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Track List: 1. New World Obscure 3:55 2. Embraced In Black 5:40 3. Among Mortals 3:49 4. Truth On Scaffold 6:59 5. Iben 1:02 6. Dualism 6:17 7. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi 13:32 8. Ravenous Unleashed 2:20 9. Behind Closed Eyes 4:53 10. Cardinal VII 8:31 11. Iben - Part 2 1:56 All music: by Stenberg, except 3 - by: Luna. All lyrics: by Stenberg & Luna. All vocal melodies: by Stenberg & Stenberg / Brastad. Line-up: Michael Stenberg - guitars; backing vocals Bjorn Luna - bass; backing vocals Kenneth Brastad - lead vocals Ronny Kaasa - drums Guest musicians: Per Amundsen - keyboards & piano; flute Karoline Rising Naess - cello Produced by Stenberg & Luna. Engineered by Amundsen at "Earattack". Mastered at "Strype Audio", Norway.
Preamble. Recently, I received a whole bunch of Prog-Metal related CDs. It's really great to know that Prog-Metal, which was the only truly progressive genre in the 'dark' decade of the 1980s, is not only still alive and well, but is also still in the process of development. And both of the latest releases of the Dutch DVS Records label are just (part of a lot of) the obvious cases of all of this.
The Album. On the whole, the stylistics of the music presented by Norway's Ashes To Ashes on their debut album represents a real progressive Symphonic Gothic Metal of a dark and, at the same time, very impressive nature. However, "Cardinal VII" is not only a dark and beautiful, but also quite a complex album, which becomes more and more evident beginning with the third track. In all, there are eleven tracks on the album, and six of them are songs: New World Obscure, Embraced In Black, Truth On Scaffold, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, Behind Closed Eyes, and the album's title track, Cardinal VII (1, 2, 4, 7, 9, & 10). It must be said that five of these songs (the only exception being Truth on Scaffold, to which I'll return to a bit later), and also two out of the five instrumentals: Dualism, and Ravenous Unleashed (6 & 8), is representative of the predominant stylistics of the album. All of them are about Symphonic Gothic Metal, though four of them - two songs: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi and Cardinal VII (7 & 10), and both of the said instrumental compositions - are real masterpieces of this style. I think I can say from the outset that all four of the remaining works on the album, three of which are instrumental compositions, are also masterpieces. As I've hinted above, the only song that is out (slightly out, though) of the album's predominant stylistics is Truth On Scaffold (4). Musically, it represents a blend of progressive Gothic Metal and real Symphonic Art-Rock of a high quality. One of the remaining instrumental pieces, Among Mortals (3), consists of the arrangements that, while are done exclusively in the vein of Symphonic Art-Rock, are also filled with the spirit of Gothic music. Both of the parts of Iben (5 & 11) are the pieces of Classical Music. The first of them features nothing - if not to notice the beautiful passages of piano that, moreover, develop constantly. While another track - the very beautiful interplay between the passages of piano and those of violin. It is strange to see the keyboard player, pianist, and flautist Per Amundsen, who is, in addition, the engineer of this album, out of the 'staff' line-up of it. I know that guitarist Michael Stenberg, who is noted as the sole author of ten compositions here, composed all those parts of piano and the ARP-like string ensemble that were performed on the album by Per. Nevertheless, the influence that the orchestral and other keyboard arrangements, done by Per, have upon the overall sound of "Cardinal VII" is more than merely evident. While another guest, cellist Karoline R. Naess, is heard not often here. Though the triumph of the album's closing composition, Iben - Part 2 was ensured thanks to her wonderful performance, too. Backing vocalists present their parts on the album as a professional male choir of: an angelic character. A lead vocalist is a real chameleon, who easily turns from quite low and aggressive intonations to high and dramatic ones and vice versa.
Summary. It needs to be said that the vocals on the album are as amazing and diverse as most, if not all, of the instrumental arrangements on it. A successful combination of heavy and symphonic musical textures and a distinctive gothic flavor that is sensed throughout the album are the main trumps of music of Ashes To Ashes. I heard all of the CDs that were released by DVS Records up till now. So I will hardly be lying when I say that both of the label's latest releases (and especially the last of them, which, though, I am going to review next week) are the best CDs ever released by DVS.
VM: January 9, 2002
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