Gothic Metal is alive and well on Dutch grounds these days, just look at the success of bands like AFTER FOREVER and WITHIN TEMPTATION and the appreciation of future stars like THE WOUNDED and EPICA and who can forget the past works of THE GATHERING. TO ELYSIUM is another interesting band coming from The Netherlands, they play Gothic Metal with a symphonic touch (would you believe it!) and “Nightmare’s Nest” is their second album.
This album has some good song material, it’s sort of catchy in a way (memorable melodies and hook lines). The songs are compact and varied, it will take more than 2-3 spins to sum it all up. “Stagnant” and “Nerve Bending” start the album in true Gothic Metal fashion, doing everything in their power to get you saddened for the real heartache titled “Dualism” (I wonder if there’s enough keyboard/piano work in there, check the sample btw). “Hypno Lap Dancer” changes the atmosphere into a more up-tempo Rock/Metal groove with some very catchy lead guitars. You’ve got some unusual heavy riffing coming up in “Absynthe Twin Stars” and “Carrion Karma” backed up by fast double bass drumming bordering to the speed of Death Metal, unexpected but welcomed.
I will point out that TO ELYSIUM are a seven piece, which should give enough energy and emotion running out from the songs. Some of the songs are well equipped with the needed trademarks such as haunting keyboards, tensional guitars, two vocalists fighting against each other, everything, the works, but there’s something missing?
I’ll tell you what’s missing. While the standard male grunts are good and communicative, I feel let down by the voice of Esther De Vos; usually it’s the other way around, always a first time for everything. Ever since this “beauty & the beast” concept got started, Gothic/Doom Metal bands have been using female vocals in two ways: the powerful, desperate type (Cristina Scabbia) and the pale enchantress type (Liv Kristine). Esther’s voice is a mix of both styles but she lacks clarity and confidence in my opinion, it’s difficult to make out what she sings, which is too bad because both vocalists are highly active in the songs.
I have mixed feelings with this album at the moment, the music’s good despite its moments of too much negativity and indifference. On the other hand, the female vocals bother me; if only she’d used her talent in a more powerful way maybe my rating would’ve been higher.
I don’t know whom to recommend this album to other than those addicted to gothic music. (Online August 3, 2004)