I’ve been following South Tyrolian GRAVEWORM ever since their debut “When Daylight’s Gone” waaaay back in 1997 and throughout the years and by now seven albums the sextet always has had to battle with highly differing opinions by fans and reviewers alike. I personally always have had a soft spot for the guys and gal’s mix of Black and Gothic Metal, even though admittedly the later albums didn’t quite have the same charm as the older works (even though in hindsight my ratings do not really reflect that).
“Diabolical Figures” stays fairly close to the basic sound of the Italians (I hope I didn’t just open a can of worms here...), with the keyboards playing the usual important role in the otherwise symphonic and often fast musical landscape, while Stefan Fiori screams and growls to his heart’s content. So same business as usual? Yes and no. It seems to me as if they overall increased the speed a little and sacrificed some of the atmosphere, the one element that had always been a strength of GRAVEWORM and that always had been what set them apart from the rest.
The by far biggest asset of this album is the impressive drum work by Maschtl Innerbichler, who really creates a tornado of power and tightness on which the band erects its music, but despite his heroic efforts big parts of “Diabolical Figures” fail to connect with me due to that mentioned lack of atmosphere. Whenever they slow things down and put more emphasis on the mood, they show what had endeared them to me so much in the past, be it “Circus Of The Damned”, the darker and more atmospheric “Forlorn Hope” or the slower passages of “Ignorance Of Gods”, especially the latter showcases this very well, because the faster parts sound too generic and the contrast is even more pronounced.
Here and there a bit of a Death Metal influence comes through (as best example I can point to “Hell’s Creation”), but that is just a small part of the whole and is not altogether relevant to become part of the overall evaluation. What is, though, is the obligatory Pop cover version, this time around it is THE POLICE’s classic “Message In A Bottle” and it doesn’t do the original justice, unfortunately, and while in the past they managed to create very enjoyable and original versions of old classics, this one doesn’t ignite.
All in all, “Diabolical Figures” is the in my opinion weakest album in GRAVEWORM’s career, since it fails to connect more than once and continues what previous effort “Collateral Defect” had already heralded, a lack of atmosphere and thus a faltering sense of intensity. I hope that the folks will be able to rebound from this, but the trend does not look good (half a bonus point for the drum work, though)...
(Online October 8, 2010)