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Dark Moor > The Gates of Oblivion > Reviews > TheHumanChair
Dark Moor - The Gates of Oblivion

Gatekeeping Oblivion from Perfection - 100%

TheHumanChair, September 21st, 2022

To anyone who asks me, I will tell them Dark Moor's "The Gates of Oblivion" is objectively, as a total package, the greatest power metal album ever recorded. It has everything you could possibly ask for from a power metal record and absolutely never falters even a little bit. It has incredible riffs, beautiful melodies, addictive choruses, insanely technical playing, and amazing solos. If there is one power metal album anyone remotely interested in the genre should listen to, it is this one. Of course, no album can please everyone. This album is very fantasy driven both lyrically and musically, and close to every power metal record has some level of cheese to it, so if either of those things just aren't your thing, you might not get why this album is such a big deal. But for me, this is one of only a handful of albums I can listen to from cover to cover anytime regardless of mood and love every second of it every time.

It starts out with one of the most breath-taking and kick-ass power metal songs you'll ever hear. "In the Heart of Stone" is very close to as good as power metal gets. It has a blazing speed with really strong riffs. The melodies across it are incredibly versatile from Martin. They go from aggressive and almost accusatory to a sudden burst of layered epic vocals on the verses. The chorus really builds on itself and hits extremely hard right before a fantastic lead guitar section. The following track "A New World" doesn't even leave you any time to catch your breath from "In the Heart of Stone" either. Garcia's opening riff is incredible, and the keyboards really set the tone for a magical track. Once again, the verses really keep a level of ferocity that keep the song engaging. It really keeps the song from having one mood the whole way. Martin delivers some great high notes for the chorus, and Garcia's solo is one of his absolute best. "A New World" keeps a perfect atmosphere and mood for the journey without forgetting it's a song and not a story.

"The Night of the Age" is another more atmospheric track that Martin shines brightly on. Garcia still has some excellent solos and riffs, so it's not solely relying on her, but her melodies and versatility in vocals show what a brilliant singer she is. Her backing vocals enhance and pick her up to fit the mood of the song at all of the right moments. She has just the right amount of restraint in her voice for the verses to make the chorus especially impressive. It's an increasingly addicting and catchy chorus where her high notes bring it home. Hell, even the BALLAD on this album is very inspired and wonderful. "Your Symphony" is how a ballad should be done. It's not devoid of musical integrity just relying on a beautiful or sappy feeling. The song has a lot of progression, and instrumentally, the song matches the beauty of Martin's vocals. The keyboards are making different sounds throughout the song that really keep it flowing. They balance with Martin's chorus wonderfully, as if waltzing with each other. The acoustic guitar solo is a magnificent addition, too. "Your Symphony" is an incredible ballad done right. It is there to enhance the album, and not have a ballad for the sake of it.

My personal favorite on the record is "By the Strange Paths of Destiny." The keyboards and guitars both have their own separate main melodies that show up at various points throughout the song, and they're both absolutely incredible. The riff especially is both beautiful and filled with power. The keyboard part is mystical and establishes the mood of the song. The solo kicks in with a different kind of energy than the rest of the song has. The solo by itself adds a lot of versatility to the track and keeps it really marching forward. The chorus is just as good as everything else going on. It's one of Martin's most beautiful and powerful choruses, and has just a hint of sadness to it that gives it a different feeling than a lot of power metal choruses. "By the Strange Paths of Destiny" hits from all directions. It's really a treat. "Starsmaker" is another absolute gem. It's still a heavier song, but it might have riffs and melodies that are even more beautiful than what was displayed on the actual ballad of the album. The entire song is an adventure. Martin's vocals are guiding the listener through the journey, and Garcia's guitars are like sudden attacks Martin is helping the listener fight through. The keys have their own progression; ranging from enhancing the desperate tension to accenting the strikes of the battle. The chorus as well is another epic. It's another memorable and outstanding chorus on an album that is full of them. There are really no better examples of musical story telling than "Starsmaker."

If I had to give one very, very small nitpick to this album, it'd be that "Dies Irae" overstays its welcome just a bit too much. It has some of Garcia's most impressive and technical guitar work that will leave jaws dropped, and the song is definitely Dark Moor's epic for this time period. "Dies Irea" is still an absolutely fantastic song, and a very worthy addition to the album. It still blazes along with all of the same incredible elements as the rest of the album, but I believe an epic should only be that way if you can keep it interesting the whole time. The moment you start to run out of steam on an epic is the moment it should be trimmed or toned down. "Dies Irea" definitely gets a touch repetitive, and could have had some parts of it trimmed down. Even if some of the more repetitive parts were cut down, it'd still have been a very long and worth-it song, so it comes across as a bit more pretentious than it should have been. Still, it's absolutely a very, very good song, and this is a tiny critique that doesn't really weigh the album down at all.

Of course, though, "The Gates of Oblivion" ended up being a one-time gift of perfection that was never to be repeated. This would be the last album to feature Elisa Martin on vocals. In fact, after this album, the revolving door of musicians that make up Dark Moor would begin, with Garcia repopulating close to the entire band after this album. We will cover the rest of Dark Moor, but Elisa Martin went on to have a few other various projects here and there. All of them are solid efforts, so she never sings on a truly bad record, but none of them captured the same magnificence as her two prime albums with Dark Moor. "The Gates of Oblivion" goes down in history as an essential power metal record, and as good as the genre gets. It's sad that we never got a follow up effort from this lineup, but regardless, if you've never listened to this record, this is one you need to drop everything to listen to.