space, timing, pace, and composition – Milana has ensured every ticking second of what you hear deserves to BE heard, you feel me?  I’m outright amazed by what she’s created throughout this album.

Gorgeous!  Listen to the harmonies with her vocals at the start of “The Choice” and the way that the music will eventually come in to envelop the space around her as it plays on.  From the breathtaking intensity you’ll discover as Vitaly Tkachuk adds in the guitars, to the sheer brilliance of the understated but essential role the percussion from Phil DiMercurio adds into the structure, to the moving cello sounds from Yoed Nir, and crucial bass lines added in by Craig Akin – Milana has put her music on a path to victory by finding the perfect players to help assist her in bringing this album to life.  You factor in her own remarkable skills as a pianist and singer, and believe me folks – you’ve got an all-star lineup that essentially could never be ignored.  Would I go see a band like this play live if I could?  In a heartbeat without hesitation.  The reality is, you’ve got a lot of international players banding together here with some from Ukraine, Israel, and the USA joining Zilnik, who is based out of Canada along with a few of her cohorts…so I don’t know if this music ever makes it to the stage or not, but man-oh-man it SHOULD!  Even on a recording an album like Metamorfosi probably makes for a better night of entertainment than anything else you had planned!  I had many days over this past month where I’d do nothing else but sit and listen to songs like “The Choice” on the edge of my seat, simply amazed at the ambition of the ideas and the fact that they could be executed as professionally as you’ll hear them be throughout this record.

While it’s fair to say that listening to an album like this is a commitment of sorts, it should be one that you’re willing to make.  An album like Metamorfosi is the kind of record that’ll expand your own sonic palette by proxy, I can promise you that.  For any of you folks out there on the fence about whether or not an instrumentally-based record could keep your interest…I’m tellin’ ya right here, right now – this could very well be THE album that convinces any holdouts that it CAN.  And sure…I’ll definitely concede that it will likely help greatly that Milana does sing on these songs for the instrumentally-resistant folks out there…but again, I’ll argue tooth and nail that she uses her voice as another instrument in these compositions overall.  Her talent is straight-up off the charts though – listen to the way she sings a song like the title-track on this record and ask yourself if music ever really gets more engaging than this?  Her commitment to these songs…the conviction, passion, purpose, and intent that she sings and plays with alongside the band of skillful souls she’s got playing with her…I’m tellin’ ya – they ALL deserve major credit as to why this album works out so incredibly well track after track.  “Metamorfosi” is as great an example as any could sincerely be – there is no dead space on an album like this with the spectacular attention to detail it possesses.  No matter what element you’re listening to, this material has it all from the buildup to the breakdowns, all the way from the introductions to the finales, each and every time.

Like how Alice found herself in Wonderland long ago, ‘the composer’ of this audible story takes a much similar journey.  Mired in confusion and trying to figure things out at the start – LISTEN to the transition on song six called “At The Door” where you’ve now officially entered Wonderland and how different that sounds compared to everything you’ve heard so far.  Amazing!  Truly amazing!  It’s one of my favorite moments on the record, and it was actually quite surprising to me.  I’m usually more in favor of the darker side of music & melody when it comes right down to it, which is a lot of what you’ll hear in the first five songs on Metamorfosi – so to feel like it was actually “At The Door” that impressed me most in the first half of this album was truly something special.  It felt significant in so many ways – not only to the story of the record, but the story behind the record as well, you know what I mean?  So many artists and bands have that one thing they’re really good at – and to hear Milana flip the dynamics of sound completely upside down and create something outright cheerful & stunningly sincere on “At The Door” was seriously awesome to experience.  It’s moving, heartfelt, sweet, enchanting & endearing – and yet, it still maintains that level of curiosity & fascination that’s so crucial to the story of this album.  Adding a bit more of a tangible Soul-meets-Jazz combination into the composition went a long way too.

