Diabulus In Musica – Dirge for the Archons (Napalm)Tuesday, 29th November 2016
As a genre, symphonic gothic metal appears to have the widest reaching appeal these days on a global scale. The ability to go from bombast to serenity, extreme energy to alluring tranquility at the drop of a measure, plus explore melodies, screams, and growls over the top gives musicians in this particular platform numerous shapes or colors to work within. Spain’s Diabulus In Musica are no strangers to the recording studio – Dirge for the Archons, the quintet’s fourth studio full-length, keeps up their traditional every other year release schedule. This effort appears at an interesting crossroads for the band’s career, as they add some modern textures to the tried and true formula established on The Wanderer and Argia that could appease newcomers or possibly turn off ardent followers.
A wide use of keyboards for orchestration and background choir vocals tempers itself against a ripping, heavy guitar tone from Alexey Kolygin, very noticeable within the first measures of the power thrash-oriented “Earthly Illusions”. Cyber-EDM elements swirl in and out against a staccato-fueled march for the follow up “Marble Embrace”, keyboardist Gorka Elso injecting the right death growls to accent the diminutive, alluring melodies from Zuberoa Aznárez as if Therion would meet head on against Leaves’ Eyes. Epica is another band that comes to mind in terms of Diabulus In Musica’s multi-layered use of electric instrumentation and orchestral/choir passages to build tension and set up cinematic aural landscapes – but where the band veers course is limiting the extension of long intros or instrumental sequences. Out of the eleven main songs (“Battle of Atlantis” is a 60 second album intro, and “The Hawk’s Lament” a brief 1:22 pan-flute oriented reprieve), none hit the six-minute plateau, ensuring the least amount of song shuffling for boredom.
Favorites included the spacious, hard charging “Crimson Gale” and very commercial-hook oriented “Hiding from You” that owes a debt of gratitude to Nightwish. Two of the final three songs are ballads, which can kill momentum for most metal listeners- but at least they are different in mood, as “Zauria” has more of a Middle Eastern/folk-ish atmosphere while “Bane” contains bluesy electric leads, acoustic guitars, and Zuberoa using more of her lower register in a progressive rock manner. Dirge for the Archons serves up stronger material from the band – but still isn’t quite up to the unique standards set by the biggest or most popular acts in similar territory.