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In the Flame of Black Art has a sound that is quite rare to find, even within black metal. The band uses a strange, yet effective style. The output is a softer sounding symphonic black metal record, very similar in style to Absidia's Triumphal Way of Eternal Gods, released four years after this album, but both are within the same time period of the genre. Aside from both playing the same genre, they utilize a relatively minimalistic production, contrary to what more famous bands are doing in the present. This gives the record a darker and antique feeling, which was what the band was hoping to achieve. The major theme conveyed in the music has to be medieval related, as the whole album feels like a black metal play or theater production, a theme not too rare in gothic and symphonic metal genre.
The band comes from Poland and started in 1995, a time when Emperor's "In the Nightside Eclipse" was just released; Arcturus had just released its first few demos along with Bal-Sagoth; Nokturnal Mortum released its debut like Samael. While these early albums were some of the first in the symphonic black metal subgenre, it also makes Darzamat one of the first bands to pioneer into a new genre, which gives the album incredible uniqueness. Something that tends to happen in many musical styles is that bands imitate and simply give more of what is already out there, often with much less quality, With much room for exploration in unknown territory, Darzamat take us back in time to a dark opera of sorts.
Although symphonic black metal is very dynamic and can be approached from many angles, a lot of bands stick to the simple formula of average song length. However, for more atmospheric works, such as this, the song length is over 6 minutes. This gives the band a lot of room for the songs to grow and captivate the listener. There is something very erotic about the songs themselves, which ties into the somewhat pornographic cover. The melodies are astonishingly catchy, leaving you hungry for more. The sound itself is slow, melancholic, erotic, yet peaceful and beautiful. The incredibly distorted electric guitar gives a much needed layer of heaviness, yet it never dominates the sound or compromises it. Once the guitar gets going, it rarely stops, except in a few moments when it lets the keyboards or vocals take a shine. Both as a base and background, the guitar never disappoints. However due to the lack of punch in the guitar, it is hard to restrict this album as just symphonic black metal, since it also takes many elements from symphonic metal. It is much lighter than most symphonic black metal albums out there, and just makes it that much more special. It is worth noting that if you were to remove the guitars, and drums, it would be almost like a real play and would fall into other non-metal genres, which shows that "sounding heavier' isn't always the only way to achieve success.
In the Flame of the Black Arts was unique in 1997, and still is today. Only a minority of bands have released albums that even come close to the style chosen, as most bands to choose either a heavier approach, with loud and powerful vocals, or simplistic and shorter songs with less symphonic elements. Speaking of vocals, there is much variety to be found; there are raspy black metal vocals utilized mainly, female clean singing, and male melancholic-like vocals. The doses of each are pretty good, and the black metal vocals are the best ones here, yet the others are utilized strategically and enhance the music. And in all cases they are kept to a lower volume than the guitars or keyboards. Overall the album delivers its statement in a solid manner, theatrical symphonic black metal with a softer approach. The inclusion of elements from symphonic gothic metal enhances the experience in a marvelous way. All of the songs deliver a consistent approach, yet at times they take a little bit to get going, but once they start they usually end quite solid.
Originally written for Sputnikmusic.com
Darzamat is a very original band, there is no doubt about this. It is very hard to categorize their music. Is it black metal, is it gothic metal? It is some crossover between those two genres, taking the best elements from both and blending them into their original style of let's say dark metal.
When I first heard this album, I was, I must say, disgusted by the lo-fi production, but as I was listening more and more to the music, I was taken into the Secret Garden, so to say... The album title , ''In The Flames Of Black Art'' is very symbolic, as is the whole music. There is an aura of mystery, the music sounds very mystic and hermetic. The lyrics are poems put to music, written in the symbolist manner, using many allegories, and they can be read in different ways, which adds to the mystical feel the music creates, and is open to a very subjective, personnal listening and receiving of it. The lyrics mainly deal with emotions, but in an obscure way. The music is mainly keyboard driven. The keyboards are the main responsible for that mystical feel. They use some instruments I never heard before. They give the music a symphonic skeleton, which sounds majestic, beautiful, but never aggressive, just calming and soothing; unusual for gothic/black metal. Also the music is very dramatic and theatrical.
Darzamat has two vocalists, a male and female one, and both of them are not the usual sort of Beauty and the Beast duos. The male vocalist, Flauros, the frontman of Darzamat, uses different vocal styles, a growl and a clean tenor voice. The tenor voice is pretty standard fare, but the growls are instantly recognizable – no other vocalist sounds like that, they sound very evil, it is hard to describe them, but they are something inbetween a death grunt and a BM rasp. I presume his vocals are an acquired taste, as his style can drive away listeners for being unusual. The female vocals provided by Katarzyna are very high pitched, but it is not that she sings very high, but it is the tone of her voice, and it is pretty unique. She initially sounds very odd and time is needed to get accustomed to her voice, but once you get used to it, you will be lulled by her unique vocal style. The beauty of her voice doesn't come from her skill, but from her style, which fits very well into the whole mystic and atmospheric concept. The vocal duets don't do either the classic BnB vocal trade. Usually, male vocals sing one line and female repeat the same line in a different way. In other instances, female vocals apear solo and do some chant like parts (the oh-oh and ah-ah), or sing their own line, but only at key moments, as for in Theatre of Rapture, when she sings ''I see a bird on the sky which steals my longing...''.
