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Now here is another exceptionally talented band that has not yet broken out of its local Athenian scene. I was recommended Divine Element's self-titled debut at my favorite extreme metal store (Bowel of Noise, your recommendations are golden) and decided to write this review upon hearing the wonderful news of their working on a second album. So what we have is a three-piece that quite noticeably draws influence from several subgenres while playing music that is entirely their own. I can only describe Divine Element as a mix of epic melodic death and black metal (think Dissection but epic rather than dark), and they play it with an astounding level of emotion that captivates the listener and takes him on an adventure.
What's a good adventure movie like? The brave hero should face danger and look it in the eye, but he also must mature, make decisions and come to terms with harsh realities. Forgive the cheese, but that's exactly what runs through my head when I listen to this album. The atmosphere is phenomenal, and it's difficult to describe all the places it takes you; you have storming fast paced war anthems like "Dawn of Battle" that place a sword in your hand and send you to the frontline, but you also have mid-paced songs like the epic closing track "Crossing the Rubicon" that fill your heart with melancholy. The album essentially alternates between these two moods through a legion of memorable riffs, both galloping melodic death metal and tremolo-picked black metal in style. The leads are the highlight of the album, with harmonies, solos and plain tremolo riffs that carry mood and melody perfectly. Just listen to the first minute of "Dawn of Battle" and see if it doesn't raise your spirits, see if you can resist banging your head when the rhythm guitar joins in. Then listen to the wailing of the guitar in "Crossing the Rubicon", hear the instrument weep and consider doing so yourself. Bear witness to the sun rising as the tame acoustic section in "Of Darkness" develops into a brief but epic buildup.
All the instruments are where they need to be sonically. Needless to say the band doesn't sound very heavy, nor should it--the production is relatively clean, and the clarity is a plus when you want to hear those awesome leads. Great drumming and bass guitar too (the latter occasionally gets it's turn in the spotlight for some nice variety). I would say that the sound and atmosphere that Divine Element create is reminiscent of Dissection, viking-era Bathory and Rotting Christ's "Aealo", and yet it sounds different to all of those. It's not about vikings or chaos, Divine Element is it's own experience. Granted, the vocals in particular instantly bring Sakis Tolis to mind, but they have more of a death growl to them, and they also go clean whenever the mood requires it.
Lyrically the album mostly deals with war, but steers clear of macho Manowarisms and chooses a more thoughtful approach. "Here on the field of truth, the true value of the man unfolds" is what we hear on "Dawn of Battle", but as the war rages on and the soldier is exposed to its horrors he changes: "Fighting and selling my blood for insanity, drowning in wine my remaining humanity, and finally became a shadow of myself, and today I lost a brother in the fray, and again, and again..." This soldier marches on the field with sword and spear, but dreams of returning home. Not exactly original stuff, but I found it touching nonetheless, and the varying viewpoints on the subject matter compliment the two moods of the music. In this sense it resembles the concept of "Aealo", which is definitely a good thing.
Also included is an excellent cover of Necromantia's "Ancient Pride", which fits with the themes of the album. The synth in the intro has been converted into a folky sounding acoustic guitar, and it's executed so well you would have never thought it wasn't Divine Element's composition to begin with.
I have no complaints concerning this album. It is a fantastic debut (hopefully to be followed up by even better material) that, along with the debut of the mighty Crucifiction, only strengthens my love for the Greek underground scene and for metal music in general. If you want melodic death/black metal with phenomenal atmosphere, check this out and spread the word. The band have a link to the free download on their Myspace, so no excuses. Now excuse me as I listen to the closing track's ambient outro and the tides of the Rubicon soothe my war-torn and broken shell of manhood.