2000, Avantgarde/Dwell Records
Opera IX have been a band that I've half-avoided, for whatever reasons (I'm not really sure of them myself), in the past, but advance word on this new release was very positive and that peaked my interest enough to where I seriously considered giving this a few listens. I would like to take this space to sincerely thank the good people over at Dwell Records for advancing a full copy (no pasteboard promos here) of this CD to EREBUS, because when it comes to bands like this...having all the artwork, lyrics, etc. in front of you when listening really enhances the experience, and I believe that the band designed this release to be listened to while reading the lyrics, as they tell a stage-story that completely explains the music. Now while Opera IX have actually been around for quite some time now (their first record was in 1993, I believe) they have followed a very relaxed recording or release schedule, and have committed themselves to a slow evolution of their sound. Listening again to their last album 'Sacro Culto' I doubt whether I could have anticipated the music that is found here. Alternately measured, stately, eerie, driving, depressing, bombastic, or energetic, the seven songs (including a cover of the Bauhaus classic 'Bela Lugosi's Dead - pretty much a perfect choice for this band) here, when listened to in a single sitting, take you through a long journey of dark metal styles and melodic offerings - from the claustrophobic inner space of lightless muted-chord/doublebass crunching to breathing atmospheric passages that completely let go of the throttling pace in order to spread a web of tenebrous (it's part of the title!) infernal magic. There is something very close to Greek black metal in their sound, but I can not tell exactly what it is - the obscure riffing, the mid-paced walking through disparate melodies, the 'epic' compositions?
The occult makes a very strong showing here: Cadaveria seems to mix together various disciplines/mythologies in order to weave together a blasphemous series of tales based on the search for meaning and power in the underworld/afterlife. Of course it is her vocal talent that really sets this band apart, as she has a very impressive range and a lot of true character in her voice, and she seems to be able to effortlessly slip from 'light' singing to her idiosyncratic growling/screaming when the song calls for it. Very impressive - she is easily one of the best vocalists (male or female) that I've heard in quite some time. The other characteristic that makes this band stand out in the albums I have been listening to lately is the keyboard playing, which at certain points rises superbly to the fore in centering the focus of a passage or song section, and which is played in a grand manner as counterpoint to the simpler guitar sections. The clean guitar and keyboard work in the fourth song 'Congresse cum Daemone' (especially in the beginning, beneath Cadaveria's impassioned screams, and in the beautiful middle section of the song, where a muted chord progression lays down a thick foundation for a stellar keyboard melody), for example, is masterful, planned out perfectly - making this song my favorite next to the album opener.
Overall I would have to say that this record is one of the highlights of my listening over the last few months, and I can not see how this band can fail to gather acclaim and a legion of new fans after its widespread release. I wish them the best.