Like Girls Aloud with guitars and violins...

Naio Ssaion are a Slovenian band specialising in radio-friendly pop-metal. With track titles like 'Teen' and 'Shut Up', you could be forgiven for mistaking this for the new Sugarbabes album, although the Gothic-chic vocalist and be-dreadlocked violinist on the cover might help to correct your mistake. Upon listening to the album, my expectations of pop-metal were confirmed. Now, this isn't really my thing, but Naio Ssaion do it very well, and have crafted what's really a rather good little album.

Opener 'Static' kicks off with some fairly heavy riffing, as if the band want to establish their rock credentials right from the start. But then, as the first guitar part fades away, the vocals come in, sung by someone who sounds like she could be Slovenia's entry for next year's Eurovision Song Contest. Comparisons with Delight, another female-fronted band from the former eastern bloc, are also warranted, with some of the heavier songs rather reminiscent of the Poles' album 'The Fading Tale'. Other songs are more pop and less metal, for 'Blah-Blah', whose folksy acoustic intro soon gives way to a surprisingly R'n'B-esque track.

Oddly, Naio Ssaion's seeming Unique Selling Point - a violinist - often fades into the musical background, so to speak. Lost amongst a scenery of diverse influences and bouncy, catchy tunes, poor ole' Tine doesn't really get noticed. But instrumental 'Bow Link in E Minor' is a tasty mix of the tuneful and the heavy, a surprisingly good song used as a interlude between the twelve tracks of bubblegum pop.

The "gothic" label so often applied to female-fronted metal bands doesn't really apply in the case of this one, but 'N.SS' (a hit single in their native land), kicks off with a distinctly industrial-sounding drum machine/keyboard combo, before adding a slightly menacing guitar riff and some typical goth rock vocals

While their unusual and diverse influences almost certainly won't be to everyone's tastes, it is nice to see a band doing something more with the "string instruments and female vocals" template than copying the leaders of the genre. Although it's a little bit of a light, flippant album, 'Out Loud' is a decent CD, and certainly not the kind of thing you here every day. Neo-classical-urban-gothic-pop-metal, anyone?