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Eclectic. - 98%

greywanderer7, July 8th, 2012

It's funny how, at such an early stage of their career, a band, from a country with a relatively unknown metal presence, can change their sound, and not only succeed, but make one of metal's most unique records. This is a vast departure from the morbid, occult black metal with arabic influences showcased in their earlier Under the Moonspell, instead delving deeper into the newly-born gothic metal sound and its aesthetics.

The black metal is still present, though, but in a more melodic form, not unlike the one of the greeks Rotting Christ (which, casually would start their turn towards the gothic side of the metal spectrum one year after this was released), in the form of tremolo-picked riffs and harsh vocals, and the folk elements are not quite the ethnic and arabic influences of the EP, instead using flutes and cleanly sung vocals, thus having a more native (at times, bordering on celtic) feel. Those influences are in perpetual clash with the goth rock influences, like the emotional, bordering on melodramatic baritone vocal performance (with spoken parts) and the abundance of ethereal synths which are the main contributors to the eerie, dark, gothic-horror themed atmosphere of the music. There are some female vocals too, but, they are used not in the obnoxious Beauty-and-the-Beast way, but as background vocals, for most of the time.

Fernando Ribeiro, the frontman of the band, takes the spotlight throughout the album, his harsh vocals were top-notch in here, sounding like screamed growls rather than shrieks (but still unlike the deeper growls of their recent works), and, while he'd perfect his baritone vocals in later records, his performance is still notable, managing to sound evil, sinister and, why not, vampiric. (Though some bits, like the spoken ones, feel a little over-the-top, maybe due to his strong portuguese accent). Besides this, he can write pretty fucking great lyrics too, dealing with erotic and horror themes but in a more elaborated, classy, dare I to say, elegant way.

The keyboards, despite being one of the main elements of the music, are quite subtle for the style, not going with full-on bombastic orchestrated parts, and give many modern gothic metal bands a lesson on how the instrument should be used. In fact, this is one of those metal albums where melody and atmosphere matters the most, and technical proficiency is on a second plane, so there's no point in describing every single aspect about the guitars, bass or drums.

The songs are extremely varied, from the more folk-influenced 'Trebaruna' or the bonus track 'Ataegina', to the blacker ones, like the solemn opener 'Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)', 'Love Crimes' with the best riff of the album around the 2:35 mark, or the epic closer 'Alma Mater', to the more gothic ones like 'An Erotic Alchemy' with surprisingly not annoying soprano vocals, (unlike the ones on the other 99.9999% of shitty, fairy metal bands, which are tagged as gothic but are about as dark as the fucking sun, sorry for the rambling, but I fucking hate that style), the sinister 'Vampiria' which gradually builds up, from a quiet part to a blackened climax, or '...of Dream and Drama (Midnight Ride)', the rockiest song in the album, with even a duel of solos between the guitar and the piano!

Recommended for people who has an interest in ACTUAL goth metal which can keep a sinister vibe, not the aforementioned fluffy Beauty-and-the-Beast crap which is most usually associated with the genre. A wild (midnight) ride.