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5 tablatures for Dark Moor


Dark Moor - Autumnal (8,5/10) - Spain - 2009

Genre: Power Metal / Symphonic Metal
Label: Scarlet Records
Playing time: 47:22
Band homepage: Dark Moor

Tracklist:

  1. Swan Lake
  2. On The Hill Of Dreams
  3. Phantom Queen
  4. An End So Cold
  5. Faustus
  6. Don’t Look Back
  7. When The Sun Is Gone
  8. For Her
  9. The Enchanted Forest
  10. The Sphinx
  11. Fallen Leaves Waltz

DARK MOOR can be counted among many Power Metal bands who, in the course of the past couple decades, have had to reinvent themselves upon losing some or most of their original lineup. Unlike GAMMA RAY, however, this reinvention was not necessarily for the better, though it was an interesting direction for the band, much in the same way as NOCTURNAL RITES’ brief stint with a more Thrashing brand of Speed Metal on “Afterlife”. Since this band’s more aggressive comeback album in “Beyond The Sea”, the band started a sort of gradual process back towards their roots, thus coming to where they now find themselves, in a sound that is once again Symphonic in character, though not quite the same as the band’s high period.

 

“Autumnal” is what can be described as a seasonal album, or an album that has a common mood reflecting the feeling that one gets with certain scenery. The imagery is something along the lines of the coldness of a forest in late November, where trees are half bare, all remaining leaves are either a deep red or brown, and the breath of a soon coming winter is drawing near. The songs possess the typical trappings of the style the band has generally exhibited, consisting of driving Speed Metal riffs that mimic the stationary muted power chord style that would further accentuate the double bass drumming, high operatic vocals, and a large backdrop of orchestral sounds. But in the case of this particular album, the older sound of DARK MOOR has merged with a sound that flirts with a Finnish Power Metal aesthetic, namely that of NIGHTWISH circa “Wishmaster”.

 

In comparison to past efforts such as “The Hall Of Olden Dreams” and “Gates Of Oblivion”, the technical aspects of the music are much simpler and cater more towards catchy and singular melodically driven symphonies, rather than the complex neo-Baroque counterpoint exhibited in the guitars and keyboards in the two aforementioned albums. There is a strong tendency towards a Danny Elfman sound in the orchestral surroundings to varying degrees, exhibiting their most overt influence during the symphonic instrumental at the end of the album, “Fallen Leaves Waltz”. It literally sounds like music for a scene of a group of fantasy beings waltzing in the forest with falling leaves of gold all around.

 

In many respects this album is somewhat reminiscent of AVANTASIA’S “The Metal Opera - Part 2”, in that the only glaring flaw in the album is that they put their strongest and most ambitious song, “Swan Lake”, right at the beginning of the album. This ill-advised approach of climaxing at the beginning of an album has the effect of dwarfing almost everything else that follows it, regardless of how good it is, and gives a sense of the album fading as it goes along rather than getting more interesting. The song is quite well done, going through a fairly standard set of neo-classically tinged HELLOWEEN oriented speed riffs and RHAPSODY-like lead passages, with vocalist Alfred Romero and an angelic female vocal counterpart dueling each other for prominence.

 

The rest of the songs that follow are pretty standard, but very fun regardless of the problems with album pacing. “Phantom Queen” has a really fun Folk-like violin intro followed by a rather well realized blend of symphonic sections reminiscent of middle era NIGHTWISH with a few harsh vocal sections place in strategic spots. “An End So Cold” goes in more of a SONATA ARCTICA direction, almost to the point of sounding like a b-side from a song single from “Silence”, albeit with a large backup choir and a much softer sounding lead vocalist. “Faustus” and “The Enchanted Forest” also invoke some heavy NIGHTWISH commonalities, drawing a tiny bit from both the “Oceanborn” era as well as the more recent and slightly modern sounding “Once” here and there.

 

Although the band seems to be borrowing a few ideas here and there, “Autumnal” proves to be a fun listen and a massive step above the crop of power core nonsense that has been polluting the pristine gardens of Power Metal. Sure, it’s not “Gates Of Oblivion”, but anyone expecting an album of that caliber to spontaneously pop out of a band missing three of the people who made that album happen, in a time when that approach to Power Metal has long been abandoned by many of its original proponents, is not being realistic. If you like your melodic majesty with a touch of late autumn and perhaps an early trace of winter, but still with massive fanfare choruses and big arrangements, this has it all. 

(Online March 16, 2010)

Jonathan Smith



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