Review Summary: Graveworm's finest hour. Classical instrumentation, mournful melodies, all wrapped in a goth/black metal atmosphere.
The melody of a cello, violins, and bag pipes fill the air, creating a sense of mourning, yet strangely uplifting at the same time. After a few moments, the rolling sound of percussion fades in to complement the strings and bag pipes. Together they continue to create this feeling of loss, as if something horribly wrong has just occurred. This may sound like the description of a song taken from the movie Braveheart
, but it’s not. This description is from the beginning of the sophomore release by Graveworm
called As Angels Reach the Beauty
It would have only taken a few more seconds of listening to realize that this is no Mel Gibson movie soundtrack. After a few moments of that mournful melody, the deep growls of vocalist Stefano Fiori suddenly come in over raging guitars and the sudden roll of double bass. As if that wasn’t enough, after a few more moments he also unleashes some very sinister sounding black metal vocals as well as continuing the deep growl he began with. All the while the original melodies from the violins, cello, and bag pipes continue to play along side the riffs. Throughout the seven minutes that is “A Dreaming Beauty” the song moves from fast paced Black Metal sections to slower more Goth Metal sections, while constantly retaining the beautiful melodies of the violins and keyboards, contrasting well with the multi-faceted vocals creating an atmosphere of mourning and anger.
That feeling of mourning and anger permeates throughout this entire album. Whereas on future releases Graveworm
would turn to darker, more sinister sounding moods, on this one it radiates with sadness. A lot of that has to do with an aspect of the band that they would move away from in future releases, the use of real stringed instruments and the larger use of classically inspired arrangements. The next song, “Portrait of a Deadly Nightshade,” continues on with that feeling perfectly. This song is a mid-paced song that really couldn’t be linked to Black Metal at all, if not for the vocals. It has some very somber piano, keyboard, and violin melodies; it’s these melodies that are in constant flux that give this song a feeling of movement despite the slower pace of the song. The guitars simply chug along in the background, content to allow the other instruments to set the mood for the song.
Following a very sad instrumental consisting of rolling percussion, bag pipes, piano, and keyboards, is one of the best songs on the album, “Nocturnal Hymns”. The song starts with a single guitar melody and some keyboards before being accompanied by a fast riff and both the deep and Black Metal vocal styles playing off each other. Soon after that, it slows down to allow for both guitarists to engage in some leads that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old In Flames
album. Once it speeds up again it gets to the part of the song that words can’t really describe. Out of nowhere mournful sounding keyboards and violins appear and Stefano’s black metal vocals never sound so anguished; it truly is one of the few songs that consistently elicits an emotional reaction from me. From there it goes into a faster guitar harmony, before slowing down completely with just keyboards, violins and a cello creating such a feeling of sorrow that it really does get to me almost every time.
It really is the skill in which emotion is presented within this album that sets it apart from other Black Metal releases, including their own. In addition to the emotion, it is also the various movements within each song that allows it to never become tedious, and also allows the whole album to never start sounding like a blur. As the album proceeds, they continue to make great use of all the instruments available to them from violins and cellos to pianos and bag pipes, as well as some great guitar harmonies; all of which they would begin to move away from on future releases. Despite the mournful nature of the album and the slower pace (for Black Metal) of a lot of the material, this album is not without any of the aggression that those who like their new stuff have come to expect. A song like, “Prophecies in Blood” is as fast and aggressive as anything they’ve done since, but it still retains the various movements and details found on this album including clean guitar parts, mournful keyboards, and great melodies.
This album truly is the best that Graveworm
has ever put out due to the emotional nature of the songs, the additional instruments that were skillfully used, and the great song writing that allowed each song to have an identity of its own. Anyone who has only heard the new stuff by Graveworm
owes it to themselves to track this down and get it, because they won’t be let down. This album also has a lot of crossover potential, as well, for people not normally into Black Metal due to the professional way that the classical influences were used, the liberal use of guitar melodies, as well as the decreased emphasis on speed and aggression compared to a lot of their contemporaries.