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Sometimes artists fail. In the world of art, that's unavoidable, since boundaries must be pushed, limits must be tested, and new innovation is the fodder that drives the whole process. But more often than not, failure in art has something to do with something vague that can be summed as "creative control" or "restraint". And, unfortunately, this is where Thy Symphony, as so many before, fails. And the band fails hard.
The music on Darkness End is supposed to be some kind of symphonic metal, probably with neoclassical power metal foundation, but it fails on so many levels that an autopsy is absolutely necessary; the creepy alien corpse lies on the gurney, and the pathologist wonders where to make the first incision...
The main problem with Darkness End is the absolute lack of any sort of restraint on anything. The demo is a 22-minute sample of chaos and mayhem of incompatible pieces of a 3D jigsaw puzzle created by an insane architect, and that kills it. There are symphonic elements obviously mostly performed on a keyboard, classical female vocals, male grunting and singing, a hyperactive bassist, goofy songwriting, a flute, and maybe some other real instruments, and extremely crappy production. And it all falls apart, because there's simply too much of it. It's only possible to shove a baby with typhus, a feral 22-pound male cat, a bowling ball and some dynamite with a lit fuse into a plastic grocery bag; just try to add a canister of nerve gas, five pounds of ball bearings or nuts and bolts, a rotten capybara, and the collected works of Alphaville on CD to that, and the bag will burst in the seams. Not overdoing it is called "restraint", and having it is useful for any endeavours you might wish to undertake in your life.
On some strange level, this was probably intended as a challenger for the likes of Nightwish and Therion, to overtake the throne of symphonic metal with overflowing confidence and a bold assault with sheer quantity over quality. But the result is something different. Essentially, it makes no sense.
First of all, while the band has a basic sound that might be recognizable to someone who has the guts to listen to this more than half a dozen times, the songwriting makes it redundant. The songs mostly lack any coherent progression, and turn out to be simple collections of parts that do not connect on any level: a single song might contain symphonic parts with female vocals that do not combine at all with the rest of the music, slow neoclassical keyboard parts with almost Renaissance acoustic guitar on top of them, different sections of semi-symphonic metal that do not connect at all with each other, a choir (!), and other goofiness. And it's all more or less keyboard-driven, which is a bit odd, since the demo CD insert does not mention a keyboardist at all. It's simply chaotic, and there's nothing in the songs to grab. They march past like the military of a banana republic, colourful and distinct, but having little to do with each other. Maybe the idea was to offer really ambitious songwriting, with little repetition, and really progressive or perhaps even opera-like wandering from one point to another, with little logic other than the composer's fuzzy vision. Whatever the original logic was, the result is a jumble, and there's nothing to stick to.
The second gripe is related to the choice of both the vocalists and the balance of the recording. Neither makes any sense to a casual listener. Now, for those who might think so, it's necessary to point out that Tarja Turunen is NOT a great opera singer. Looking from a completely different angle than the metal crowd's point of view, she's a decent singer, nothing exceptional, and will never, EVER get a main role in an opera. She does have a classical style and some training, but she lacks power, a vibrato of at least half an octave, and certain other parts that a real classical female singer needs to have,, no matter if they make sense or not. And that has been a blessing on Nightwish. But not so here! Nope! Camila Senne, the only vocalist mentioned on the inserts, is closer to a real classical singer, although not too good, either. Googling her name today yields results, and she seems to offer singing lessons in Brazil, and that's a much better choice for her; her extravagant and flamboyant style might suit other genres of music, but it's certainly too classically hardcore for this kind of metal. Whenever she opens her mouth, she completely overwhelms the rest of the band, and the result is an abomination. And while there, strangely, is no male vocalist listed on the CD insert, some unnamed gentleman courts the heroic classical lady with his grunting and yelling, turning the affair into an incompatible marriage, and the result sounds like a Married with Children living room dialogue. The female vocals have been mixed to the very front of the whole sound, and simply drown everything else; the male vocals are of the second tier, and do not fit their female counterparts at any point.
The third main problem is the production. The sound is, even forgetting the silly songwriting, simply chaotic. There's too much going on, with the keyboards wandering their own paths in the neoclassical harpsichord thickets, a super-fast bassist playing competently but still doing his own thing without paying attention to the rest of the music, and lamentably lifeless guitars and drums. And it's all been thrown into a big cauldron, left to simmer for 2 minutes, and served with a brutally huge wooden spoon. The production has the worst balance EVER, and there are no redeeming factors. The vocalist sound like they've been recorded in completely different buildings, and the rest lacks almost all cohesion. Scattered pieces reach the seafloor an hour after the vocalists' incompatibility cuts Titanic in half.
This demo is simply painful to listen to. There's nothing to offer it any solace in front of the condemning jury, except one thing: it at the very least contains enormous potential in the way of ideas. If someone was to compile them all into a single list, see what works and what doesn't, then arrange them anew with some restraint and logic, and inflate the total length to a full album. Then exercise extreme creative control over the whole process, including ruthless pruning of withered twigs and entire branches of needless material, and force the whole into a mold that actually resembled the original insane vision, and this just might turn into something worthy.
...but whatever that "worthy" might be, it sure as hell does not resemble Darkness End in any way. Yes, there is a follow-up album, and it's a good idea it was released six years later. This band certainly needed the time to get their shit together.