Review Summary: A Dark Euphony is the full realization of Blackbriar’s sound; consistently hitting a level earlier albums could only hint at.
In the world of Symphonic metal, Blackbriar has always been a unique outlier. Rather than engage in the folky, whimsical, and melodramatic topics of a lot of their contemporaries, Blackbriar always carried a prominent gothic influence and a predilection for the macabre. This focus was also fused into their music, preferring morbid atmospheres over epic bombast. They also featured one of the genre’s most distinctive vocalists in Zora Cock. Zora’s voice was dynamic and piercing, delivering beautiful melodies one moment, while filling the listener with dread the next. This unique combination led to more than a few undeniable gems (usually the songs with videos), but there were also just as many songs that were simply good. The problem has always been the band’s excessive reliance on Zora’s voice, with individual musical performances lacking flair or identity. A Dark Euphony
doesn’t suffer from that problem, taking their theatrical gothic metal foundation and integrating it with a classic Within Temptation-style symphonic bombast that highlights the entire band while giving Zora much more to work with.
The enhanced dynamics and musicianship are apparent throughout the album. From the shifting tempos of “An Unwelcome Guest” to the modern Amorphis folk-leanings of “Far Distant Lands” to the crushing closing on “Bloody Footprints in the Snow”, there are plenty of examples of the band enhancing the songs and not just supporting Zora’s vocals. This enriched musical accompaniment goes a long way towards giving each song its own feel and identity while also lending an air of unpredictability and momentum. Of course, this huge new sound-palette has diminished some of the unique elements that always made Blackbriar feel quirky and warped, but it is a trade worth making. While I have always enjoyed previous Blackbriar releases, the songs were often a little too predictable and minimalist for my tastes, leading me to revisit my favorites while ignoring everything else. A Dark Euphony
’s huge dynamics, symphonic bombast, stronger individual performances, and catchier songwriting coupled with the best of Blackbriar’s previous releases ensures this album is captivating from start to finish.
Of course, no matter how much the band steps up, the star of the show will always be Zora. Her vocal style integrates the vocal acrobatics of Leprous’ Einar Solberg, the delicate power of Within Temptation’s Sharon Den Adel, and the goth/folk poignant story-telling that is entirely her own. It’s this significant talent that allows her to deliver the huge hooks of “Cicada”, the vocal gymnastics of “Bloody Footprints in the Snow”, and the delicacy of “The Evergreen and Weeping Tree” with equal levels of conviction and flair. Personally, my favorite tracks are the ones that do the best job of mixing all the elements. Of course, “Cicada” has been stuck in my head since the day the video was released and is easily one of the most emotive and catchy songs in the band’s discography. I also love the huge melancholic weight of “Bloody Footprints in the Snow”, the Aegis
-era Theatre of Tragedy meets The Silent Force
-era Within Temptation feel of “Spirit of Forgetfulness”, and my personal favorite “We Make Mist” which is the culmination of everything that makes Blackbriar compelling.
Throughout A Dark Euphony
, there is an abundance of new elements married to the macabre gothic metal Blackbriar have always been known for. Most significantly, the band has stepped up their game exponentially, delivering a wealth of guitar harmonies, melancholic keyboard melodies, huge crescendos, eerie goth interludes, and epic symphonic moments. These new elements provide a life and energy that previous releases just couldn’t offer, and they go a long way towards allowing A Dark Euphony
to maintain its momentum while providing Zora much more to work with – and she was up to the challenge. It’s no stretch to suggest that Zora delivers a career-defining performance throughout this album. From huge hooky choruses to spine-tingling vocal trills and acrobatic vocal runs, she delivers it all with grace. It’s not often a band makes this huge of an advancement between albums, but that is what Blackbriar have accomplished. A Dark Euphony
is the full realization of Blackbriar’s sound; consistently hitting a level earlier albums could only hint at.