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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.
Ach. Please. PLEASE. Seriously. I think I'd rather listen to "Cold Lake". Hell, I think I'd rather listen to Nightwish, or even Tarja Turunen's solo project. It really is that goddamn bad. In fact, it is so bad, it could actually be on Code666. This guy was in the recording line-up for "Dance of December Souls"? How? And then, why did THIS happen??
This is of course another one of these abominations that I was coaxed into listening to by some friend of mine assuring me it's the greatest thing in the universe. For some reason that always works out really well for me (note the sarcasm). And you know, much to this album's advantage said friend was not so much into playing whole albums back in the day, so I only heard little snippets of it in Winamp shuffle, which by one very wise decision by Blakkheim are usually only around 15-30 seconds long. Judging by those tiny bits I actually thought that this album - while far from anything great or outstanding - was at least fine and listenable. A glaring and potentially fatal misjudgement on my part, that's for sure. A couple of seconds of this garbage can indeed be tolerable, but a whole five minutes of it already constitutes self-torture, a whole album of this borders certain suicide.
To give you a general idea of how and why this is as terrible as it is I can sum up the sound of this atrocity quite easily because there really isn't much to it in terms of depth, it's basically just music by numbers, just in a particularly annoying way due to the nature of these numbers, the influences the album - or the musician behind it, rather - draws on, and the way they are combined. Basically, there are three major parts to this album, randomly thrown in between and into each other.
The first and most prominent part is pretty much nothing but ultra-generic Cradle of Filth-worship. You know, that type of cheesy, sugar-coated and overgothed post-"Black Metal" we've all come to love so much, though even more lacking in substance than the so much revered paragon from Suffolk. There is a bit of variation to the shameless plagiarism, as sometimes the music transcends into the realms of actual Black Metal, be it only the less than appealing Swedish melodic variety. To make matters worse, just as often it just descends into completely moronic "groove" nonsense that is almost as bad as Sepultura's "Roots" album. Yes, you read correctly, I wrote "Roots", not "Chaos A.D.". It really is that fucking bad. Actually has those lame pretentious tribal drums occasionally as well, taking the "Roots"-comparison even further. Heck, it's almost Soulfly.
The second major part is that nauseating Guns'n'Roses (and company) type of early 90s post-glam many of the (in)famous 80s transvestites puked out in complete desperation over losing their much beloved super-stardom to more modern forms of music. You know, the type of lame cock rock that plays around with elements bordering grunge, Rage Against The Machine/Red Hot Chili Peppers kind of bouncy-castle-core and even proto nu-"metal" elements, but still sounds like fucking retarded lame cock rock, just even more retarded. Finally, the third part sounds pretty much like some really crappy Batman soundtrack. And I certainly don't mean the Batman Begins/The Dark Knight kind of Batman. Not even the Michael Keaton Batman. Hell, not even the somewhat cult-ish classic Adam West Batman. What I mean is the retarded, annoying, pathetic Batman Forever/Batman & Robin kind of Batman. I may be repeating myself, but I can really only say: Yes, it really is that goddamn fucking bad. You want to know how really bad it is? Just skip forward to the thirtieth track, when Blakkheim covers a tune from the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack, which then turns into something that sounds like a rap beat, then returns into a Guns'n'Roses style cock rock version of the Conan tune. Need I say more? Dare I say more?
Everyone's favourite fun fact is of course that Blakkheim advertised this abomination as a soundtrack for a supposed horror movie, which of course never existed. And we're damn lucky for that. It certainly would have been a horror for me. But even putting the horrendously bad quality of the music aside, how appropriate do you really think basically a mixture of lame modernized cock rock and cheesy neo-Batman moments would be for a horror movie? The only genre I can even remotely find this fitting in is that of late 80s/early 90s comedy movies about American high school life. You know, some sort of mixture between Revenge of the Nerds and American Pie, just a billion times worse. Besides the aforementioned quality, there is no horror to be found here, just pathetic upbeat fun music, so disgustingly happy sounding that it makes Finntroll seem like Disembowelment in comparison. What the fuck is this crap, really? Why was it ever recorded? Who buys this shit, and who actually listens to it? It's almost insulting that anyone would release this. I'd rather see Rainfall be on first place in the charts than see any copy of this record sold. Well, you can guess what I'm about to say... It really is that bad.
In conclusion... well, I don't know what more really needs to be said. This is quite possibly the worst album ever recorded. Thinking about what to say about this album almost comes out as a collection of the worst possible Angry Nintendo Nerd quotes. There just barely is any way to talk about this pile of buffalo dung and not break out into random cursing. It isn't just simply worthless like many other albums I don't care the least bit for, it truly is offensive in how much it sucks. Please, if you have a shred of sanity within you, avoid this at all cost, unless you are into extreme masochism and seriously want to badly punish yourself. It really is... well, you know.
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.