Darkend-CoverI must admit this album caught my eye due to the guest vocalists this Italian band has managed to gather for their third album. One wouldn’t necessarily associate Italy with black metal generally but in Darkend we have a band that loves their symphonic metal and like high profile bands such as Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir the result is often mesmeric, occasionally breathtaking but overall an album glistening with an obsidian sheen bolstered by high profile guest vocalists.

As ever we get a soft tranquil opening sequence on “Clavicula Salomonis” with a gentle pagan like drum beat with serene piano and a bell clink that sets the scene for an explosion of blast snare hurtling the tune along almost uncontrollably. Anyone giving this a listen will immediately accuse it of Cradle Of Filth cloning due to the overall bombastic structure but Darkend offer more than just a simplistic symphonic assault by injecting influences from various sources such as monastic like chant vocals on ‘Of The Defunct’ which dives into more deathly catacombs but still harnesses a theatrical aura with croaky clean vocals possibly courtesy of Attila who guests on this tune. The lead breaks are excellent, tuneful and inserted with care into the fabric of the songs enabling each lead to become a focus of melody rather than a 15 second burst of fret acrobatics for the sake of it.

The two parts of “A Precipice Towards Abyssal Caves (Inmost Chasm)” are spliced by “Il Velo Delle Ombre” as part I arrives with considerable gusto on the back of hyper speed double kick and drum fill and a thrashy guitar riff. The arrangements afford the song a dramatic edge as it fades into an acoustic piece with backing howling wind. The addition of a saxophone to the song caught me out, and whilst not my favourite instrument to hear within metal it does add a touch of grandiosity to the song. The linking tune starts as a soft symphonic piece with choral vocals initially. The gritty blackened throaty vocals work well with the cleaner vocal aspects in a story like manner before the second part of “A Precipice Towards Abyssal Caves (Inmost Chasm)” is unveiled. Initially the tune is slower but heavy due to the drum work and eventually creates a huge Cradle Of Filth feel as Niklas (Shining (Sweden)) guests here and I suspect it is his whispered tones that adorn this tune producing a sinister feel as the song abruptly drops into a clean spoken vocal piece.

Parts of this album listen like Anorexia Nervosa due to the intensity as Attila adds his considerable larynx to “Sealed In Black Moon And Saturn”. The majesty unfurled by the starting section typifies the Anorexia Nervosa slant where insane blast jettisons the tune towards mayhemic speed but controlled fully. The final tune “Congressus Cum Dæmone” sees a far more languid start as a sauntering double kick filters through with the symphonics. There is an overt aura of grandeur in this tune which has Sakis (Rotting Christ) doing a guest vocal stint. Possibly the slowest track overall I enjoyed the flow of this which is very Cradle Of Filth like with lulls and crests in speed and intensity. The excellent ethereal lead bounces around the song like a ghostly apparition as we get a multitude of tempo changes that make the song listen like a black metal opera. The track is possibly the most ambitious on the album with acoustic guitar being added before linking back into a sublime harmonious lead that eventually dissipates towards the songs finale.

Anyone into Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Carach Angren etc will enjoy this album immensely and whilst not necessarily breaking new ground the band offers plenty to the listener.

(7.5/10 Martin Harris)