WITHOUT FACE hail from the land of Hungary, not exactly the greatest source of metal bands, the most well-known of which would be EKTOMORF – a band I’m glad to say WITHOUT FACE sound nothing like – but nevertheless, here their second album plays through my speakers, filling my ears with Progressive Gothic splendour.
The album begins with “Weird Places”, gently fading in with a rich, warm synth sound. Soon a melody emerges from the warbling and female vocals kick in about one and a half minutes into the song, soon accompanied by male vocals too. Floating effortlessly through different melodic passages until the chorus breaks through in epic style, the song with its various moods demonstrates excellently how this band really are a cut above the rest of the Gothic Metal scene – a style which very rarely interests me at all. In fact it really takes a few listens through to realise that despite how accessible and likeable “Astronomicon” may appear on the surface, the instrumentation and songwriting is quite exceptionally complicated.
To follow such a terrific opening track is “Pit And Pendulum”, another epic melodic track in the same vein as the previous and also of similar length, over the eight minute mark, giving capacity for more song expansion than simply verse, chorus and bridge. Andras’ vocal range is really put to the test in this song too, which could be a good or bad point depending on how much you like his voice. He does sound a little odd singing in English, as his European accent really comes through. Personally I like the way he sings, his shouts are more in the vein of ORPHANED LAND singer Kobi Farhi than just another shouting Metalcore singer, but I could understand how someone might dislike his voice as you can rarely understand what he’s saying. Juliette’s voice is what really carries the album however and indeed the purity of it compared to the shouts and growls.
Despite the promise created by the first tracks and the grandness of …In The Garden, none of the tracks quite compare to the beauty and magnificence of “Talamasca”, which along with “The Violin Of Eric Zann”, with which it is merged, is the opus of the album. This song really shows off the talents of the rest of the band, especially drummer Peter and Akos impresses with a very tuneful bass solo. Indeed the gothic, choral climax to the song would a perfect way to finish the album and it’s a great shame they decided to add on “Daimonion” at the end, in my opinion. The song only comprises of Juliette’s voice and a gentle piano, but I can’t help thinking of Evanescence whenever I listen to it and just seems like one of those songs that is too simple or short to have any merit after the mood already established by the rest of the album. That put aside, however, “Astronomicon” is still a worthy addition to any Melodic/Progressive Metal fan’s collection whether you like the Gothic tinges or not. (Online March 19, 2006)