If anything, I think the bright & cheery nature of “At The Door” was so effective that it actually made the transition back towards the heavier melodic weight in the majority of this album tougher to go back into for a moment around “Point Of No Return.”  Even with the ever-incredible level of execution by Milana and her band, you almost can’t escape feeling like you wanted to stay in the undeniable bliss & wonder-filled sound of a song like “At The Door” for just a little bit longer, you know?  It only takes a little time to adjust to of course…really no time at all…I end up being more than happy to be back in these heavily evocative vibes created by Zilnik and the crew on “Point Of No Return” – because not only does it sound as spectacular as any track on this record does, but the level of dedication to the art NEVER drops one iota at any point along the way.  So…sure…like anyone else, I’m human – we all have our favorites and we all find out what resonates with us the most.  “At The Door” was such a uniquely inspired moment and complete surprise to discover at the mid-point of Metamorfosi that it really can’t help but stand out to our ears in the context of this lineup – but tracks like “Point Of No Return” are ultimately much more representative of what this album is really like to experience overall sound-wise.  Believe me, I’m more than cool with that.  Ever since the departure of Plike in her self-imposed retirement a couple years back, there really hasn’t been anything close to that in terms of ideas and composition, so it’s been awesome to hear a record like this that is similar in sound, yet achieved entirely via analog means.  To think that all of these parts have been played and performed as well as they are, let alone conceived to begin with, is nothing short of amazing.  I assure you – I’ve got nothing but total respect for the way these players are playing.

“Queen Of Hearts” was fun!  According to Milana, it’s the first moment where our composer meets a character in this story, and finds her to be “capricious, arrogant, rather mean and egocentric.”  While I’d imagine that’s gonna be a little tough for most listeners to automatically glean from what they hear, I think there are noticeable repetitions in the vocal hooks that’ll demonstrate what Zilnik is attempting to communicate.  Concept records are TOUGH things to create y’all…I’ve said it hundreds of times on these pages of ours – and most of’em fall short of the mark.  Instrumentally-based music would make it infinitely harder to achieve when it comes right down to it – I’m realistic about that.  Overall though, I don’t always think that it’s all that crucial for the average everyday listener out there to understand the story behind what they hear as long as they can find their own unique connection to it – make sense?  Like, I’d be the first to tell ya I enjoy what I hear on “Queen Of Hearts” and feel like Milana actually steals the show on this particular track with the way she sings it, even with how amazing the music surrounding her truly is – but I’m not about to be the guy that would tell you that without a guide to follow along the way in terms of notes, that I’d have any idea or notion that we just met the Queen.  If you feel differently and you listen for that first time and feel like this is the EXACT moment where we must be meeting the “Queen Of Hearts” – please switch places with me because you’re meant to be doing what I’m doing.  All I can ever tell ya is what sounds great to listen to – which is certainly this – but as far as my opinion on concept records go, it’s still gonna be the same.  I love the fact that a concept can inspire an artist the way that this has for Milana without a doubt – but I readily acknowledge that for anyone else outside of the music being made, we always need some kind of program to follow along.

The stunning musicianship and level of intensity somehow keeps building on this album!  Listen to the way that “A Game” ends up creating interest and excitement so quickly through its thump of low tones at the start.  As it continues to expand, you get the hit of versatility you wanna hear, and a sensational appearance from the flutes of Boris Khodorkovsky in the instrumentation you’ll find.  From the sweet & angelic cascading of notes on the piano, to the hang drums from Zilnik added in along the way – “A Game” ends up being one of the most uniquely dynamic tunes on the record that expertly blends the dark with the light.  Again, on a compositional level alone, you should be thrilled to hear such a range of sound inside of one idea like “A Game” has – it’s a serious achievement, no two ways about it.  To be fair, obviously each and every one of these songs are multi-faceted ideas of course, but you get what I mean – for one tune to travel as far as it does from one side of its personality to the other & back again is really something else to experience.  “A Game” is likely to impress everyone out there listening in a whole variety of ways…it’s songs like this one that have you appreciating how insanely gifted Milana Zilnik is at what she does, but also how many opportunities actually exist for music like this out there in the world.  From soundtracks to main themes, to live shows and recordings, to features of all kinds supporting the art of others in some unique way – what Zilnik is creating is timeless in so many ways.  “A Game” would be right up there with my own personal favorites from this record as well – I think there is so much going perfectly right in this song that it blows my freakin’ mind to be truthful with ya.  Above all things, I am absolutely in awe of the care & precision that comes along with the songs on Metamorfosi.

The degree of mystery-meets-melody has been nothing short of spellbinding throughout this whole record, and that continues on straight through to the end with notable highlights like “Jabberwocky” once again displaying the extraordinary range, versatility, and diversity of this album all-around.  Milana should by all accounts be making some serious space on her shelves at home for some hardware this awards season…if there is any musical justice in this world we’re living in, efforts like you’ll hear on Metamorfosi should be recognized, awarded, encouraged and applauded by every one of us listening.  It’s rare to find music that is not only unordinary, but that takes you on a true journey vastly unlike any other – but that’s what you’ll find Zilnik and her crew have achieved throughout this whole set-list of songs.  “Jabberwocky” has such impressive depth to it.  Whether you’re listening to it for the elements of light & dark found within the music, or the sparkling clarity within the production, largely assisted by the stellar job in the mixing & mastering provided by Justin Gray – again, there is something special for all open minds & ears to be found here.  I keep circling back to the high level of art at work in the ideas and composition of these songs, but to hear it pulled off so perfectly is authentically astounding y’all.

