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The most tragically overlooked album ever? - 90%

differer, June 10th, 2010

“The Blood Divine? Oh yeah, Darren White was in it, right? Didn't they play some kind of hippie metal or something?” And to think a lot of people wouldn't know this much. If I had to name one band that never got the recognition it deserved, this one would be a good contestant. They did play a style of music that could be called hippie metal – on their second album 'Mystica'. This, their debut, is something else entirely.

If you wanted to name only one genre to describe this, it would be gothic metal. The music is at times a bit similar to Moonspell et al., at other times like The Sisters of Mercy gone metal, with a great deal of melancholy melodies and a good sense of “drama” (in the musical sense). More importantly, and unlike a lot of gothic metal, this album rocks like hell. Some of the heavier riffs are the type of half-thrash that Overkill and Anthrax would have killed for at the time; a few faster parts could have been written by Anathema ('The Silent Enigma'/'Eternity' period). Also, the fact that the line-up includes as many as four former members of Cradle of Filth is not as surprising as one might think. Strip 'The Principle of Evil Made Flesh' from Barker's beats and Dani's shrieks, and you'll find a good number of guitar and keyboard passages similar to the ones heard here.

I've always been a big fan of Darren White's “voice”, which fits in perfectly to this type of music. Or, to be more accurate, the music does justice to it. There are lead melodies on both the guitar and keyboards, that are exactly what a painful-sounding half-growl like his needs: easy to follow without being the most obvious of choices, not catchy in any normal sense, but beautiful and atmospheric. On top of these, the vocal lines are the non-musical factor that brings character to the big picture. Drummer Was Sarginson needs to be mentioned as well; his playing is the definition of solid and he has a habit of being just a tiny bit ahead of the beat, which gives the songs a driving rock'n'roll feel. Also, the drum patterns, although not exactly technical, are by far more complex than is usual for music like this and work exceptionally well.

Not all the songs are excellent, to be honest. Opener 'So Serene' features a three-minute ambient intro and never really takes off at all; 'Visions (of a Post-Apocalyptic World): Part 1' is an ambient interlude with practically nothing happening in it; 'These Deepest Feelings' has nothing but classical, fingerpicked guitar work and spoken vocals. Also, a few tracks towards the end of the album include very slow parts that in this context are rather boring and feel a bit out of place. All this is nothing catastrophic, but enough to diminish a listen's enjoyability. However, at the end of the day tour-de-force songs like 'Wilderness' and 'Aureole' are more than enough to make amends.

In terms of metal that's both rocking and emotional, easy to absorb but slow to grow old, there are very few better choices out there than 'Awaken'. The Blood Divine was a phenomenal band, and if you're not familiar with their work by now, it's high time you got started. They really do deserve attention, so give it to them – better late than never.