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If you haven’t been to the theatre recently, but you’re longing for a dark ceremony, well, maybe it’s time to give “Assassine” a listen and step into the “Theatre of Horrors”, as Dark End call it themselves. And this is with no false pretense, as the album’s theatrical concept and structure will soon captivate any listener with a taste for a vivid imaginary spectacle. The 65 minutes, fully packed with symphonic black metal, are far from monotonous. Orchestral elements such as gothic organ, piano, violin and even symphonic percussion combine majestically with the intense drumming pace, memorable guitar riffs and a pleasantly vast vocal register (harsh screams, deep growls, high-pitched shrieks and lamenting whispers).
Already invoked in the title (which is Italian for female murderers), the theme of the album is soaked in the horror of actual crimes committed by women only, some of which are not even that distant in history. From the raw brutality of butchering, through primeval instances of stoning to death or fanatic lapidation, and up to the perversity of poisoning, strangling or drowning, for reasons no other than passion, greed, anger, obsession or religious enthrallment, the blood-dripping portrayal of the feminine beast is complete.
The choice of the killers alone makes an interesting change from everything that has been presented so far in the black metal area. The ones that stand out from the entire gallery are Leonarda Cianciulli (featured in “A Bizarre Alchemical Practice”), Italian serial killer of 1939, who not only performs human sacrifice, but also disposes of the corpses by boiling them down into soap and making cookies out of the dried blood, and last but not least Elga Gurroci (introduced in “Perinde Ac Cadaver”), a fanatic Italian nun, who in 1928 comes out of the monastic obscurity by sacrificing her sisters to God, while stoning them off a cliff like lambs.
The theatrical impression builds also on the well balanced album structure. There are 8 songs equally set apart by intro, intermezzo and outro, which, in Dark End’s own concept, become dramatic mood-enhancers: “Tenebrae I” abounding in sound effects such as church bells, ominous raven croaks, squeaking doors and gothic organ, “Tenebrae II” which is an eerie piano passage with reverie-like guitar riffs, and finally “Tenebrae III”, a pandemonium of cries and laughter, where one almost identifies his own breath with that of the troubled soul awaiting its dark end.
The songs’ architecture is a careful combination of intense parts (blast beats, fast guitar riffs accompanied by versatile keyboards or even violin tunes as in “Mater Terribilis”, “Bounded, Sisters By Solitude”) and slower, more emotional fragments sustained by superb guitar solos or piano/violin lines as in “Poisoned Lips Of Lust”, “Two Faced Beast” and “Perinde Ac Cadaver”. Sometimes the closure is done with amazing strength and speed like that of the vocals in “Perinde Ac Cadaver”.
Using Latin, Italian and French intrusions in the English lyrics (for the crime’s local colour or just to twist some established religious quotes) can only add to the band’s individuality, which makes a nice change from the usual Northern rites of black metal.
Therefore, “Assassine” is a journey well worth taking (and repeating).