The Metal scene has always been loaded to the brim with unoriginal, hackneyed bands who choose to rise on the coattails of more popular bands, imitating their sound while adding little of their own. In the 1980s, hoards of uninspired spandex wearing cock rockers were popping up like crazy. The same applied to Thrash bands in the late 80s and Nu-Metal acts in the mid-to-late 90s. For the sake of longevity, I wonít name every single genre on the Metal spectrum; every genre has its innovators and its imitators.
Youíre all aware of DIMMU BORGIR, one of the most popular yet lampooned bands in the Black Metal scene. They are notorious for lacing their music with theatrical symphonic elements as well as their ridiculous gothic image. Whether or not you like them, every Metal fan at least knows of their existence. It seems that RAVENDUSK, a decade old Polish band are devout worshippers at the church of DIMMU. In fact, RAVENDUSK would best be described as DIMMU BORGIR with a Gothic Metal twist. Shall we count the similarities?
For the bulk of his performance on "Astroblack Advent", vocalist Marcin Gůrniak is a Shagrath clone in every sense of the word. I was convinced that good olí Shaggy was responsible for the vocals until I happened upon the bandís website. The "epic" symphonic moments act as the glue that holds the weaker moments from becoming empty. This music is very accessible, and would appeal instantly to those who believe CRADLE OF FILTH to be a "trve kvlt" Black Metal band. Donít get me wrong, RAVENDUSK are light-years more talented than CRADLE, but that doesnít change the fact that their music is somewhat trendy and would probably appeal more to the bizarre Gothic crowd as opposed to the Black Metal crowd.
RAVENDUSK may not be the most unique band in existence, but they are talented musicians as well as excellent songwriters. A lot of work was obviously put towards the arrangement of each track, and the many different elements intertwine beautifully. The leads are very melodic, and are actually quite atmospheric when held alongside the mystic symphonic elements. The production is crisp, and not a single instrument is obscured by another. The bass is audible, and quite chunky. However, the snare drum seems to be the loudest element, and it sticks out like a sore thumb which is rather odd, especially because of the epic scale of the music.
While the music is impressive as a whole, some moments feel lacking. There are some uninspired filler moments on here. It appeared as if the band chose to mask their creative slumps with excessive use of keyboards and vocal distortion. These tendencies are rather annoying, and without all of the flash, some of these songs would sound rather empty. The quarrels arenít major though, and usually donít last very long.
If you like DIMMU BORGIR, you will no doubt enjoy this. It may not do anything to separate itself from the legions of similar Symphonic or Gothic Metal albums out there, but "Astroblack Advent" represents those genres rather well.
(Online January 9, 2008)