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Diabolical Masquerade - Death's Design - 90%

ConorFynes, July 5th, 2011

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.