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Entertaining Metal Tragedy in a Variety of Ways - 90%

bayern, February 10th, 2017

Albums like this were a very pleasant surprise during those barren, bleak times; and not surprisingly, it appeared from the always reliant German metal scene, at a time when the technical/progressive thrash metal wave from there was wrapping it on. Tragedy Divine don’t strictly belong to the latter movement although they do share a few common traits with its representatives. They rather sit more comfortably with the bands from Sweden during that time; those who participated in a small resurrection campaign based on an attractive blend of progressive, power and doom metal (Memento Mori, Abstrakt Algebra, Veni Domine, Pathos, Morgana Lefay, Memory Garden, Fifth Reason). In other words, these lads had a unique “go between” position which wasn’t occupied by any other act at the time.

The guys started their career as Variety of Arts under which moniker they released a really impressive demo (“Dreams of Perfection”) of multifarious, complex progressive metal in 1992. The new name was perhaps more suitable for the guys’ chosen style which was a compelling mixture of progressive, power, thrash and a bit of doom metal coming close to Swedish outfits like Hexenhaus and the aforementioned Pathos. The inauguration demo “Apostles of Deceit” (1994) very nicely displayed their hybridization intentions, and not surprisingly all the four tracks from it well deservedly found their place on the full-length.

Once the opener “Die in My Dreams” starts with the most abrupt crushing riffs around, one will know that this will be a remorseless hard-hitting affair; and the band don’t disappoint thrashing with passion the riff assault aptly accompanied by Gerrit P. Mutz’s soaring dramatic vocals which to these ears have always been perfectly acceptable, be it here or on the Sacred Steel works. A really exciting beginning followed by “I Married a Witch”, a short formidable mid-pacer resting on the borders between power and thrash the whole time. The title-track speeds up in an impressive dramatic manner with sweeping riffs that would do justice to any representative of the 90’s power/speed metal movement not without the help of the great melodic leads; a progressive masterpiece which would even make Manticora proud. “Seize Control” “seizes control” with heavy, ship-sinking riffage without any diverse developments. “Tyrant Shadows” thrashes with more passion, a short curtly “spat” cut; and “Veils of Solemn Black” is another more carefully plotted composition with lots of surreal atmospherics applied on top of impetuous galloping sections; more progressive build-ups in the second half turn this opus into a larger-than-life one with echoes of Nevermore, Symphony X, and Conception.

“Bleeding Crystal Tears” is a lengthy over 6-min ballad with Mutz messing it up a bit, failing to adjust his staple croons to the more lyrical nature of the song; still, it remains an engaging more laid-back piece suiting the overall dark “tragic” atmosphere. “Ritual Damnation” is logically a more aggressive number with some brilliant technical riff-formulas the latter nicely recalling the Swiss masters Coroner; expect battle-like steam-rolling riffs as well on top of more impetuous speed/thrashing to make this number the highlight here. “Nightmare Reality” is a less tamed track with overt, more thrashy aggression involved again in league with more officiant progressive developments and some really inspired performance by Mutz. Comes “Tragedy Divine” which crosses ballad and doom in a captivating, albeit slightly minimalistic, fashion with some “dignity” restored in the second half thanks to more intense technical shredding and really nice lead sweeps. This was supposed to be the closer if it wasn’t for an unlisted track which appears unheralded to wrap it up with epic, doomy atmospherics retaining the officiant tone of the preceding piece with marginally more aggressive guitars.

And this is it, this “divine tragedy” of nearly an hour of very well executed old school metal. In the end there won’t be many fans unhappy with this album which caters to the tastes of a wide gamut of them. Along the two mentioned waves it recalls the 80’s American scene, too, and also kind of predates the latter’s resurrection attempt in the face of “young” budding newcomers like New Eden, Cauldron Born, Destiny’s End, etc. who were/are operating in similar stylistic waters. It was 1996, though, and the time was perhaps not the rightest one for this kind of retro metal exercises so it’s disputable what amount of interest this effort managed to generate back then.

One fact stays without a doubt, mind you: the band members’ passion for the classic metal rules. However, the expression of that passion wasn’t going to be in the form of another “tragedy”, be it divine or infernal: the musicians split up with one fraction founding Spiral Tower, the other one appearing as the already mentioned Sacred Steel. The Spiral Tower spell lasted for just one opus, “Mindkiller” (1999) which was a less exuberant and not as thrashy rendition of the music heard here consequently lacking its lustre and vigour although of the two acts this was the one that was supposed to carry the torch from this first coming. The other outfit, Sacred Steel, shouldn’t be a secret to the metal fanbase with whole nine albums released and counting; Mutz heads this trve power/speed metal formation, and based on the following the guys have managed to accumulate through the years, it seems as though there’s no retirement on their schedule, not in the near, not in the distant future.

Powerful visions these lads had back in those days; ones that were able to conclude one movement and “conflagrate” another; cause it was from albums like this that the old school metal genres found the energy and the drive to bring themselves back in the game… until another “tragedy” strikes the scene, be it divine or infernal.