Review Summary: Their best since "Scourge of Malice". Solid goth-influenced black metal.
Graveworm’s first few albums displayed a band that excelled in combining black metal with gothic melodies and tones. Instead of improving on those strengths, though, the band started a move towards riff-oriented songs that placed speed and aggression over atmosphere. This emphasis lead to the loss of most the gothic elements with only simple synth parts left to remind of the band’s past. These new riff-centric albums weren’t necessarily bad, but they did suffer from a lack of dynamics and a general feeling of redundancy throughout. In addition, their new direction alienated a lot of the fans that enjoyed the somber atmospheres and powerful melodies. After listening to Diabolical Figures
, it seems that the band might be attempting to win back those disenchanted few while not alienating current fans in the process.
The band is trying to achieve this by continuing to make death/black metal riffs the foundation for most of the songs, but by also creating enough space for Sabine Mair to deliver her melodies once again. Sabine has always been one of the better black metal keyboardists, but over the course of the last few albums her role has been minimal. Apparently, playing nothing but subtle waves of synth for the last few years hasn’t diminished her creativity, though, because she delivers a number of strong melodies over the course of this album. Virtually every song features a multitude of various melodies from subtle synth during aggressive sections to full-blown piano sections during calmer times. The most important aspect of her melodies (and one of the reason she’s one of the better black metal keyboardists) is that no matter what, she always delivers her sections in a way that compliments the music instead of overwhelming it.
This tactful delivery of melodies allows for the heavier, more aggressive side of the band to remain the emphasis of every song – a decision that most should appreciate. While the hybrid of death/black riffs provides plenty of the album’s heaviness, the vocals of Stefan Fiori cannot be forgotten. Stefan delivers his vocals in two distinct styles – the first is a deep death metal growl and the second is a typical black metal rasp. Stefan gets compared to Dani Filth (Cradle of Filth
) a lot due to their similar rhythmic delivery styles and tendency to layer the different voices, but the difference is that Stefan’s voice has a lot more power and he abstains from any high pitched shrieks. On this album he also introduces a third style that is more of a deep, throaty rasp than an actual growl. This style is most prominent on the heavily gothic rock-influenced “Forlorn Hope” (although this might be the guest appearance by Karsten Jäger from Disbelief
– I can’t tell).
It really started to seem like Graveworm were set in their new style and, if anything, they were going to move even closer to mainstream metal (Collateral Defect
does have a metalcore song on it, after all). Instead, the band have reached back into their past in an effort to integrate their gothic influences into the visceral riffs that define their current sound, and have created their best album in years. This combination of elements leads to the first Graveworm album in a while to not suffer from redundancy and shouldn’t leave any fans feeling as though something is missing. Of course, trying to combine the old and new styles could have been a disaster but this “best of both worlds” approach ends up actually delivering the best of both worlds.