Formed after a chance meeting between David Grimoire and Adrian de Crow at a stage performance of Umberto Eco’s book “The Name Of The Rose” the two met up and decided to do a concept album based around the same idea but set it all within a metal backdrop and call themselves Opera Diabolicus. With that in mind the duo set about amassing a range of musicians to aid them in the mission of creating an album of epic proportions. I won’t delve into the plot of said novel, you can do that yourself I guess, but it is traditional subject material that fits metal very well. Concept albums have been tried by all exponents of the musical art form through the decades and metal has had its fair share of albums that have worked exceptionally well and some that have failed terribly to ignite the imaginations of their fans or gain new followers. Being an extreme metaller means that most concept albums I hear are usually centred around some battle or war, so this undertaking is a little different and more akin to what Rhapsody Of Fire and Therion have achieved through their releases over the last 15 years or so in terms of structure and complexity.
I always worry when bands use off the wall genre labels to describe their bands music, as Opera Diabolicus go for doom opera as a start point for the listener. Not a bad calibration standard to use when describing “1614” but it is far more than simply doom and opera combined thankfully. The quality of the musicianship provided by guests/members of the band, it is hard to tell, is excellent and I have to admit my only reason for wanting to hear this release was because Snowy Shaw and Mats Leven, both ex-Therion members are on vocals with the former also doing the drums. Added to that vocal duties are also done by Niklas Isfeldt of Dream Evil under the stage name of Nick Night, Jake E Berg from Amaranthe and female vocalist Camilla Alisander-Ason. We’ve also got Elias Holmlid on keyboards and Eric Rauti on guitar to support the bands main composers and instrumentalists.
As you’d expect this opus starts with a gently building piano piece that is morosely passionate and has a similar feel to the Lingua Mortis Orchestra in terms of tone and atmosphere. The song suddenly transforms into “The Gates” and a solo vocal with acoustic guitar backdrop. As the electric guitar breaks through the riff is heart pumping and fist clenching in an old 80s heavy metal manner. Only the theatrical vocalisations belie that this is not old heavy metal. The dense production affords each vocal element, the guitar breaks, keyboards and drums equal footing. The female vocals have depth and emotion; an aspect I felt has been lost within femme fatale fetish metal in recent years, preferring wailing than actual singing. As the track progresses it meanders from one style to another, though the pace remains firmly upbeat for the most part. As with all these theatrically driven albums, the emphasis is on vocals and with a plethora of styles on each song, the emotional impact of each is well thought out and ambitiously arranged into epic song construction, that owes a fair bit to early Theatre Of Tragedy as well as Rhapsody and Therion as mentioned previously. The song really has some excellent vocals lines that aid in building the song up for its great speedy finale.
Lengthy songs are obligatory on albums like this and after “The Gate” which clocks in at ten minutes “Blood Countess Bathory” is close to that timing too. This tune follows neatly from “The Gate” by using deep resonating bass lines in a slower more methodical tune. It isn’t doom as you know it, more like an upbeat Candlemass. The sudden shift into a thrashy like snare snap catches you out somewhat before a harmony chorus breaks through. This dual of fast and choral repeats before a cracking hefty riff interrupts it, begging for attention. As this section dissolves into female vocals the Therion aspects are here in full voice and flamboyance and as anyone who knows me I have raved about Therion for countless years but it would be wrong to say “1614” lacks its own identity or personality as the album clearly does. “The 13th Guest” is up next and begins with a solo female vocal line before a US power metal inspired riff rams home the fact that this is a metal album. Listening to this on my usual headphones you hear vocals all over your head, whispered, spoken, harmonised, they seem to manifest all over the place. The downwards tempo change is excellent and followed by a harmony lead and slow double kick with accompanying keyboards. Its enthralling stuff I can tell you made all the better by not being arrogant or pompous.
This review could end up going well into a four figure word count so I’ll quickly say that “In Memoriam” is a haunting bass infested interlude and “Mythos Lamia” is pure heavy metal theatre, and leads onto “Forbidden” as close to a commercial song as you’ll get with its chorus. The song is double bass driven heavy metal with delayed echoing vocals. The song has a sleazy feel to it that reminded me of Lillian Axe, especially on the damn catchy chorus. The grandiosity is not too dissimilar to Septic Flesh but obviously no where near as brutal or intense. For an album that was conceived after a chance meeting it possesses everything that epic metallers want. For those less ambitious or traditional then it offers a chance to hear some metal with a few differences as the tunes have been crafted to harness passion and power equally. A quality album and definitely worth investigating if you’re up for the challenge.
8.5/10 (Martin Harris)