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The Italian gothic ensemble Mandragora Scream appeared with their third full-length try in 2006, both with a refreshed lineup and a refreshed style. Compared to the previous poetic albums Madhouse is more straightforward, this emerges already from the title of the release.
The core elements of this band's music, poetry, mysticism, vampires and fairies actually are still around on Madhouse but this time the music has developed new characteristics. The aggressiveness and power breaks in immediately after the introduction (shorter and simpler compared to the slow, ambient ones of the earlier albums). The style of the group on Madhouse has retained the atmospheric elements, the faint choirs from afar, the screams, groans and whispers but this time the overall approach is faster, catchier and more rock-power-oriented. The melodies are well composed and the instrumental side of the album has no weak points.
The strong and expressive voices of Morgan Lacroix and Terry Horn lead the chariots to the battle with a considerable force. As already mentioned, the faster and aggressive attitude of the album also brings out the strength of the vocalists very well as they use harsher technique than before, having almost extreme metal vocals in the song "Dark Lantern". However, their usual melodic clean singing continues to be more dominant. Morgan Lacroix is a lady with a distinguished voice and singing abilities which is one of the key factors of the band's music and makes it special. Her and Terry Horn's voices sound perfectly together. Out of all bands with female and male duets Mandragora Scream is surely one of the outstanding ones. As a side-note, the band retains their habit of using lines and clips from films in their songs. The last album featured Liv Tyler and Viggo Mortensen in their "LOTR" roles, this time Julia Roberts can be heard saying her lines in a scene taken from the film "Flatliners" that appears on the track "Ghost Of Swan".
The album is rather solid, one cannot find any really pointless fillers here because every song has something to say. In my opinion the best moments of the album occur in the songs "Frail Midnight", where Terry shines as the lead vocalist accompanied by the haunting voice of Morgan, "Blight Thrills", the main catchy hit of the release and "Lifeless Haze", another powerful and catchy song. The emotionally most profound songs are "Frozen Space", a passionate solo of Morgan made even more beautiful by a conversation between her and a child's voice which may be understood as a dialogue between a mother and daughter about the secrets of the starry sky. The aforementioned "Ghost Of Swan" and the final track "Nightfall" are the other thoughtful and slower songs which bring forth the special feeling of the music.
No other suggestions but, have crystal clear water turn into clouds of dreams in a cup of pastis or absinthe, sit back, relax and enjoy the music.