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The side project of Katatonia guitarist Anders Nyström, Diabolical Masquerade would take a much different direction than the man's flagship band. Whereas Nyström's may be most widely associated with doom metal or depressive rock, Diabolical Masquerade goes for a theatrical take on avant-garde black metal. Culminating in the project's final record, it is a shame that Diabolical Masquerade disbanded before a fifth release, but it is difficult to imagine a greater swansong from the band than this. With a host of classical musicians and guest artists taking part in 'Death's Design', Diabolical Masquerade has fashioned an album here that is every bit as ambitious as the other great albums in progressive metal. Self-styled as the soundtrack to some non-existent horror film, 'Death's Design' is a massive journey, every bit as cinematic as it is made out to be.
Although 'Death's Design' is split into a ridiculous amount of tracks, it is essentially one sprawling epic, much in the way of Edge Of Sanity's classic 'Crimson'. Think the black metal aspects of a band like Emperor fused with Opeth's melodic sensibilities, with the added vastness of a string section to give Diabolical Masquerade even more firepower. The first thing that arguably stands out about the record is the sheer amount of tracks it has, and this unnecessarily indulgent separation of what is otherwise a running piece of music may be the album's greatest flaw. With some tracks only being six seconds long, the sheer wonder and bewilderment as to why Blakkheim would have chopped up his masterpiece so haphazardly. From the perspective of listening to 'Death's Design' as a start-to-finish experience however, this does not affect the enjoyment, and it ultimately the only way one can go about listening to the record.
In terms of mood, things are very dark, but in a fairly different way than the sort of introspective darkness that Anders' band Katatonia conveys. Instead, the dark mood here is foreboding and very ominous; perfect for whatever imaginary film that this album could score. The entire album is tied together by a narrative and recurring musical themes; much like Edge Of Sanity's 'Crimson', once again. Most of the time, these ideas flow seamlessly from one another, each bringing a new dimension of fear or beauty to the album. Sometimes though, it does feel like Blakkheim and company forgot to add a transition here and there, or that some of the existing transitions could have been polished to lubricate the flow of the music. The musical ideas are almost constantly impressive however, so it is fairly difficult to let these minor flaws get in the way of the enjoyment.
Diabolical Masquerade has blown me away with this masterpiece of an album. Expect great things from this.
Divided into 61 individual tracks and 20 different movements, how could you not be interested already? The 20 movements are more the actual start and end points for songs, while each individual track divides seperate parts of the song. A little unnessasary, but it makes things interesting. At the same time, I'd like to think of the entire album as one huge song, it flows very well together and uses the same themes over a few times for a truly epic feeling.
This "soundtrack" is assembled by many different artists. Primarily Blakkheim and Diabolical Masquerade. With the musical genious Dan Swanö composing, mixing, editing, and contributing a few solos here and there, how could the album not be amazing. Also there is a quartet from Estonia providing the orchestrations and many other musical guests.
The song styles and feelings can range from brutal, harsh, majestic, triumphant, victorious, nightmarish, groovy, atmosperic, bizarre, blissful, etc... and the music styles can range from black metal, prog metal, symphonic, electronic, ambient, industrial, and more.
Instrumentation includes: black metal vocals, a few clean vocals, clean/distorted electric and acoustic guitars, ambiences, percussion including some interesting "voodoo" style drumming, keyboards, bass, violins, violas, cellos, pianos, and other electronic elements.
The diverse mix of all these genres melded together is outrageous. One second you'll be listening to the most harsh black metal, then it will suddenly switch to captivating orchistrations that sound straight out of a suspenseful, eerie scene from any movie. Also sometimes all these elements are just jumbled on top of each other. As incoherent as that may sound, the album really does flow beautifully and doesn't sound rediculous or messy.
My favorite movements are 5th (one song, "spinning back the clocks" which contains very majestic music and some clean singing, and freaky lyrics); 7th, 9th (which is an all-orchistrated mini-masterpiece in itself); 10th, 11th, and 12th. Keep in mind these are not track numbers, but sections that contiain 3-6 different tracks, except the 5th (and some others)
With top notch production and amazing diversity this must be one of the most original, addicting, and unique metal albums ever recorded. R.I.P. Diabolical Masqerade, I wish they would have made at least one more album.
I love this album and never get tired of it because it has a taste of everything. It's like a party tray with a variety of different kinds of snacks, each with their own flavor and just the right amount.
The variety I am speaking of in this album is the levels of harmonies and extreme black metal throughout the 61 tracks of short tid bits of musical delight. You don't have too much of anything. The right amount of heavyiness and melody is spread out from begining to end. There's experimental noise, jazzy or melodic solos, upbeat rock, dark atmospheric metal, haunting melodies that will leave you breathless, and black metal.
At times, the album sounds like straight up horror movie suspense music, the kind you hear in a movie where the zombies or whatever are approaching and at others could be a beautiful medley, the kind you hear when the hero of a movie saves the day or comes to the rescue. The singing is mostly blood curdling vocals. Dan Swano's voice sometimes comes up in some tracks, it's beautiful and eerie at the same time, kind of like a Disney movie ballad from hell. The album is unique and perfect in it's own way with the oddly timed tracks, you don't get sick of anything cause everything is divided precisley short, the longest track is about two minutes.
The music sounds like it came out of a movie because, if you didn't know yet, it is an actual soundtrack to a film that unfortunatley was cancelled in production due to another movie with the same concept coming out, that movie was Final Destination, which you could say "stole" the whole concept of "death's design". The exact words, "death's design" were said in Final Destination, coincidence or blatant rip off, you be the judge.
I really wished the movie Death's Desgin was made, each track on this brilliant album was planned to be synchronized with each movie scene as the film would progress, hence the different moods and atmospheres the music creates to enhace the visual aspects you would view. Good thing the album was still made regardless of the movie never seeing the light of day......for now. The fate of the movie is still up in the air, but not sure if the album will still be used for it.
If you love this album, I'm sure you'll also like Sigh. They play a similar experimental black metal. Try listening to Sigh's Imagianry Sonicsacpe album if you haven't already. The style of music is quite similar to this. Dark at times then very beautiful and epic the next.
Word of notice- when hearing to this album one must give his full to the tusk of listening. This is NOT music to headbang for, NOT a music to mosh for, NOT a jogging music, NOT a weight lifting music.
What is it then?
An amazing soundtrack to the movie Death's Design (which never seen the light of day), this album paints us events of an unknown horror (there are no lyrics to be found in the album ot on the net), it's doing so by taking a basis of black metal (highlighted by Blackheim's guitar playing and chilling screeching vocals) and adding upon it cosmic kybords (actually done right, and not overbearing, by Dan Swano), Movie Samples (which make me wish the movie came out) and a string Quartet (which, in my humble opinion, works much better then the orchestration of Haggard and Therion). The band also like to throw around Jazzy parts (again, never in an overbearing fashion) and clean vocals to break the Extreme Metal routine.
So why not a 100 for this amazing piece of soundscape?
It gets tiring after a while- no way you can listen to this one more the once a week without having it's quality dropping before your ears.
But give it a chance- go home, close the dors, windows, phones, lights, everything else that might bother you and give this album a spin.