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[ Unwoman - Blossoms ]
Gothic Opera 1999-2011 - Review

This project was formed just before the turn of the new millenium by the artist Stephen Svanholm. img This album is the culmination of a dozen years of ideas, musical discovery and previously released works. Having lived and in various countries over this time, a wide range of musical styles and creativity are presented in this disc, comprised of a dozen excellent tracks of various styles from darker gothic, ethereal roots to somber world music and interlaced with classical opera vocals and other elements.

I'll admit that at first listen I wasn't entirely sold on this album. It is really quite diverse and has a lot of great elements, for sure Stephen's vocals are a talented and solid tenor that is enviable for many. Couple these stellar male vocals with the occasional contrasting siren-like female vocals and on many tracks we have a real masterpiece in the ethereal gothic arena. At times various dark ambient elements kick in or even a little bit of the goth metal styles and all of these eclectic elements bombard the listener and I was a little shell-shocked at first. However, over time as I've become more and more familiar with these pieces, several favorite selections from the album have really started to grow on me. So hopefully here I can touch a little bit on what the listener might expect overall as well as some definite favorites and highlights.

The album kicks off with a bombastic mix of martial industrial and grinding metal guitars giving way to a sort of mix of classical piano and heavy guitars and introducing the solid tenor vocals on "Euridice". This up-beat piece is great as an intro to the album and quickly became a favorite with the broad mix of various elements from the broad goth-related genres. Other pieces along these lines don't shine quite as well, but definitely bring out a moving, harsh energy with the grinding guitars and other slightly aggro elements with "Dew Upon Your Lips" and "The Stones". This latter piece does stand out a bit with diverse elements including spoken word backed by choir vocals and dark, moody instruments as a back-drop all building to a moving rhythm. The most intense piece could be a favorite to some people based on individual presence, but for me it's much too dark and is appropriately named "Conjuring Demons" and spans everything from ritualistic dark ambient to down-tempo yet thrashing, grinding metal.

For those that really enjoy the ethereal side of gothic music, there is plenty on this album to enjoy. For the most part it's fronted by the somber male tenor vocals, but mixed with the excellent neo-classical music and occasional backing female vocals, some pieces really stand out. "The Return" brings out a sort of classical spanish style with acoustic guitar and soft, vibrato on the baritone vocals. The female vocals really shine on the dark and brooding "Sibelian" piece. These vocals soften and lighten the mood, giving this selection some real grace and beauty to go well with the classical instruments present as well. "The Sin Eater" is another masterpiece, starting off with spoken word, but building into a nice neo-classical gothic masterpiece. While there are several other nice selections, I wish to touch on two final masterpieces. The first is "Wish-Fulfilling Jewel" where the solid tenor vocals really shine on this piece backed by somber classical instruments for a stellar track. "The Winged Energy of Delight" combines martial industrial with bombastic neo-classical music while the vocals in that operatic style move along slowly, and occasionally presented as spoken word. As the track moves along beautiful operatic female vocals are added for a building climax to this phenomenal piece.

While one of the more artistic and definitely out of the ordinary albums I've had in a while, this has grown to become a combination of some great masterpieces. Fans of the more classical side of the gothic music, the album is perfectly named Gothic Opera with that being the prominent style amidst the guitars, bomastic percussion and other instruments for a great sound that's well worth picking up.

Rating: 4/5



Website: http://www.sibelian.com
Label: Fossil Dungeon

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