The opener ''In The Flames Of Black Art'' begins with some trumpet sounding keys supported by some drums reminiscent of a war march, very dramatic opening that soon bursts into the 2nd track ''Legend''. This song has many tempo changes, ranging from fast, with blast beats and slow parts. Keys are ever present, while riffs follow the keys, but it is not noticeable until you listen very carefully. I won't go song by song, as I would leave this to the listeners, because i think this music is just made for personnal listening experience and subjective interpreation, I will just say that all songs have their own personality, but as the music is not very accessible at first listen, the CD will need a few spins to make the music shine, for the music indeed shines.
You will notice that the music has a very good flow, which is a Darzamat trademark, as all their albums have that sense of logical and natural flow. Even when the tempo changes, it comes not abruptly, but albeit not expected, it doesn't give the feeling that the various parts of the songs have been pasted to each other. There is no bad song, all songs are beautiful, every song is a separate musical idea; but as I already said, this is a very original and unique piece of art, that needs time and careful listening to be trully appreciated. Just enter the Secret Garden, behold the Thatre of Rapture and let yourself burn in the Flames of Black Art.
It has taken awhile, but I have finally come across this album while searching for an entirely different band of a different genre and ended up here.
From reading around about this band, I noticed some disturbing similarities in all the reviews: the words "unoriginal" and "boring". Well, to be honest, no, this is not the most original release ever, nor is it the best thing you could ever listen to. However, to throw it out entirely and then compare it to other bands that do not relate in any concrete way is trite. This release is a solid release, not the best you could ever find, and if you were expecting any more than that, well, you need to stop being so overly optimistic.
The guitarwork on this album sounds quite primitive, as it is SUPPOSED to. Sometimes, it reminds me of early, early Samael from back in '91 or so. It also sounds to be INTENTIONAL to a degree, as I have heard other (and more recent) bands attempt this same lo-fi production quality and fail at it extensively. None of the riffs are overly theatric and they mesh along at a nice pace with the keyboards that take precedence in the music. Rather than the drums, this music is lead along by the synth effects and it takes a listen or two to really begin to get in to. Most of the album takes place at a sort of mid-paced tempo, which is enjoyable since so many bands attempt to be a neo-Marduk and play blazingly fast.
If there is a bass player, I certainly can't tell, but I'm also not necessarily complaining. A lower-toned bass probably would have ended up either overpowering or unbalancing the music aesthetic. With the synth and guitar interludes, it can sometimes remind me of early Summoning. The vocals are nowhere near the calibur of Protector's or Silenius' vocals, but one also shouldn't expect they will, either. Summoning's releases are all high-quality A-standard epic black metal. This release from Darzamat is simply solid- not overly fantastic but nothing to genuinely piss and moan about, either.
Of course, there are a few problems I had with this release. Sometimes, the female vocals are more comparable to wailing rather than singing, which can be really annoying. Normally, Kate's vocals do not bother me at all, even if the recording quality tends to drain a bit of power from her vocals. Another thing, some of the drumwork tends to REALLY overpower the guitar and makes it barely audible. Being that this release is subtly driven by guitar and moreso by synths and vocals, if you remove that element, it feels a lot less focused compared to other tracks where the drumming is a lot more undertoned to the guitar.
In short, "In The Flames Of Black Art" is not going to blow your mind away, but it certainly should not cause your ears any harsh discomfort- only mild if you are horribly picky. If anyone expects Shakespeare and prevents this expectation from simply letting them sit down and enjoy the music, lower your expectations and realize not everything has to be 100% or 0%. This is simply an enjoyable listen, which, if I can recall, is supposed to be the entire point of music and art to begin with.
This is a re-release of a 1996 demo. This band makes highly unoriginal Gothic/Black Metal in the vein of Thy Serpent and the old Theatre Of Tragedy. The only thing this CD has got going for it is the fact that it is from 1996, a time when this kind of music could still be regarded as original. The production is shabby with lots of keyboards at the surface and a very frail guitar sound just beneath the annoying drum computer sounds. The vocals are ok as long as the singer uses his Black scream but when the female singer starts to sing... The bio calls her voice "erotic" and I can tell you if this is regarded as erotic in Poland I feel sorry for the Polish. She's not quite on key, sings fairly soft thereby lacking all power, something which is a must for a female vocalist in a Metal band I’d say. Her patterns aren't really all that original either so I won't start praising her for her arrangement prowess. Sorry dear, but singing along with the keyboards? I could manage that! And to top it all off the singer sometimes joins her for a bone chilling duet!!
The biggest problem this band has is the utter lack of good song writing and that during the entire album. Several times the thought creeps up on me that I've heard this music being played a lot better than this. It really doesn't go any further than "brooding" mid-tempo stuff with the occasional blast beat. VERY predictable and VERY boring. The gothic parts are stolen from the aforementioned bands and the Black stuff is somewhere in-between Limbonic Art and Tartaros, two bands who've done this type of music a 1.000.000 times more convincingly. But hey, this is only the first demo so let's not despair but listen to the next album with fresh courage!
(This review was originally written for www.lordsofmetal.nl and is republished with kind permission of the webmaster)