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A Power Metal Enigma - 85%

A Friendly Observer, September 1st, 2018
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, End of the Light (Digipak)

The enigma of Elisa-era Dark Moor is something to behold: at the peak of the symphonic power metal genre's prime, seemingly out of nowhere comes this pair of phenomenal albums by this band from Spain, a country way outside of this genre's typical radar. Nothing they'd released until then demonstrated potential on this level: 1999's Shadowland features mediocre songwriting and unlistenable production. Then comes 2000's Hall of the Olden Dreams, which features some knock-out hooks and an incredible sense of atmosphere. But while some consider that album the band's best, in my eyes it prepared the groundwork for their definitive statement, The Gates of Oblivion.

Killer opener 'In the Heart of Stone' is quintessential Dark Moor: urgent guitar work with baroque synthphonic stylings -- the latter of which complements the former, rather than dominating it. The chorus is one part of the song rather than being the anthemic centerpiece that holds the music together. Elisa's contralto vocals are almost shocking in a scene filled with so many divas. Like the chorus, she is strong, but not the main attraction; she is the singer, not the Female Vocalist (TM). Still, she does get some time to take the lead: ballad 'Your Symphony' is full of dreamy synths that are folkish without devolving into melodic cliches. The warm moods evoked by the somewhat-counterintuitive melodies of this album are quite different than what I am accustomed to from power metal, and nowhere is that more evident than on that song. It is miles away from what the icy Nordic acts could come up with -- it is far more relaxed and sincere. Those seeking melodic cliches will find them on the bonus track, which uses an evocative but too-familiar synth line to summon images of ancient Egypt.

There is an enthusiasm and taste for adventure that pervades the record without resorting to stories about knights and wizards and magic. The adventure they seek is another kind the Nordic acts know little about, but which is more familiar to geographically similar acts like Portugal's Oratory: the glory of imperial journeying. "A New World" is inspired by the highs and lows of Spain's explorer past, and features a particularly punchy hook. Interestingly, the album's second half might be stronger than the first: there's a late-album triumph in 'A Truth for Me', which gets the album's best verses, and 'Night of the Age' evokes one of the most striking atmospheres of the record. The journey from there to here leads us through a few unnecessary synth interludes, which, while pretty and well-composed, just don't sound 'big' enough when carried by only electronic sounds.

All of this is just a prelude to this band's magnum opus, the final track, their 11-minute tribute to Mozart, 'Dies Irae (Amadeus).' It is hard to overstate how good this song is; it might be the most authentic tribute to classical music I've encountered in metall. The fact that it manages to make the most overplayed passage of 'Lachrymosa' sound fresh is testimony to how awesome this song is. It is so infectious, passionate, and natural; every band member shines, the song never loses momentum. Everyone gets a chance to show off their technical skill here, too -- and without sacrificing musicality. Listening to this track, one is truly taken with just how talented this band is.

And yet, at least for this incarnation, it was also the band's swan song. After only two albums, Elisa and the men of Dark Moor parted ways, and went in different musical directions. Consequently there is a mystique to this album, like its existence is a happy accident. It is not a masterpiece, but it is must-listening for anyone who enjoys this genre of metal.

Cheesy, but delightful - 90%

caspianrex, November 11th, 2009

Okay, I'll admit it, I LOVE cheese. Both the real food, and the musical stuff. Trans-Siberian Orchestra? Awesome! Pat Boone singing hard rock and metal faves? Bring it on! Dark Moor? Premium cheese!!!

Really, this album is worth listening to for its final Mozart-inspired track, if for no other reason. Trans-Siberian never played Mozart this well. In fact, some actual symphony orchestras don't play Mozart with this much enthusiasm. Sure, it's full of masturbatory guitar scales and arpeggios, cheap keyboards, and loads of pseudo-classical vocals, but this track buzzes with excitement. You can sense the amount of fun the musicians are having in almost every note, and there are an awful lot of notes here. I've sung the Mozart Requiem several times, and we rarely had this much fun.

And really, just about every track on this album has that kind of energy and excitement. I know it must be a requirement of every symphonic metal drummer to go nuts on the double kick-bass, and Jorge is no exception. I don't know how the guy manages to play that fast without his legs falling off. These guys don't tend to ease into songs--almost every track starts off at top speed, and doesn't let up. Ever. And that's another thing I always love about symphonic metal, and Dark Moor in particular. The musicians are absolutely committed to playing as many notes as they can, as fast as possible. Guitar and keyboard have to be synced perfectly to pull that trick off, and Dark Moor does just that. "Starsmaker," "A New World" and the aforementioned "Dies Irae (Amadeus)" are perfect examples of how precisely the band plays.

