Fresh on the trail of a very significant line-up change that is part of the maturity stage of many Heavy Metal bands (see Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden), this album ran the risk of alienating the band’s entire fanbase and to also suck while at it. I mean, how do you replace Messiah Marcolin?
Put simply, there could have probably been choices way worse than Robert Lowe. Albeit quite different in style from the previous frontman, Robert brings more power and gloom at the expense of not sounding like Marcolin. I quite like it – the vocals here fit the music perfectly and adeptly paint this image of decaying glory, castle halls in disrepair and so on and so forth.
The songs are based on tried-and-true riffs that, bolstered by the depressive and desperate atmosphere, fall squarely into the Traditional Doom basket. Describing the production, the word “modern” comes first into mind – the guitars are crisp and crunchy while the bass and drums are shoved a bit to the side. So, do the riffs do a good job at keeping this interesting?
For a while, yes. The first half of the album is easily the stand-out one: “Devil Seed”, “Demonia 6” and, of course, “Of Stars and Smoke” are great, memorable tracks. The latter one, in particular, has a great chorus that will get stuck in your head before you know it. “Demonia 6” also has Robert deliver what is possibly the best vocal performance on here (I just love that “It’s midnight for days and days and days” part).
By the time I get to “Destroyer” though, my enthusiasm fades a bit. The songs get more drawn-out at this point and I can’t think of much that I remember from this second half besides “Man of Shadows” with its pretty damn good guitar playing. The rest of the tracks until the closer, “Embracing the Styx”, are just there. There aren’t any shining moments to be heard, and the track length difference does become noticeable.
Speaking of “Embracing the Styx” – it is a bit better than the songs before it, but just by a bit. It seems to be a lot of people’s favourite but “Embracing the Styx/Me, my wrist and my blade” doesn’t really cut it (ha) for me. And though I feel bad for the King of the Grey Islands as his journey comes to an end, I can’t say I gave too much attention to the concept of the album or feel that the story justifies the more average parts of this LP.
All in all though, this is good. It can be easily listened to in full and is more awe-inspiring than emotionally draining, though the second half feels rather underwhelming in the grand scheme of things, and that’s not particularly good. Just take the great tracks and run.
Key Tracks: “Devil Seed”, “Of Stars and Smoke”, “Demonia 6”
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When I’m not busy being a corporate drone, you’ll find me writing reviews and essays about music, video games, films and other nerd stuff encompassing all eras.