As a person that grew up around the piano, that’s probably always going to be the instrument that ends up moving me the most when it’s as well-played as Zilnik plays it.  She’s got this uncanny way of using it that defies description…it’s very theatrical, dramatic, and performance-minded I suppose…that’s the best way I can put it, but there’s really so much more to it than that.  Listening to her “Bending Time” and space around us throughout this record has been nothing but PURE JOY to me and my ears, truly.  From the moment Metamorfosi starts to the time it ends, Milana has proven that cinematically-inclined music can indeed be one of the most gripping, involved, and innovative genres without question, and that leaning on its strengths of instrumental/classical sound has been the right way to go.  Listening to this album has definitely been one of the moments where you realize how all that hard work learning, rehearsing, writing, and being an artist truly does pay off one day.  It’s a MAJOR investment to learn how to make music on an extraordinary level like this through education & whatnot – and while there’s no doubt about how that plays a role in what we hear, it’s also the things you can’t teach like the natural instincts that Milana has to entertain everyone listening.  That’s the real X-factor at work here dear readers, dear friends…we can all spend a decade or two learning our craft and be much better for it, but at the same time, there are intangible things that come naturally to some & don’t for others – and when you hear tracks like “Bending Time” you realize that Zilnik simply has something that the rest just don’t.  What REALLY makes the magic happen though, is her full embrace of her talents and the courage she displays in using her skills, education, and instincts to her full potential – it’s that combination of true conviction and commitment you hear…the confidence in the material…that’s what provides its power.

So whether it’s the big, bold & robust sounds of a song like “Jabberwocky” or the delicate nature of the design in a song like “Reflecting The Sky,” I genuinely believe we should all be universally celebrating the extraordinary talents of Milana Zilnik and her gift for composition – she’s an asset to the music world no matter which way you look at it.  While it’s probably fair to say that the more light & dreamy vibes of a song like “Reflecting The Sky” are more on the rare side of sounds you’ll find on this record, they’re a much welcome breath of fresh air whenever you find’em.  It might be a mere piece of most of the other tunes, or found in fully dedicated spots on the album like “At The Door” or in “Reflecting The Sky,” but they’re all genuinely appreciated as they brighten up the atmosphere and alleviate the heaviness of the more mysterious shifting moods within this lineup.  All-in-all, “Reflecting The Sky” is quite the gorgeous tune when it comes right down to it, and in my opinion, it brings a different dimension of sound to the lineup as well.  Atmospheric, airy, dreamy…all good things really.  “Reflecting The Sky” might easily appear more subtle and understated than the majority of the tracks you’ll hear on this record, but there’s beauty in that too.  I’d say there’s beauty in simplicity, but the music of Milana Zilnik is anything but simple.  You’ll get what I mean though – “Reflecting The Sky” is a much more gentle song overall.

Finishing off the set-list with “The Other Journey” made for a satisfying conclusion.  According to the notes I’ve got here, it’s kind of like a reset in a way…it’s where “the story ends” but also gets our main character “ready for another adventure” too – so I suppose it’s fair to say that it feels like there could be more coming afterwards because the song itself has that set-up to a sequel type feeling to it, know what I mean?  Ain’t nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned…I think Milana has proven you could create an entire franchise around her creativity, so why not a whole series of concept records and audible journeys like this one?  Metamorfosi has been entirely amazing to listen to, captivating at every opportunity, and an authentically audible triumph – and I sincerely hope that Zilnik gets recognized for all the tremendous efforts that have been put into each and every song along the way.  From the moment it began, to the finale of “The Other Journey,” the quality is relentless from production to performance, and the only thing that rivals the professionalism you’ll find there is the imagination in the ideas.  You really can’t lose with an album like Metamorfosi as far as I can tell – if you enjoy creativity and art, there’s no way on Earth that you wouldn’t love something as compelling as this album truly is.  It’s certainly right up there with the best I’ve personally heard this year, and I am positive I won’t be alone in that assessment.  Milana Zilnik understands what making music and the art of the craft is really all about & her interest, investment, and ingenuity shine bright in every song you’ll hear on this album.

Find out more about Milana Zilnik from the official links below!

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