The vocalists have a little easier job in the stamina department, in my opinion. While the instrumental tracks churn away underneath them, they just sort of float above the top. Not having ever seen Dark Moor in concert, I am curious as to how well this band plays live. It seems like it would be extremely difficult for the vocals to be heard over band in a live setting. Nevertheless, I find the vocals pretty nicely blended on this album. Although Elisa Martin is not as richly blessed, vocally speaking, as Tarja Turunen of Nightwish, her voice doesn't seem as out of place as Tarja's often does. (I imagine comparisons with Nightwish are inevitable when one looks at a symphonic metal band with a female vocalist, but Dark Moor really ends up sounding quite different from Nightwish, and often quite a bit better.)

So yes, overall, this album is a major Cheesefest, but it's a slick, well-executed Cheesefest. And the result is tasty and satisfying.

Perfect example of what Dark Moor can accomplish. - 95%

KayTeeBee, December 11th, 2004

I got this album quite a while back, but I never really thought of reviewing it until I found it in my bedroom the other day. Simply put, The Gates of Oblivion is one of the best Euro-Power albums ever (along with Stratovarius' Visions). The classical influences lying around are fairly obvious, and the riffs are pure Powermetal. The vocals are also sensational, Elisa's voice is full of emotion. Yes, she's a girl, but don't expect some operatic Nightwish-esque vocals. The vocals don't get boring at all.

This album also contains one of the best Powermetal songs ever made: Nevermore.Every single thing about this song is just fucking amazing. Vocals full of emotions, great harp and guitar melodies, and fucking FAST neo-classical-ish solos. The song that shows the biggest classical influence is undoubtably "The Gates of Oblivion". It's just a short instrumental played on keyboard, but fuck, it's lovely! I also have to mention"The Citadel of the Light", the final interlude before "A Truth for Me" and the 11 minute long masterpiece that is Dies Israe (Amadeus).

I got this album pretty long ago, and its cleverness still impresses me every time I listen to it. It's Dark Moor's masterpiece, and should be regarded as a Euro-Power masterpiece by every single fan of the genre!

Incredible and shameless Euro-Power - 95%

OSheaman, May 28th, 2004

Oh my God, this is my first review in about forever. I'm so excited. WILL IT SUCK?!?!?!?!

Anyway, this is without a doubt Dark Moor's best work to date. Elisa Martin's voice is freaky, true, but the songs are straight, shameless Euro-Power, and calling them catchy would not even begin to do them justice. They are the epitome of good Euro-Power, following in the footsteps of the progenitors of auld (Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, etc.)

After the first few Power Metal songs, we get into the style of a short synthchestral introduction followed by a rousing Power Metal song. The best song on here is undoubtedly Nevermore, which makes the grade for OSheaman's Top Ten Power Metal Songs and, incidentally, is about Edgar Allen Poe, of all things. Talk about n3ckr0!!

The instrumental work is rather simplistic for the most part, but it's all about the catchy melodies with this album. The keyboard has some fantastic solos which are mirrored by the guitar, and the drumming is well done, with a variety of rhythms to keep a song progressing and preclude any dull stalling. And, for all you ballad-haters out there, there aren't that many ballads on the album, so in essence you're getting solid Euro-Power with no strings attached.

A must-have for any fan of Euro-Power. If you hate the genre, you will undoubtedly hate this album, but for those of us who appreciate Fine Art, this album is nothing short of a masterpiece.

They've done it! - 92%

Metal_God, March 22nd, 2003

I start off to say that Dark Moor is one of my favourite Metal bands. They are not very different to other Power Metal band, like Rhapsody or Sonata Arctica. The main difference between Power Metal bands like Gamma Ray or Blind Guardian is that Dark Moor does not use as hard and raw riffs in their guitar solos. It goes a little faster instead and I love that!

Well, somehow Dark Moor often comes with better songs in their bagage than similar bands. They have a very good singer in Elisa C. Martin, two great guitarists, but a pretty weak drummer. But it doesn't really matter if the guitarists are great or just good; if the drummer does his job like he's supposed to or does his job marvelous. The thing with Dark Moor is that they're such great song writers. They capture the right feeling, they get the harmonies perfectly right and, as said earlier, the guitar solos are very cool.

The CD is not perfect though, if you thought so. Some songs sounds sometimes way too similar, which is a pity when I know they could manage not to do so. But sometimes everything does not get totally right.



A great album!