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Brooding Songs of Cold Despair - 85%

TowardsMorthond, June 2nd, 2011

Following a frustrating experience in the live arena supporting Godless Beauty, Cemetary main man Mathias Lodmalm dismissed the entire band due to what he described as on‑stage incompetence. After recruiting an all new line‑up, Lodmalm returns with one of the strongest releases in the Cemetary catalogue, as well as one of the finest representations of gothic rock-inspired metal in the form of Black Vanity.

Moving further away from the origins of death metal towards the realm of dark rock/doom metal, Cemetary’s approach relies on mood altering transitions and gloomy atmospheres created by melancholic lead melodies in simplistic arrangements of rock song form, which discourages technical disruption of emotional flow. Though Cemetary subtly experiments with production techniques, atmospheric dynamics, and electronic nuances on Black Vanity, these remain songs of direct impact centered around strong hooks and choruses. The music does possess a more fluid motion than previous efforts, as these new musicians are simply better players than the guys they replace, yet the material is tight and focused in its design. Lodmalm’s voice continues to shed its deathly growl, having now developed a post-growl singing style similar to Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost during his own transition to more melodic vocals on Icon and Draconian Times. More gothic singing is utilized here which serves quite well the shadowy nature of slower material such as "Last Departure/Serpentine Parade" and "Out In Sand".

"The dust I leave behind...
A shadow you must wear
Feel the darkness in your mind
And the cold despair..."

Black Vanity is a well-balanced album. While the songs generally function within a particular formula, there exists a healthy amount of variety in terms of pace and atmospheric shade for the music to maintain a high level of interest. Songs like "Scarecrow" and "Sweet Tragedy" are joyless midnight rockers resembling what The Sisters of Mercy may sound like as a metal band. In "Ebony Rain", "The Hunger of the Innocent", and "Black Flowers of Passion" acoustic guitars, ambient keyboards, female vocals, and weeping melodies exhibit a forbidden lust for an ashen destiny. What is most remarkable about this work is its captivating dark melodies emerging within songs like despair ridden dreams, catchy but expressively sincere and immersive.