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To me, this album is one of the best ones that Crematory had ever done in their career. It has dark vibes, a really eerie atmosphere, a very unique mood, many songs touching different styles and almost just one catchy song after the other.
The listener gets into this eerie atmosphere with the nervously flickering vibes of the opener "When darkness falls" who works with contrasts like light and darkness or tranquility and loudness. Whispering voices and floating winds open the song before a strong chorus shows us one of the main forces of this album: The mixture of soft vocals by the guitar player Matthias Hechler and the growls of main singer Gerhard Stass. Each of them represents desperately hope and the other one despair on this album.
The dreamy and hypnotic "Sleeping solution" goes into the same mood, as well as the very eerie and innovative "Just words" in which you hear strange voices, screaming people and a very dark keyboard and generally a disturbing and reduced orchestration of the instruments. Especially this song grows a lot with the time. On the other hand, you have also faster, almost thrash-orientated songs like "Burning bridges" who remind of the older stuff of this band, not just rooted in the gothic scene, but as well in the death metal scene.
Even hit songs, if we can call them like that on such an album, like the more metal orientated and straight title song "Pray" and the amazing "Left the ground" which is dominated by its keyboard melodies and a very simple but strong chorus showing influences from industrial metal or the Neue Deutsche Härte genre, fit perfectly in the mood of the album. Throughout the whole record this atmosphere is continuingly present and that is what makes this record so special.
Every song goes hand in hand with the others even though this album has a quiet good variety of style. It's maybe the only time in the whole band's career that there is such a concentrated atmosphere and not a single song escaping from that and destroying the efforts of the previous ones. This album works a whole one and - a part of the hit song "Left the ground" - you couldn't just pick one song and listen to it, you must listen to the album as a whole and get drowned into its very dark mood.
"When darkness falls" slowly drowns you in a very dark atmosphere and the dark ballad "Say goodbye" leaves you on a very hypnotic and melancholic note with its haunting ending. Between those this beginning and end, you have almost fifty minutes of great music. This is definitely a record for dark and cold autumn or winter nights. It is a brilliant album for fans of haunting and dark gothic and even doom influenced music. This is good stuff for open minded people who don't mind if a keyboard dominates most of the record if it is well employed.
You may even have the chance to buy the limited box set (I think there are thousand kits like that worldwide) of this album which is still available to this day and which contains eight interesting posters, a lanyard, a sticker and a signature postcard along side with the album for a quiet reasonable price.
I’m not really familiar with the older Crematory, so I don’t know what style they usually play. I wouldn’t label their music on ‘Pray’ as industrial. Instead, they deliver a mix between gothic and death doom metal, resulting in atmospheric songs with heavy passages. The music is carried by some clever keyboard melodies, whereas the guitar, bass and drums aren’t particularly special.
Stass’ grunts remind me a lot of Novembers Doom. In fact, on ‘Left the Ground’ and ‘Alone’ it sounds like Paul Kuhr decided to drop by and do the vocals. The main problem I have with the album is the use of clean vocals on half of the songs that doesn’t always fit in as nicely as the Crematory guys would have hoped. Most of the time they are OK, but when Hechler goes into ‘epic-mode’ it doesn’t blend in with the music and sounds as if they’re just using him for the sake of sounding radio-friendly.
Most tracks on the album that feature the aforementioned inappropriate use of clean vocals are still quite decent to listen to. One of them however (Say Goodbye – clever title for the last song on the album right?) is particularly annoying because of the sudden change of direction halfway through the song that just doesn’t make sense at all.
The album contains four superb songs (‘Left the Ground’, ‘Alone’, ‘Sleeping solution’ and ‘Burning Bridges’) that are really worthwhile. I’d even recommend buying the album just for those songs, provided you can find it cheap enough.
‘Left the Ground’ contains a pretty catchy high keyboard melody throughout the song. Crematory probably wanted to achieve a similar effect to ‘Engel’ from Rammstein, but they get nowhere near its efficacy.
‘Burning Bridges’ is the fastest track on the album. It’s remarkable how it contrasts with the boring ‘Just Words’, which merely acts as sedative to put you asleep before all bombastic hell breaks loose.
If you’re a fan of atmospheric gothic and/or death doom, give it a try. On the other hand, if keyboard-laden music isn’t your thing, there isn’t much point in buying the album.