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An Absolute Wonder - 90%

doomknocker, October 27th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Napalm Records

As far as the "modern power metal" movement is concerned, I'd like to put this fine collective of Spanish talent at the top of the list. And by "modern power metal", I mean the groups that have the original 90s spirit infused with breakdowns and down-tuned chunky riffs more at home with post-millennial acts (examples include Epica, Edenbridge, nowadays Symphony X, et al), some of whom are rather good but some not so much. However, "The Wanderer" has shown me that DiM are really where it's at, in both the songwriting and frontlady department (Zuberoa has a fantastic voice and presence...), so you can imagine my level of anxiousness when waiting for the next album to come down the line.

Not straying too far away from where they've come from, Diabulus' blend of inky-black gothic tendencies with potent Euro-metal riffing is just as dramatic and immediate as before, which actually works better than you'd expect. It remains its own level of beast while at the same time coming off as a third chapter in an ongoing musical story that is unfolding before us, and so far I'm still drawn into it all rather deeply. "Argia" is absolutely rich in atmosphere; dark, mist-laden and not letting a single shred of cursed light in, with a sense of beauty within its raven-clad locks (the vocal harmonies of "Furia de Libertad" are simply enchanting), giving it the capacity to push itself out of the otherwise self-cannibalizing metal pack by virtue of its own grit and specific voice, and it being as bombastic as it is prevents it from fading into the distance, no ghosts in the fog THIS time around! A few other acts out there could learn a thing're two about that. Won't say who. But you'd know...

The band is tight and energetic in their own respective rights with grand interplay between the synthetic and orchestral segments and punchy guitar riffs, from the speed-laden moments to the more , all with an atmosphere more akin to spending time, maybe a night, in shadowy haunted church ruins (the grandiose backing choir makes up a LOT of that vibe...) However, I'll admit it's not a perfect picture all around; somewhere along the way the backing death growls lost a bit of its intensity, not quite as raging or evil-sounding as they were a few years or so ago. As well, some of the riffing does get a bit old after a while (per usual with even the best modern power metal acts), almost leading to an insistence on the melodic, non-metal parts of the songs at hand to shine forth and save the day. That DOES happen more often than one would expect, thereby saving the album as a whole in the end. I guess if the guitars took itself more seriously in the long run it wouldn't be so drudging, but then again, things could have wound up MUCH worse. Much.

All in all Diabulus again wow me with their own blend symphonic/goth metal wonderment, leaving me floored and ready for the next chapter. That, well, may be a while, but until then each respective work up to this point is definitely worth coming back to again and again. Take it from me.

Argia - 79%

Twin_guitar_attack, April 26th, 2014

Diabulus in Musica are a Spanish 5 piece, playing female fronted symphonic metal, in the vein of Epica. Their new album Argia is a gem of an album, with excellent symphonic sections reminiscent of film scores, with a slight exotic feel to them, a brilliant vocalist in Zuberoa Aznárez, and a powerfully heavy riff driven sound.

Zuberoa Aznárez is a really fantastic vocalist, alternating between English and her native Spanish, she has a really varied approach. With really pretty sounding clean vocals similar to Liv Kristine, to powerful high operatic vocals ala Simone Simons, her voice fits somewhere in the middle of these two renowned vocalists, while at points there are even some deeper vocalisations reminiscent of the incredible Lisa Gerrard, especially in the interlude "Sed Diabolus". Her voice is often the driving force behind the brilliant music here, used to full effect in every track from the outset, especially beautiful in the tracks where she sings in Spanish, while keyboardist Gorka Elsa contributes some ferocious growls throughout the album, accentuating the heavy edge of the music. The heaviness comes from the guitar playing, which is often crisp and heavy, playing galloping riffs coming courtesy of the band's new guitarist Alexey Kolygin, pounding along brilliantly in the vein of early After forever, in addition to heavy chugging sections. Solos throughout the album are pretty sporadic, but when they do surface, they're brilliant and powerful, especially on "Eternal Breeze" and "Furia De Libertad", and there's even some acoustic guitar playing in the outro of "Maitagarri" which goes down really well. The drums are heavy and pounding throughout the album, crashing along with great energy, but the bass is unfortunately non-existent, nigh impossible to hear, but with the guitar playing being so rhythmic and pounding, it's barely missed. The symphonic sections of the album are great, with choirs used excellently and often, adding a feeling of refinement to the music, while the symphonic instrumentation is excellent, especially on the brilliant "Furia De Libertad", one of the best tracks on the release, with powerful brass sections giving the track an absolutely epic feel, while the melodic keyboards work really well on the fantastically heavy "Spoilt Vampire", a track with fantastic growls, while "Maitagarri" is injected the track with a real energy and vigour thanks to somewhat exotic sounding string sections. This exotic sound gives the band's music a somewhat unique sound within the symphonic metal niche, even while the influence from Epica and After Forever is certainly pronounced. The symphonic elements are reminiscent of film scores in some places, which just add's to the powerful sound of the album. The epic symphonic elements meld excellently with the pounding heavy metal sound, giving Argia a powerful sound throughout.

Guest vocals are also present too, with Sirenia's Ailyn giving an appearance on "Furia De Libertad", while the male cleans on "Encounter at Chrono's Maze" come courtesy of Therion's Thomas Vikstrom. Ailyn's voice doesn't sound too different to Zuberoa's, so it doesn't really add a whole lot, but the male vocals do give the album a nice bit of variety and are really welcomed, Thomas's voice being very deep and rich, adding to the band's powerful atmosphere, while Zuberoa is at her operatic best here, the duet is really great, and with the growls getting in on the mix too, it's a varied and excellent track.

One drawback of the album is that the guitar work is sometimes dull and uninspired, with Alexey chugging on the same power chord for the duration of a song, and it gets old fast, particularly on "Inner Force", and despite some cheesy keyboards at the beginning, it's an otherwise brilliant track, with Zuberoa really shining with her vocal performance here. But for the most part the guitar playing is really great, with the aforementioned pounding riffs going down in great fashion.

Overall Argia a really great symphonic metal album, with a powerful epic sound throughout, and is sure to please fans of bands on the heavier spectrum of symphonic metal, such as Mayan, Epica, Therion and After Forever. There are those few flaws as previously mentioned with the uninspired guitar, and cheesy keyboards, but it's a solid effort nonetheless. Highlights of the album are: From the Embers, Furia De Libertad, Maitagarri, Eternal Breeze and Spoilt Vampire, but in truth they're all good.

Originally written for swirlsofnoise.com