There’s a lot to digest here and that is not surprising as this album has apparently been a decade in the making. First we linger on the strange embossed sigils (taken apparently from over 60 alphabets) on the album artwork and unfold the triple plated edition of the CD and discover a short 16 page graphic novel within. The 78 minute opus delves into Egyptology and Mayan civilisation, something we are no strangers to having explored all sorts of bands such as Nile and Melechesh through the years. However don’t be expecting anything in the way of brutal death metal here, this NYC based outfit play progressive darkwave, gothic and EBM music and wrap it all up in a rich historical tapestry over 15 labyrinthine numbers. It’s definitely time to go tomb raiding here but just what are we going to dig up along the way and will we get through any unexpected booby traps and make it out the other end?
Digging up indeed as first track ‘Unearthed’ begins this epic journey from vocalist Sebastian Elliot and composer Vora Vor. Wind and Middle Eastern sounds along with digging, transport to far off lands straight away leading into the pumped up dancefloor drama of ‘Lost.’ Slowing down the vocals come in and it’s evident that Sebastian has a rich voice as he cleanly croons away. Vora backs with harmony and grace to her sultry tones and the bouncing beats have you stomping your feet away taking in the whole picture which densely twists and turns. On the whole the 15 tracks here are long with plenty going on in them and it’s no surprise to find spiralling guitar solos giving this a trad metal flavour as well as the electronic bombast driving this number. There is a story that you can feel free to follow if you wish but concentrating on both that and the music is at first going to be a real task and it’s the latter that I am fixating on for review purposes. There is a highly commercial edge to the melodies and rhythms going on here, these are well constructed songs that get right under the skin and have staying power. ‘Eye Of The Storm’ for instance could be described as a bit of a ‘power ballad,’ some may find it slightly cheesy but it has conviction at its heart and lots going on apart from the main ‘giddy love’ of the choral lines. Big choral parts and samples come into play on ‘The Game’ but it’s the main male vocals that take over and drape themselves around you like a muscular lover from a romance novel (seriously if you had accompanying photos of the vocalist along with the music that would all make perfect sense). The feminine beauty exuded by Vora works as the perfect accompaniment and they make a striking pair in all manner of ways. Is Mills and Boon darkwave a valid genre descriptor?
There are plenty of underlying samples adding atmosphere to the musical cosmos created here and they really come into their own on two numbers which kind of serve as interlude points ‘Dysphoria’ and ‘Dystopia,’ coming thick and fast and really playing with your head in an intoxicating fashion. The way they are all elaborately entwined together with consummate skill is something many a band using sampling can learn from. It would be impossible to break-down everything that you are going to encounter if you decide to seek this out and go on a voyage of discovery yourself and the review would stretch to an unreasonable amount of papyrus. There are moments that remind fleetingly of the likes of Depeche Mode and Type O Negative and no doubt you will discover them on the way. You can get a taster from the video below and it might well help to explain some of my comments as well!
One slightly confusing thing is that apparently this got a 2014 release date although the accompanying info I got with it clearly has it set for a 29th Jan release 2016. Perhaps that is for a European release and those Stateside already have it. I’m glad it landed here as despite the length and somewhat overwhelming scope of Master Of Disguise it never bored in the slightest and proved a blockbuster listening experience.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)