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Their last great work - 85%

Lysander, November 30th, 2010

Exaudi Vocem Meam Pt II is the sixth full-length elegy by French harbingers of moroseness, Dark Sanctuary. If you’re into the ethereal genre, or even if you’re heavily embedded in the metal scene, you may have had some inkling that this instalment had moped onto the shelves a couple of months ago. I don’t know what it is about Dark Sanctuary but there seems to be such an inexhaustible supply of source material from which to draw their music: each album is fine-tuned to the hilt with some of the most dirgelike and depressing songs that its legally possible to squash onto one CD. Whatever’s going on in their lives I can only hope that it’s all an act and when they exit the studio they bounce, space-hopper like down the road in throes of inexorable glee and get on with their lives entertaining kids as life-sized bunnies at birthday jamborees.

Whatever may be going on in the cold recesses of their heads might be doing some good though, for at least they are able to produce albums which, although more than a little bleak, are just the kind of thing that the aspiring ethereal music fan will slurp up like crushed velvet throes. Exaudi Vocem Meam II is a more realised, more honed and sharper album than its predecessor which, though it stuck to the confines of the mould that Dark Sanctuary set themselves, almost ended up being asphyxiated by it. Pt I concerned me that the band were losing their edge, it suffered from a lack of enthusiasm and energy, whereas Pt II sees the band well and truly back on the right track – more so in fact – since it is the most ingenious and inventive album that they have put out yet, and for once they have tried to do something different with their hallmark sound.

Once again, the strength of this album lies in its simplicity, something well exhibited in Les Mémoires Blessées and L’être las – L’envers du miroir though this time the simplicity takes the forms of more straightforward piano riffs, softer pacey drumming segments, and a modest amount of experimentation with vocal parts. These all help the songs to have some kind of even flow through them when in the past it’s been too easy for Dark Sanctuary albums to come across as one big lump of ethereal mush. This time, songs like J’ai Rêvé d’une Vie, La rêveuse and the brilliant Femme d’un soldat mort all give us the same welcome slice of Dark Sanctuary but with a slightly different tinge to them, wheras Creuseur de Terre stands out as being one of the more prominent numbers because of its sinister dark ambient quality. Finish it all off with a French cover of Sally’s Complaint from The Nightmare Before Christmas and you have a remarkable work of ethereal music.

The atmospherics that Dark Sanctuary fill their compositions with are back in full force: everything is tinted with a soft, dark tone, filled with introspection, contemplation and sallow wretchedness. Though this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, those who revel in the atmosphere of this band won’t be disappointed. In this way, it’s very difficult to fault this album since the band deliver everything that they have done previously as well as throwing a few differences into the mix which, rather than tossing the songs into places they don’t belong, are subtle enough to make them stand out from previous efforts. The more standard DS songs are there too, with L’inconnue, Vision meurtrie and Un jour, peut-être…being of the slower and more recognisable style.

Since the lacklustre slump that was Exaudi Vocem Mean Pt I, Dark Sanctuary have risen to produce not only a quality album within their own catalogue, but one of the best things to hit the ethereal and darkwave scene for a very long time. The band have shown they are capable of altering their sound so their music doesn’t suffer, and indeed this may be necessary in order to keep their future music from being carbon copies of their earlier works. Exaudi Vocem Meam Part II is by far the superior of the duo: its lush gloom and self-belief make it one of the best works in the genre that I’ve come across for a very long time - and their self-titled follow-up pales in comparison.

Originally written for Sonic Cathedral