I seem to be encountering building wave of Gothic Metal bands that seem intent on recapturing Gothic Metal from the symphonic Nightwish-a-likes that got dubbed with the term more due to image than sound. Gothic Metal – the male (more occasionally female) fronted style – had it’s roots firmly in UK Goth Rock that was basically Metal’d up. Simple really, and initially championed by Paradise Lost, Type O Negative and a growing number of others, until it was seemingly swallowed up by a demand for just about every remotely Gothic Metal band to include female vocals in some way. Sentenced, To/Die/For, Charon etc tried to distinguish themselves by eventually re-branding as Dark Metal, but the genre faltered under the utterly saleable weight of it’s symphonic counterpart.
But that dark, spooky, slightly sinister original form has clearly just been laying dormant (in a coffin in the basement of a dusty old castle I hopefully imagine), festering away, ready to re-emerge some time later when it can quietly spread it’s blackened oil-stained wings over a new audience, one less affected by the lure of the female form in corset and skirt of velvet and lace. I too was seduced, oh yes, only to awake with the bitter taste of commercialism on my cracked, arid lips. But now it seems…Mwa-ha-harrr! The Dark has arisen once more, and you shall cower beneath it’s……. Huh??!
Sorry, not sure quite what happened there. It must be the overall mood that Order Of Isaz are putting across. There is so much of that early Sister’s Of Mercy style in the band’s sound, SO Gothic…yet so much more, heavied up and given a Dark Metal dosing…kind of like Tiamat, but then the band do include former Tiamat bassist Johnny Hagel, so no surprises there. But their sound feels surprisingly fresh and new and Order OF Isaz manage to put across an air of experimentation in a way that is totally devoid of trends and record company interference.
The opener is almost the easiest to categorize. A blueprint of the style noted above – dark, creepy-yet-catchy, and with a chorus section The Mission would have sold Wayne Hussey’s dodgy hat for. The scene is set – but before you break out the clogs and black nail polish, remember that this is a Metal band and the arrangements owe more to My Dying Bride than New Model Army. It’s a great opener, but Order Of Isaz are in no way one dimensional – next track ‘The Blackened Flame’ is much more To/Die/For or Sentenced in tempo and feel, whilst the vocals heighten the interest by going from low to gravelly mid-range, also heard to great effect throughout the whole album.
Additionally, the brooding ‘Father Death’ and ‘Umbra Sombra’ should both please Type O Negative fans as well as devotees of The Vision Bleak, ‘Dancing Shadows’ is a nice semi-acoustic affair that makes me think of Lake Of Tears, and ‘Screeching Owl’ has some early era Beseech to it. No almost obligatory mention of Dead Can Dance yet you note? Yeah, well there is a great cover of ‘Spirit’ on here so I was waiting with that one. Order Of Isaz manage to stamp their own authority on the track, but still keep the dark/quirky feel of the original. The whole album closes with an eight minute plus epic that seems to just bring it all together one last time. The darkness, the sorrow (there’s a cello for gods sake – how much sorrow do you want in a track??) and above all – the Gothic. Clan Of Xymox and Love Like Blood spring to mind, but the heavy guitars and mid-range vocals also evoke Poisonblack, For My Pain and Evereve. There is also a gothic-doom feel to the track, like early Anathema maybe, before it builds to a dual-ranged vocal and multi-styled guitar crescendo over double-timed drums – a style Crematory and Therion have used to similar glory.
A total of seven years in the planning and making (hence the title), this just has the feel of an album biding it’s time, waiting for the right moment, not wanting to be steered or pressurised into something it isn’t. Allowed to grow and build, to start to fill a gap in the market that no-one quite realized was there. Evoking memories of past bands whilst melding them together in new ways.
(8/10 Andy Barker)