“Dedicated to the fully coherent concept of making music through sound, image, video and attitude”, the Antiq label has released an interesting album here. The principal artist is classical and jazz artist Vittorio Sabelli, who as Dawn of a Dark Age combines the subtleties of these styles with altogether more extreme metal outpourings. The themes of this self-proclaimed saga are the Samnites, a group of warriors who inhabited the centre and south of Italy, and the birth and development of Italy and its people.

The album is divided into two pieces. The first starts with a calm, spoken introduction, folk music and the clarinet for which Mr Sabelli is known. It transforms into a world of sophisticated black metal. This first act swings between classic metal drama and a more growly, harsher world. It breaks off for more narrative, acoustic folk and the wistful tones of the clarinet. A haunting and distant chorus rings out. Now it is melancholic. At times it’s like a tv action adventure theme. At others it has the makings of war and struggle. The narration was lost on me as it’s in Italian, and to be honest the music isn’t always as intense as I might have expected, but there are some wonderfully atmospheric passages, aided by the dreamy tones of the clarinet. Act 1 ends epically, with the clarinet intertwining with some very dark metal.

The second act starts with a gloomy piano piece. Funereal pomp is succeeded by an operatic piece. It’s like being inside an old grainy film with crumbling buildings all around. The dark clouds come rushing in and the atmosphere at once becomes harsh before returning to flutes and sadness. There’s an interlude in the middle, where all we can hear is the whistling wind and then a warbling flute. The drum beats ominously. A dark voice utters sinister words. This goes on for a long time. A chant strikes up, and runs through to the end as the drum continues to beat tribally.

This is less of an album than a series of movements depicting different atmospheres. The language barrier didn’t help me here as I perceived that understanding the narration was important. Musically and artistically, this is an interesting work and certainly has attitude, even though I felt I was more an onlooker at a spectacle than someone in the middle of it.

(6.5/10 Andrew Doherty)