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This is the third album from German gothic metal quintet Mandrake, following their 2005 album The Balance of Blue, and the famous 1872 disappearance of the crew of the brigantine Mary Celeste provides an appropriately spooky concept to hang the album on, with movie dialogue samples throughout the album providing reminders of this theme.
The opening and title track ‘Mary Celeste’ sets out Mandrake’s stall - this is glossy, high-concept, goth metal, dominated by keyboards and Birgit Lau’s sweet but insipid vocals. A dozen more tracks in similar Nightwish / Epica / Season’s End vein ensue. There are power ballads (‘Fragile’), even softer ballads (‘Sweet Desolation’, ‘Paralyzed’) and harder-rocking tracks (‘Moments (Touched By Time)’, ’Solace’). And can’t you just tell from those titles what this album is going to sound like? I got a bit excited by the second track when I thought it contained a threat to ‘fill the lake with Christians’. Imagine my disappointment when, far from the gnarly black metal anti-Christian genocide I was envisaging, this turned out to be about not Christians, but ‘crystals of forgiveness’, whatever they may be.
Listen – I would never dream of listening to this kind of dry-ice pumpin’, lighter-wavin’, would-be arena-fillin’ soft rock if it didn’t get sent to me for review. This is not my idea of a pleasurable listen. Every song conjures up horrible visions of a slow-motion video montage of Mandrake playing in front of a large audience, intercut with shots of the singer sashaying around a shadowy mansion in a long velvet gown, carrying a big candelabra. Having said that, I can see that Mandrake are pretty good at what they do, and I wish them well, and if you like this kind of thing, then good luck to you too. Hey Mandrake, you must have caught me in a good mood. I've been snorting crystals of forgiveness. Now get out of my stereo!
This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine: