Darkend - Grand Guignol - Book I review
|Album:||Grand Guignol - Book I|
|Release date:||February 2012|
01. Descent/Ascent (II Movement)
02. Æinsoph: Flashforward To Obscurity [feat. Fearbringer]
03. Doom: And Then Death Scythed [feat. Fearbringer]
04. Spiritism: The Transmigration Passage
05. Bereavement: A Multitude In Martyrized Flesh
06. Grief: Along Our Divine Pathway
07. Bleakness: Of Secrecy, Haste And Shattered Crystals
08. Pest: Fierce Massive Slaying Grandeur
09. Decrepitude: One Last Laugh Beside Your Agonies
10. Dawn: Black Sun Rises [feat. Fearbringer]
This album is horrible. So much so that it might have you gripping your scalp in sheer terror. After all that is Darkend's aim in their latest album and apparently their first installment of a series of macabre tales set to a grisly backbone of symphonic black metal. This is claimed to be "horror metal", and it's easy to see why the band have decided to make such a self reference.
The theme from which the album draws its name "Grand Guignol" is based upon a Parisian horror theatre literally meaning "Big Puppet", which was one of the earliest forms of entertainment designed to shock and awe with its terrifyingly realistic representations of human anguish and explicit sexual content. This is quite an auspicious goal; to appeal directly to a source of the modern horror aspect of popular culture and attempt to translate it not only into music, but into black metal no less. So the question is have they succeeded here?
The most immediately engaging characteristic of the music is the ease with which the elements which make up its black metal framework are moulded to the continued presence of the symphonic aspect. Without this cohesion the album would simply fall apart at the seams. Things go from unrelenting gritty guitar and shrieking vocal work making its gruesome way across the stage to the symphonies kicking in to make an equally significant appearance drawing the listener in with anticipation for the next piece of hellish gore. When the band brings both these elements together at a climax it is handled very adeptly, and the album has many of these moments, in which sorrow and pain combine in spectacular fashion, of which an example is an album highlight "Spiritism: The Transmigration Passage."
Length is, however, considerably problematic here. This is an immense album, clocking in at well over the hour. Fans of symphonic black metal may be in their element, an absolutely tantalising feast of riffery accompanied by the parallel sounds of the orchestra. However even then there isn't enough variance, particularly when it comes to the drums and vocals, and there are at times passages which begin to seriously deplete the intense atmosphere the album gradually builds up due to their tendency to stick to a rather linear and methodical pattern. Changes of pace and shifts in the vocals, either to cleans or to an ominous whisper or chant, do relieve the various monotonous areas which crop up across the album.
The times at which the album becomes predictable are comparatively unexciting when placed before or after the various points at which things all come together in such a horrifyingly entertaining way. In other words the climaxes can often outweigh the somewhat unengaging passages linking them together, toppling the album to some extent.
There are some true horrors to be found in this musical descent into the Grand Guignol, and it certainly conjures up the images which it hopes to instill in the listener. But, as was the case with the source of the album's inspiration, it is tailored for a target audience, its length almost entirely ensuring it stays appealing to such an audience with little room for exception. It is horror for those who most appreciate it as a form of entertainment, delivered to you by a band who knows how to cater to their audience's unquenchable thirst for the ghastly.
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