Trampled, Scratched and Covered in Cobwebs but Still it Spins
Metalville Recordings 2012
Blood Countess Bathory
The 13th Guest
Stone by Stone
In this review installment I would like to introduce Opera Diabolicus.
This outfit is a Brainchild and collaboration between (composer) David Grimoire and (lyricist) Adrian de Crow, who both hail from Gothenburg Sweden. If you have been paying the slightest attention to the metal scene within the past twenty or so years you might immediately think (as I did) of bands such as Dismember, At the Gates or Entombed (there are a myriad of others). Gothenburg is famous within the metal scene for having a unique heavy, dirgy and thick ‘sound’ which arguably started around the time of the release of Entombed‘s, genre defining, Left Hand Path (in 1990), and has taken on many variations in form since then, I’m thinking Wolverine Blues as a prime example.
Before I find myself veering dramatically off course upon a wild tangent, sure to find itself on the cutting room floor (smirk – Ed), I will admit that this is one of the only times a mere album cover’s artwork has piqued my interest enough for me to think about writing a review. Upon seeing the interesting artwork upon this album cover I had to learn more. My fingers immediately alighted upon the landscape of several search engines and upon reading several reviews my curiosity only continued to ceaselessly gnaw at me more.
What follows is my take and overall opinions on this release.
The cover of this release depicts a Renaissance residence hallway/foyer type setting in which a gown wearing maiden takes center stage. Behind her and displayed beyond the open doorway are, what I presume to be, overturned carriages indicative perhaps of the aforementioned title’s historical time period (1614) and the violent clashes within that period. Surrounding her are two characters looking like masked Highwaymen.
The female character is the only one with any type of vibrant color, appearing prominent and perhaps also within the overall theme of this release. The masked characters are openly handing items to the gowned maiden; knifes and a cross, which is upside-down perhaps again an indication of the theme and lyrics apparent within this album. This is a fantastic image appearing aged just like it might if it was an authentic painting from the period in which this album pertains to.
Onwards to the music…
Overture is an instrumental that starts the release off to a nice start.
After this introduction you might be still on the fence as to the style this album might adopt. The second track, The Gates, sets the pace and the theme nicely. If this is any indication of what’s to follow smiles will form on the faces of fans of bands such as King Diamond, Tristania, Theatre of Tragedy and perhaps even the more obscure and underrated The Project Hate MCMXCIX (several of the female vocal parts are very reminiscent of Ms. Mia Stahl female vocalist for a short while). Female and male vocals intertwine resulting in fantastic results, both Gothic and atmospheric. At times they verge and hint upon, but are never guilty of, blackened screams.
A vocal style used prominently in this track reminds me of a style perfected by Nevermore‘s front man Warrel Dane. Very dramatic and theatrical, some might say an ‘over the top’ style. It’s also a style frequently utilized by the British band Hell (featuring Andy Sneap formerly of Sabbat).
Within this song there is a lyrical passage that made me chuckle, the words “magical moments”, sang very clearly, takes me back to when I was a child watching ‘assorted chocolate’ commercials which for some reason always made me grin like a lunatic, again I digress.
The riffs are impressive and at times choppy though never boring.
The style thus far leans more toward thrash with an overall album theme, I’m thinking Sabbat‘s Dreamweaver but with more of a classical style, though also very similar to some heavier power and epic metal I’ve heard.
The third track immediately made me think of Cradle of Filth and their Cruelty and the Beast release (heavily themed around the Countess and her lust for blood and beauty in the middle ages) if only for it’s title alone.
I will admit I have become leery lately of any tracks hinting at this overused theme that has become quite tiresome. I’m of the opinion that the aforementioned band did a fantastic job and that few others have even come close in their attempts to do this darkened slice of bloody history any justice. I’ll digress for another moment in my diatribe like musings if only to mention that Venom‘s track (Countess Bathory) still holds an esteemed place in any, and all, of my ‘Countess’ themed play lists.
Opera Diabolica’s take on this theme is a song that’s a whooping ten minute plus opus. That I am pleased to say I enjoyed very much.
An outstanding track which held my attention with great riffs, eerie atmosphere and effective male and female (in this case the Countess) vocal duels. At times several (male) vocal passages reminded me of (Cradle of Filth) Dani’s delivery that of a rapidly “barked” approach, used to great effect.
I am very tempted to talk in length about every track, they all deserve a mention in my opinion, and this review would then be ten pages long, tuning into more of an essay really. I will however state for the record (intended pun) the beginning to Mythos Lamia sounds very much like Candlemass. It uses a reoccurring chant like melody theme throughout (voices both male and female). A great deals of the riffs also used in this track and the album could also claim influence from that same band famous for the huge impact they left upon the doom and metal scene.
Another track I’m going to mention is In Memoriam a very sinister instrumental complete with cackles of laughter with enough atmosphere to put a smile upon even the most hardened of a Hammer Film enthusiasts face.
Throughout the album there are guest appearances from renowned musicians. One I’d like to mention is Snowy Shaw (of Mercyful Fate, Dimmu Borgir, Therion). amongst a handful of others. The influence from every one of the aforementioned bands shines through, most notably the creepiness, sinister themes and atmospheres associated with the works of King Diamond more so than anyone else; while a great deal of the operatic themed parts and passages feel very much like Therion.
There are a number of reviews regarding this release and a plethora of different opinions within each. I for one enjoyed this album. It is not at all a run-of-the-mill collection of tracks but rather a themed collection of tales put to music and done very well. I appreciated the fact that the music was very melodic, well produced, rarely repetitious and not overly heavy. The pace rarely gets “fast” enough to claim a speed metal moniker. There are times this release veers towards a Cradle of Filth type style. I am blaming the composition, classical introductions and structure of many of the songs likening it again (more so because of it’s overall theme) to the Cruelty and the Beast CD.
This was a pleasant surprise especially because I took interest initially from a piece of artwork and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone with an openmind for releases that are slightly different, slightly veering towards experimental, whose muic spreads across many definable genres.
Go on take a chance…give this a listen. Believe me if this had King Diamond style vocals throughout, as many reviewers claimed, I would have had absolutely no problem whatsoever in decorating the side of the highway with it. (Admittedley I’m not a fan, I’ve kept his album listening experiences to a minimum).
I had my reservations, I will admit, many sprouting from a number of online reviews. Though fear not this release should keep you interested enough to want to listen again and probably again and again.
Nine ‘nails on a chalkboard’ vocalists, who didn’t show up for the Ball, out of ten.