I reviewed “Vanitas” by Italian Metallers Macbeth back in 2001 (for a short-lived UK metal magazine called Sound Barrier). Kind of blacker/heavier Theatre Of Tragedy with much promise I seem to remember saying – I’ve still got the Dragonheart Records promo and happily dug it out to refresh my memory. Vocals, music, songwriting and production have all improved in 2014 I’m happy to report – and this is almost the same line-up, just a different guitarist, and speaking as a drummer, they’re just there to fill out the sound aren’t they? Haha. The main change is probably that Macbeth nowadays are just a little more accessible.
Visions Of Atlantis are a good comparison on a basic sound/style level with their similar use of male and female vocals, highlighted on the opening track ‘Scent Of Winter’ – a catchy affair that gets things of to a good if not spectacular start. Something catchy to lure the listener in perhaps. Second track ‘Slow Motion Tragedies’ is much more interesting, putting the band more in the Trail Of Tears and Tristania area I was hoping for, utilising a third grunted vocal that adds another dimension. The guitars, bass and drums are all heavier than on the opener and I am chuffed to note that this more the trend on the rest of the album.
It’s all quite varied though – ‘Void Of Light’ has a feel of Sirenia whereas ‘Empire’s Fall’ is more Swedish Melodic Death Metal in the Soilwork vein with added female vocals. I really should take this moment to concentrate on the vocals – the extreme vocals are Melodic Death Metal with a Metalcore angst, the female are sometimes sweet, sometimes powerful, well executed but not operatic and suit the different song attitudes. The clean male are much improved from 2001…almost too much. I know it sounds picky on my part but he has a tendency to the H.I.M. style heartfelt “yodel” whenever possible which sounds a bit forced and contrived at times. I just think the guy sounds fine without doing it and it just starts to grate on me after a while. But it certainly doesn’t ruin a song or anything – and at least he’s hitting all the right notes!
I really like ‘Dogma’ with it’s early Xandria feel, just the right amount of melody and intensity – I would have been tempted to open the album with this one rather than ‘Scent Of Winter’ as the chorus had me hooked straight away, but that’s just personal taste. ‘Opaque is another great track in a similar style, but with some especially nice guitar-work, something that is actually a shining quality throughout the album. One great thing about “Neo-Gothic Propaganda” is that there seems to be a concise effort to make each track sound suitably different from the next. Sometimes it’s subtle, but never once did I hear a song on this album that I could dismiss as sounding like ‘X’ or ‘Y’…mainly because there are no tracks by that name of course…
It looks like I’m going to have to check out the two albums by Macbeth that I’ve missed between 2001 and now if this is the kind of quality I can expect. It’s great to hear the improvement in the band and that they are every bit the Gothic Metal class act I hoped they would become.
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)