“Baroque” is not a word you will often hear as a descriptor for a metal band, but that is exactly how Vanguard X Mortem describe themselves, as well as “Symphonic, Atmospheric and Vampyric”. Sound interesting? Then read on…..

Formed in Paris in 2011, Vanguard X Mortem is the brainchild of Christophe Florian aka “L.C.F.” (Vocals and guitars) who was joined by Alix Rousselet (Vocals and Violin) and Marco De Barros on drums. Since then there have been two albums and an EP, all leading up to ‘Amberosia’, their third full length.

Opening with a morose pseudo ecclesiastical organ piece is somewhat underwhelming before the album proper gets underway with the title track which sets the tone for the rest of the album with growls juxtaposed against clean and soprano female vocals atop a keyboard heavy backdrop. The pace picks up a little initially for ‘La Morte Amoureuse’ and clean spoken female vocals are also introduced to good effect. There is some decent guitar work towards the end of the track giving welcome relief from the overbearing keyboards.

The sombre tone continues with ‘Automn Orchard’. [I was curious whether this was a variant on the spelling of Autumn, or whether it perhaps had another meaning so I googled it – I don’t think the urban dictionary definition is what the band had in mind….]. Satisfied that this was related to autumn I settled back to digest the pensive tunes on offer within this track.

During the course of the next few tracks things began to merge into one and I found myself pondering why I wasn’t enjoying this as much as I should. I love bands such as Theatre des Vampires, Tristania and Martyrium, so why wasn’t this clicking with me??

‘Nocturne in the Moonlight’ piqued my interest a little more with its darker ambience, but I found my mind wandering again during ‘The Flower’s Blood’ before ‘Solstice’ brought the main body of the album to a close with vocals not dissimilar to Fields of the Nephilim in parts. Spoken female vocals above a hypnotic repetitive melody formally brings things to a finish during ‘If the End….’.

I listened to this album several times, in several different settings to see whether I could get it to click with me, but alas not. All the ingredients are there for a cracking album but it just doesn’t seem to fulfil its potential.

Frustrating as I can see how much potential there is here and I know that this could have been stunning rather than simply mediocre.

(6/10 Andy Pountney)