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"Dark Sanctuary" deliver a very relaxing and calm piece of dark ambient music with a reduced number and variety of instruments that focuses on an atmosphere that perfectly fits to the title that suggests a melancholic empire. The band's sound is neither close to classic music nor to any form of metal but an introspective kind of ambient dark wave music that fits as background music to rainy autumn nights or thoughtful times of solitude.
The poetic and well crafted French lyrics are quite deep and interesting for anyone that is interested in artistic literature or exotic music. Musically, the album is not only calm but also very slow which is somewhat a problem because the band is able to find atmospheric and intense melodies but repeats them over several minutes without developing on those good approaches. While the first songs seem to be hypnotizing and may still pardon for this slow moments of tranquility, this tactic doesn't work on the length of the entire album and the band doesn't change the formula at all and refuses to vary in any kind of direction. There are no touching vocal passages, no haunting instrumental solos, no surprising mid tempo or fast passages and the first touches of atmosphere and mystery vanish quite fast. That's why I can't pick any song and describe it in detail and simply suggest you to listen to a couple of songs right on from the beginning to get a better idea of what I'm talking about.
Other ambient bands like the weird and mysterious "Rosa Crux" or the quite diversified "Die Verbrannten Kinder Evas" and even more popular artists like the very spiritual "Enya" or the more folk influenced legend "Loreena McKennitt" simply add something more to their calm and hypnotizing sound to keep the attention high. Even for fans of classic music, there are bands and projects such as "Adiemus", the more medieval "Era" or the more popular and electronic "Enigma" that could please to fans of dark pop music as well as to the gothic maniacs. "Dark Sanctuary" are simplistic and remain in their unique style based on keyboards and a couple of soft violins or pipers as well as on soft, fragile and not disturbing female vocals for too long and can't get a higher status as a good band for peaceful background music or dark and intellectual movie scores.
Even though I personally tend to prefer the numerous bands and artists I have listed up in this review and would normally give only a voting around fifty percent, I still must underline the simplistic originality of this band that is rare to find nowadays and that may be a true pleasure and treasure for introspective people that like to have moments of pure tranquility. This quality is worth around ninety percent easily. If I would ever decide to try out some yoga or some meditation on a regular basis, I would remember this band and this album and purchase it. I don't mean this in an ironic way but I'm very honest and tend to underline that one must be in a very calm and spiritual state of mind to fully enjoy this music which is a very rare case for me. But I take the band's style as it is and honour their very unique efforts and that's why I give this album the exact rating between my personal appreciation and the more objective quality rating.
There is something to be said for intentionally slow, meandering, relaxing music. Yes, as a metalhead I have the ability to throw on some Iron Maiden or some Megadeth and feel a sense of inner peace, sure, but the other parts of me can’t help but appreciate what Dark Sanctuary seems to offer with every release of theirs: neoclassical instrumental music capable of piercing straight to the soul. Oftentimes anything but happy or joyful, their music has the uncanny ability to conjure tears in one’s eyes. Royaume Melancolique is Dark Sanctuary’s first release, and perhaps their most overtly bleak, dreary, and gloomy one.
Deliberate is a key adjective for this album. Even on the shorter tracks, nothing happens quickly. Repetition and persistence are utilized in order to drive home the effect of each movement. On songs like Night Rain, L'Autre Monde, Miserere, and Anatheme it can take upwards of a minute for one passage to end and another to begin, and in some cases the meat of the song or vocal movements won’t appear until well over three or four minutes in. What truly astonished me was for how long movements would last on the longer tracks, I never found myself bored once. Indeed, readers of previous reviews of mine would know I often frown on repetition as a sign of laziness, but this is not the case here, nor on other Dark Sanctuary albums (Though those are for another time). Enthralled I was as the album progressed from start to finish – the only constant being the presence of ambient rain.
The idea of “building up” to a release finds itself present throughout the album as well. Amusingly, I’m reminded of the themes found in electronic trance music when listening to Royaume Melancolique. Fond memories aside, the listener should expect a series of rises and falls with each song. Movements start out slow, usually involving nothing more than a simple piano melody, or perhaps a synthesizer, but eventually build up to incorporate percussion and vocals and a slight increase in tempo. Minutes could have passed by now, all culminating to a crescendo of sound as the percussion turns to a ritualistic rhythm, vocal lines are belted out with choir-like strength, soaring synths and pianos, until it all breaks and the cycle begins anew.
The recommendation goes out to a very particular sort of individual. It goes out to the ones with a soft spot for instrumental and classical music, and perhaps those with a liking for ambient (Though it should be noted, there isn’t any ambient music in the traditional sense here). Do not expect any metal to be found here. (In fact, I’m a little unsure as to why these folks are even on the Archives in the first place. I’ve yet to find that “one” release!) . This is the album you’ll find yourself turning to during a summer or autumn rain, one you listen to while conducting intense soul-searching, or when a particular whim for something beautiful overtakes you. I know from experience that Night Rain happens to be one of the single most beautiful tracks I’ve heard in my musical career. Songs of note are Night Rain, The Final Battle, Maze, and Anatheme.