The 2003 demo "Kori U Tame" by Serbian Doomsters TALES OF DARK had been an ok affair, with my main beef being the female vocals. In the three years since, a lot of things have happened. For one guitarists Nikola Cavar and Kristijan Zavodski and vocalist Arpad Takac are the only surviving members of that line-up, which means four new faces in the band. Then they signed a contract with Russian Doom specialists Solitude Productions and now are offering us their full-length debut "Fragile Monuments", with six songs and a playing time of almost 70 minutes.
The sound of TALES OF DARK has not changed compared to the demo, it still is Doom/Death Metal with some female vocals as added flavouring, but the compositions definitely have matured a lot and a more powerful production adds its charm to the melancholic meanderings of the Novi Sad-based septet. They do not really deliver anything groundbreakingly new in this genre, yet the quality they offer us here is nothing short but amazing. Other than the melancholic atmosphere one main focus is great, majestic melodies and surprising variety for a Doom act in terms of rhythm and speed, always loosening up the songs by a well-placed break or two and also a few faster eruptions to keep things interesting, something that a few Doom bands of late are practicing and with great effect I might add.
Contrary to the demo, Arpad Takac this time around also brings in some clear vocals opposed to strict growls back then, which definitely adds to the mix and the too thin female vocals of the past also are a thing of exactly that, the past, for Jovana Karajanov has a nice, strong voice, not a soprano, but a regular voice that convinces in its expressiveness. The opener "Via Descendens" clocks in at over 12 minutes and is quite variable Doom with well implemented keyboards, three different kinds of vocals and some truly superb melodies, which continues into 13 minute monstrum "Mephistorium", which begins with clear guitars and female vocals, before the Doom sets in and towards the end we even get one of the mentioned faster eruptions, very nice!
But all of this only leads towards one of the best Doom tracks I have heard in a while: "...Of Grandiose Fevers And Passion Arcane". Everything fits here, the melodies, the atmosphere, the vocal arrangements, the rhythmic variety, the dynamics, one hell of a song! And the other songs also are very good pieces of Doom Metal, nothing as outstanding as the just mentioned behemoth, but definitively far above average.
If you'd be looking for big originality, would you necessarily go into the traditional Doom genre to find it? I doubt it, therefore I will rate "Fragile Monuments" for what it is: great classical Doom/Death!
(Online January 11, 2007)