Dark Embrace – Dark Heavy Metal (Massacre Records)

Wednesday, 22nd February 2023
Rating: 8 / 10

Categories conjure up specific initial thoughts as to what listeners can expect from certain artists. Beyond the normal sub-genres journalists, PR firms, or labels develop, you often find a band like Dark Embrace chooses to fly their own flag – even calling their latest album a metal manifesto for Dark Heavy Metal. Originally active throughout the 2000’s, they came back together in 2015 – a five-piece that melds together aspects of symphonic, melodic death, and triumphant/cultural power-oriented themes that possesses dynamic bursts of energy, dual threat extreme/clean vocals, plus tempos that push the accelerator then temper proceedings into this solid, pounding template.

Specific keyboard work promotes a cultural, older folk/Viking-like atmosphere, opening up horizons for the guitar work from Mou Trashno and Markos Villar to traverse power/extreme measures – often appearing as contrasts that build sweeping transitions throughout the marching “Metal Is Religion” or tremolo/blasting meets Blind Guardian-esque “Never See the Sun”. When bringing the proceedings down into softer terrain for “This Is the Rain”, there’s no shortage of impressive fills or proper tempo push from legendary drummer Snowy Shaw – the acoustic/electric instrumentation between guitars, piano, and drums allowing vocalist Oscar Rilo a chance to shine in his restrained, clean melodies during the verses/chorus to build into this tremendous, guitar hero-oriented lead break bonanza. Oscar has an interesting duality nature to his delivery – letting out a tremendous upper tier power note then hitting those Amon Amarth-like roars/growls right out of the gate for the driving title track (although the unison background vocals miss the mark from a conviction standpoint). Reaching back into the demo archives from 2003 for an updated version of the seven-minute plus epic “Bitter End MMXXII” edition, the final track showcases more of their gothic/doom metal roots, the fierce twin guitar harmony movements adding cinematic tension to the arrangement.

No one can accuse Dark Embrace of not throwing a diverse set of influences into the musical toolbox to come up with something that could give them longevity in multiple camps of metal followers. Dark Heavy Metal could be a gem for those into more aggressive forms of symphonic/melodic death with power/Viking leanings.

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