Review Summary: Slaves to time...slaves to lords...fearful visions of men without God.
1988 was quite a year for metal which resulted in many releases that are now considered as essential and influential to the genre. However, deep in the underground, there was one release from an Italian progressive power metal act named Adramelch that twisted the influences of their NWOBHM and power metal predecessors into their own bleak and unique vison: Irae Melanox.
When composing this album, the band decided to take the usually triumphant aspects of their respective genre and take a more methodical approach to them. In many of the songs like the thrashier Fearful Visions, the doom-laden yet neoclassical Zephirus or the fast-paced Was Called Empire, a lot of variety will certainly be noticeable compositionally. However, what makes this album stand out is that it never feels content to perform repetitious and brief melodies throughout the album. There isn't a single instance where this album is not in the midst of displaying chilling lead harmonies, always building on themselves in order to forge authentically epic and progressive song structures when finally interweaving another companion instrument in order to constantly engage the listener in the atmospheric intricacy of it all. On top of that, the use of odd time signatures also contribute to the colder and somewhat unsettling tone of the album (which is further explored in other ways here) while keeping the songs compelling. The way everything is composed makes everything appear orchestrated. The riffing is punchy and sharp but it never feels inconsistent with every section seamlessly flowing from one to the other.
There is also the lyricism and vocals which also serve to set the album apart from its peers. There are no tales of glory here, no nobility, no jovial merrymaking to be found. Just the cold medieval sorrow of Catholic inquisition, the existentially devastating reality of feudal societies and the ruins of once powerful realms. Also, Adramelch could not have a better frontman to tackle such subjects. The vocalist may be another operatic vocalist but his bleak tenor cuts through the mix, completing the sorrowful vision that Irae Melanox expertly explores. When you hear him deliver word of decay and fear, it is believed. What's even more astounding is that even when the band is going for an upbeat melody or triumphant chorus, it is juxtaposed against the morbid or dreary imagery of the lyrical content in order to instill some dread when it is least expected. A surprising method but one that I find to be clever and well conceived.
There is only one thing I can imagine deterring some and that would definitely be the production. It's a complex thing to tackle in terms of listener preference because one would either think that it is just poor or that it adds to the already bleak atmosphere given by the vocals, lyrics and composition. I fall into the latter. Despite the production, what was stated earlier simply compels one to fall back into the Irae Melanox's immersive intricacy once again, making it a one of a kind classic that I would recommend for anyone to give at least one listen.