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Where do I even begin? - 95%

NoSoup4you22, July 25th, 2008

At the risk of sounding pretentious, in music and all media really, there is a spectrum ranging from "entertainment" to "art". It's hard to say what makes a work one or the other, as entertainment is nonetheless a product of someone's artistic vision and art isn't necessarily devoid of entertainment value. Both can be rewarding in different ways, though art has more potential for long term emotional impact. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this isn't really an album you'd throw on at a party, you know? But it IS an extremely rewarding listen, it may change you, and hell, I guess it's kind of entertaining, too.

Of course, like most of the best art, Devil Doll is very obscure and what allows composer "Mr. Doctor" to reach these massive artistic heights is that he doesn't care. If the lore is to be believed, he has never accepted payment for any of his works. There is complete and total separation between the music and the business surrounding it, which is surely best for the material. Anyway, don't expect easy listening. This music takes effort. It's not made to be catchy, and it's pretty damn long. Make time and bear with it. The dedicated listener will be rewarded.

Musically, the predominant sound here is baroque or classical era with 1920s-40s horror movie influences, but also an epic soundtrack feel, and some metal. Somewhat unique and hard to explain, except that it is dark as hell. There's not a lot of metal instrumentation to be found, not really any "riffs" per se. The guitar solos are not technical at all, yet they're some of the most amazing and expressive ones I know. It's all about creating a huge atmosphere... At their best, Devil Doll are the most majestic and epic band around. In the end, you don't care about the sparseness of the metal parts, because the orchestra is just as well-done for once.

Even if you've gotten past the musical style of Devil Doll, Mr. Doctor's vocals can still be a stumbling block. They're more akin to acting than singing. The doctor slowly and purposefully makes his way through the lyrics with a dozen strange voices, sometimes melodic and sometimes harsh, though not in the style of conventional death or black metal vocals. It's a little hit-and-miss, but certain lines are REALLY well-done and will assure you that he does have technical skill. The lyrics themselves are amazing... abstract, but not just for their own sake, and touching as well. "Good night... Plug disconnected... Some flowers in the first month... Then just earth." Lots of imagery, and they stand well on their own. It should be noted that he quotes other poets' work often, though.

A special addition to this album is soprano singer Norina Radovan, who is clearly ridiculously talented. When she appears, she usually takes on a twisted tone to her voice, adding to the horror influence, but there's normal operatic lines too. She really lets loose on the end of the album - I'm convinced that the world is actually ending. I wish Nightwish and some other pseudo-operatic hack bands would have singers this good.

The only problem with Dies Irae, and Mr. Doctor's music in general, is that it's always so inaccessible. However, that problem is much less pronounced on this than the other albums. I had no trouble getting into it on the first listen - actually, this was the closest thing I probably had to a religious experience as a teenager. You just need to give yourself over to it and pay attention. It's miles beyond the others in terms of flow and cohesion, with more prominent key themes and repetition to tie the hour of music together. Dies Irae is definitely the best album to start with, and I'm pretty sure it's the best overall, somewhat ahead of "The Girl Who Was... Death." Maybe that's why Mr. Doctor hasn't released anything since then...although I'm not always in the mood for it, this is pretty damn hard to top and is a real achievement in art.