Review Summary: Opus Magnum turns out to be anything but that.
Hollenthon are a melodic death metal project from Austria that incorporate a prevalent symphonic aspect to their sound. Martin Schirenc is the main composer of the music while his wife writes the majority of Medieval-themed lyrics. The band are held in high regard for their first two releases that seamlessly incorporated their melodic death, symphonic, and folk metal styles to create two stunning albums. Opus Magmun
is the project’s latest album that was released in 2008 after nearly seven years – With Vilest Of Worms to Dwell
was released back in 2001. Suffice to say, Martin has changed directions with the music of this album, and when compared to the band’s past work, the effort turns out to be rather disappointing.
Right from the get go, listeners can notice a stark increase in the level of distortion for Opus Magnum
: the guitars rage their wars a bit louder when compared to past releases. What’s more, the symphonic touches that ranged from a choir of men to a storming orchestrated string section seem to be much more prevalent in the mix. Rounding off the main changes for Opus Magnum
is the loss of the folk-ish elements in the music; this is a change that turns out to hamper Opus Magnum
in the grand scheme of things.
is one of those albums where listeners will want to take it seriously because of the driving pace and feel behind the instrumentals, but something is just out of place. As “On the Wings of a Dove” storms through with what appears to be a compelling riff, the band falters when they come in aided by the overriding backing vocals that take the emphasis of the drums and guitars away from the band – this actually turns out to be a big problem on this album. Also, the orchestrated instruments immediately topple the guitars as well and seem to take prominence in the mix. Given the fact that the level of distortion for the guitar effects is typically higher on this album than that of past release, this is definitely a problem as the strings are layered very heavily throughout. While ruining the mood or credibility of one track is a bad thing for sure, the prominent layer of these symphonic elements actually takes on a large role throughout the majority of the tracks; as a result, the same problem that occurred in this opener tends to happen again and again. This is really disappointing given how well Domus Mundi
and With Vilest of Worms to Dwell
seemed to mix and match these vital inclusions to Hollenthon’s overall sound. While there are some key parts where tracks deviate, the majority of the album sounds a bit too familiar;“To Fabled Lands”, “Ars Moriendi”, “Of Splendid Worlds”, and “Dying Embers” can easily blend together, becoming the same track in a listener’s minds.
As far as the guitars go, things are generally really strong and impressive – when taken apart from the symphonic touches, that is. While there may be a few corny
-sounding riffs – for example, see the riff in the beginning of the opener - Martin Schirenic and Martin Arzberger do create some really head-banging moments and spine-tingling guitars solos – see “Of Splendid Worlds”, “To Fabled Lands”, and “Dying Embers”. These moments go a long way in bringing the listener out of what is soon to become a monotonous mix of weighted string sections and depressingly drowned-out guitars by the second or third track. Still, while exciting and fun, these driving riffs and solos tend to come few and far in between; in truth, it probably isn’t worth the wait. As far as vocals go, however, Martin does do an exceptional job. His grown is clean yet grisly – almost the perfect tone for effective, melodic death metal. The other vocal parts that occur throughout the music in the form of choirs or a lady vocalist are generally nice-sounding, but they are incorporated way too often and as a result, lose the effect of their positive contribution to the music rather quickly.
I was a fan of Hollenthon’s past releases, but this was very disappointing. What’s more, this album doesn’t really sound like the band made good use of their time as they had nearly six years to create it. The general sound is fun and often exciting when first listened to, however, it’s just not something that can effectively carry the whole album all the way through. The result of all of this is just a sub-par effort from a band that’s been known to create bigger and better things.