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Obscure and symphonic horror metal is what Italy’s Dark End promises, and with their third full length album, Grand Guignol – Book I, they have certainly achieved that. With their first 2 albums being extremely highly acclaimed releases, the band has really set the benchmark really high for Grand Guignol – Book I and it remains rather interesting to see how Dark End will manage to continue to impress followers of the band so far.
The heavy orchestral emphasis of the band is immediately shown on the intro of the album, Descent/Ascent (II Movement), immediately engaging the attention of the listener with the cinematic, epic feel that is brought forth through the orchestrations on the track. And once the setting for the battlefield is properly set up, the band begins their onslaught with Æinsoph: Flashforward to Obscurity, and similarities to such symphonic extreme metal bands as Dimmu Borgir can be drawn, though admittedly the material on Grand Guignol definitely surpasses those of the material of the aforementioned that I have encountered thus far, with the perfect balance between symphony, melody, aggression and pure heaviness. Chants are aplenty throughout the album, often serving to reinforce that somewhat trance-inducing effects that certain segments of the album have, contrasting the chaos that goes on around them.
The production on the album is stellar as well, with none of the instruments being buried in the mix despite the extremely heavy emphasis on the symphonic aspects of the music. Guitarists Ashes and Nothingness handle their instrument well, and rather than simply using the lead segments given to them to show off their technical prowess, these are often used to further bring out the emotions on the tracks with the often soaring and melodic lines. Drummer Valentz provides most of the energy on the record as well, with the constant double bass pedal fury that goes on at the background complementing the crushing riffs that are unleashed by the axe-wielding duo. Aniemae is also very versatile as a vocalist, easily going from savage growls to haunting, skin-crawling gruff whispers to enhance the feel of the music. The clean singing of guest vocalist Fearbringer on tracks like Spiritism: The Transmigration Passage, coupled with the strong symphonic tendencies further brings the listener back to the Medieval era, and is some of the most epic moments on the album.
There is a constantly shifting mood on the album, with the band constantly alternating between pure aggressive and heavy segments to some that are driven by the symphony alone, bringing about a somewhat melancholic feel with them, and on moments like on Doom: And Then Death Scythed symphonic bands such as Taiwan’s Anthelion are brought to mind. If one were looking for a nice fix of epic, symphonic metal, there is no need to look much further as Dark End‘s Grand Guignol – Book I is sure to more than satisfy that craving.