On this All Hallow’s Eve, the beautifully talented and talentedly beautiful Leah McHenry released her new EP, Otherworld. She categorizes it as Celtic Metal, and I’m not one to judge such labels. Of all of the progarchists, I’m probably the least qualified to comment on anything metal. Growing up with prog, Rush was the limit of what “metal” I encountered, and Rush doesn’t qualify. Over the last twenty years, I’ve come to love what progressive metal I’ve heard (such as Guilt Machine and anything related to Aryeon). But, groups such as Dream Theater and Opeth have never grabbed my attention, even after brief flirtations with the former.
Regardless, I hold a very fond affection for Leah, whatever label we might give her. To me, her music is just. . . well. . . really, really gorgeous. Lush, mythic, lulling into punctuated, from dreamy to driven, but always full of purpose and depth.
If someone pushed me to describe her music in terms relative to what we’ve reviewed at progarchy, I’d say it’s as if Sarah McLachlan and Arjen Lucassen got together to make an album. And, to be even more blunt, Leah and Arjen, I hope you two meet at some point. I can’t imagine anything but greatness coming out of such a Canadian-Dutch alliance!
Otherworld, not surprisingly, is lush and nuanced. The songs are a bit longer than the ones she released on her first album, Of Earth and Angels, but they’re much more connected by style and theme. The first three songs (five total)—Shores of Your Lies, Northern Edge, and Surround—have a welcoming but perilous (as in Tolkien’s realm) tension. Listening to Otherworld is as much about immersion as it is enjoyment. With the opening notes, storming atmospherics, and Leah’s voice, the listener enters into this elven world. Things of beauty pierce “as sharp as swords” in Leah’s world.
The fourth track, “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” is as Celtic as it gets. This could come from Enya in her darker moments or U2 on the second side of October. Still, it’s pure Leah.
The final track, “Dreamland,” is, I assume, the most traditional “metal” song on the EP. A duet, Leah’s voice and character serves as a counter and foil to the diabolic, growling voice of Eric Peterson. A beauty and the beast moment.
I’ve only known Leah for about a year. Just after we started this website, Canadian philosopher and progarchy co-founder, Chris Morrissey told me about her. He also reviewed her first album as well as offering us one of the most extensive concert reviews I’ve ever seen.
Generally (well, ok, always), I follow Chris’s advice. So very glad that I do. Much to my surprise, Leah replied to my first emails graciously, and we’ve developed a good friendship via correspondence.
Indeed, I respect her immensely. She lives what she believes: she’s a wife and a mother of four; she home schools her kids; she’s active in community life; and she’s serious about her religious and political beliefs. Really, what’s not to love about her? Add all of this to the fact that she’s insanely talented as a singer, a musician, and lyricist. Well, it just doesn’t get much better. Well, except for the additional fact that she’s also as beautiful as one might expect from someone possessing that voice. I’m sure she could model professionally, if she wanted. Oh, and she also makes her own costumes and is proficient with a bow. So, again, what’s not to love? Talent, kindness, and integrity, all rolled into one west-coast Canadian!
Only in her twenties, Leah is the future of rock.