This is an extremely unique and talented band. It was originally founded as a death metal band by Asis Nesseria and Luz Marsen in 1991. A couple of years later the band added various classical and medieval instruments, opera-style vocals and symphonic structures for one of the most unique combinations of symphonic death metal ever created. The band increased in size with three new members and a soprano vocalist for their demo tape and next tour. From there they grew to a 16-piece group for an impressive group with an impressive sound on and off the stage. They've released five excellent albums spanning form their early death metal days to the combination of excellent medieval, symphonic metal they create today.
It's now 2010 and the band has been around for nearly two decades and Europeans have been enjoying this band for so long. For many of us however, it wasn't until they re-released three of their excellent albums to the North American audience through the Art of Fact label in Canada. With these releases we have two of them here for your review. This group and these albums have become a favorite here on Gothic Paradise for us and our listeners of both radio shows, appealing to a varied and wide audience. We look forward to any new material this band will release in the future.
Awaking The Centuries - Review
This album was released to the North American audience back in April and at first I wasn't sure what to think, I was intrigued and listened to it several times. Over time the style of medieval styles mixed with death metal and beautiful soprano vocals grew on me to the point that this band has become one of my current favorites. So here we have this album that was first released several years ago, featuring a mix of a dozen of these powerful tracks.
It starts off with a somber choir singing "Rachmaninov" (which most people will recognize as the famous Russian composer who later migrated to America). This fades into yet a second intro "Pestilencia" featuring military drums, spoken word and medieval music, slowly setting the stage and the mood for this incredible album. It is obviously put together intended to be a full opera-style experience through these introductory pieces along with several interludes, with the core parts of the album in the most traditional sense being contained in five excellent chapters. The chapters are comprised of stellar pieces that mix the elements of opera, medieval and classical music with the bombastic death metal, making it a sort of really heavy symphonic or gothic metal mixture. However, each of these are nearly distinctly separate in styles whereas if you take out the minute or two of heavy metal elements, you're left with a classical opera or ethereal medieval piece with piano, violins, cellos, harpsichords and other classical instruments. Some pieces are more distinctly divided into parts while others actually blend everything quite well together.
Nearly every piece is a favorite, and the real guts of the album begins with "Chapter I: Heavenly Damnation" with it's incredible mixure of harpsichord, cello and other symphonic elements, choirs and bombastic percussion all giving way to the standard growling vocals, becoming something of an epic medieval, gothic metal opera. "Chapter II: The Final Victory" is another excellent bit relatively short piece with military drum mixed with bombastic choirs and symphonic elements slowly building up with an introductory spoken word that about halfway through the piece gives way to the bombastic heavy metal elements, still laced with classical elements such as strings and choirs mixed with the heavy guitars and driving drums. "Chapter III: Awaking The Centuries" has quickly become a favorite amongst favorites on this album and from this group. Spanning nearly ten minutes in length, there is plenty to enjoy from this track. Like many others it starts off with the classical violin, mixture of piano and other classical instruments all mixed with subtle modern elements. The track is broken down into three basic pieces alternating between the heavier metal elements with growling vocals, guitar and drums, and the alter-ego of the beautiful classical music. "Chapter IV: In A Fullmoon Procession" is yet another stellar piece, same basic styles but an entirely different track, composed and mixed together to perfection showing the amazing music that comes out of what would seemingly be polar opposites in the music realm. This one leans heavily toward the classical and ethereal soundscapes to the point that even with it's brief injection of metal, it still fits perfectly into the airwaves of our ethereal radio show. "Chapter V: Prophecy Fulfilled Part II: And The Dark Night Entered" serves as the finale to this selection of bombastic mix of metal and classical music. This piece definitely has the most metal feel with the guitars, drums and growling vocals dominating much more than the classical side, while it still comes out occasionally to accent the grinding guitars, this piece will definitely appeal more to the metal than the classical or gothic audience.
The album ends the album in much the same way it began with a "Rachmaninov: Choir" selection wrapping it all up in a nice, memorable package. While for some readers this may be old news or old music, to us it's a new classic, expanding the boundaries and bringing the genres together in a way that is truly amazing and captivating, not just adding more instruments to heavy metal, or just adding heavy metal to classical music, but a truly diverse and unique sound that is to be highly commended.
Eppur Si Muove - Review
This is the re-release of this album to the North American audience through Art of Fact Records. This album comes as a surprise out of the death metal scene packaged together with such an extraordinary mix of classical music with the grinding metal guitars and driving drums. We have here ten stellar tracks spanning over an hour of great music, with a roller coaster ride of emotions, moods, tempos and styles.
Right from the start of this album we get the excellent mix this band has been able to put together of beautiful classical music meets the heavy, grinding guitars and driving drums that are typical with death metal. The growling vocals offset by beautiful soprano or choirs. "All'inizio E La Morte" spans over six minutes and brings all of this together perfectly for a great introductory track for this album. As the album moves along through it's mix of short interludes and powerful driving pieces it is one aural delight after another. Classical purists could listen to half of the album and not find a blemish while various death metal fans will find the other half enjoyable with these styles in their purist form. The mix of the two styles is what seems to attract those of my taste along the lines of goth and symphonic metal. For me this mix of classical and bombastic guitar-driven with heavy percussion (while not being overbearing) is an excellent style and this band pulls it off perfectly one piece after another, from one piece to the next with the mix of soprano, strong tenor and the growling death metal vocals, it all sounds so wrong, but is so intensely beautiful, it's truly amazing. "Per Aspera Ad Astra" comes off very well with this mix, the strong use of tenor vocals along with the soprano and growling really stood out on this piece. "Of A Might Divine" is one of those enigmatic pieces that over the span of the eight minutes manages to venture through every related style imaginable. Starting off with festive medieval sounds, giving way to somber classical piano and strings, and slowly building with a vocal duet to give way to the hard-core growling vocals over layers of heavy guitars and driving drums.
As the album moves along at one point I had to do a double-take to make sure I wasn't listening to QNTAL. Fans of this group will understand what I mean as they listen to "Herr Mannelig", the first part moves along slowly with classical percussion and instruments along with beautiful soprano vocals. This piece could easily be a goth-club classic with this style that gives way to the guitars and percussion that are more along the lines of goth metal, a dance-friendly mid-tempo beat with the grinding guitars backing the soprano vocals is definitely something very impressive. And on this album we're treated with two versions, the original and the "short" version which wraps up the album with pure grace and beauty.
With that we have another excellent work. There are many pieces we didn't touch on here in the interest of space and time, but suffice it to say that we have another true classic here with this album.
Label: Art of Fact