Album Reviews

Dark Moor – Ars Musica Review

Dark Moor - Ars Musica_cover

Released By: Scarlet Records

Release Date: June 18, 2013

Genre: Symphonic Power Metal

Links: http://www.dark-moor.com/principaling.htm

 

Line Up:

Alfred Romero – Vocals

Enrik Garcia – Guitar

Mario Garcia – Bass

Roberto Cappa – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Ars Music (Intro)

2. First Lance Of Spain

3. It Is My Way

4. The Road Again

5. Together As Ever

6. The City Of Peace

7. Gara And Jonay

8. Living In A Nightmare

9. El Ultimo Rey

10. Saint James Way

11. Spanish Suite (Asturias)

12. The Road Again (Acoustic Version)

13. Living In A Nightmare (Orchestral Version)

 

In the sea of Spanish power metal bands, a few bands have impressed me over the years, while many others have been good but not as memorable. The one band from Spain that I could always count on, though, is Dark Moor. In the beginning they were a female fronted band led by the very strong pipes of Elisa C Martin. She left following The Gates Of Oblivion, by far the best album of their early years, and an outright symphonic power metal classic with an awesome use of neo-classical elements. At that point it was obvious a big change was needed, so they brought in male vocalist Alfred Romero, who made an immediate impact on their amazing self-titled album. Since then it’s been a very smooth ride for Dark Moor as they managed to successfully reinvent themselves with their new singer and to stay as strong as ever over the next few albums. The upcoming release of Ars Musica marks their sixth full length album with Alfred, and their ninth overall.

Opinions differ on which era of Dark Moor is best, but while I generally prefer female vocals, I feel the band has only gotten better since they’ve added Alfred to the lineup, as his very warm voice and often theatrical style which comes close to being operatic but never quite goes that far, has proven to be a great fit for their now more mature sound. Shortly after their previous album Ancestral Romance was released, I had hailed it as their masterpiece. Well, time has proven me wrong in multiple ways, as first of all, more listens to their self-titled album and The Gates Of Oblivion have proven those to be on an equal level. Secondly, they have now managed to deliver once again, as Ars Musica is every bit as impressive as its immediate predecessor, while also being much more focused and doing a perfect job of showcasing their distinct sound and showing just how nicely Alfred fits in at this point.

Where Ancestral Romance was their most unpredictable and diverse album yet, Ars Musica is perhaps their most well organized album yet, as after a particularly stunning and breathtaking orchestral intro track, the rest of the album follows a pattern of faster songs followed by slower songs, so you always have an idea of what you’ll be hearing on the next track. For some bands such predictability and such a focus on slower songs could be seen as a bad thing, but for a band like Dark Moor, who can be just as effective and as exciting with semi-ballads as they can be with sweeping up-tempo power metal hits, this more balanced approach works extremely well, and there is no song that even comes close to being less than perfect.

The biggest difference on this album is the change from a more classical approach with the symphonic elements, to something more theatrical and possibly even more epic than ever before. In fact, the orchestrations on this album do far more than enhance the songs: They are often among the biggest highlights, and at times the variety to all the different sounds you’ll hear can be overwhelming, but always in an amazing way, especially on “The City Of Peace”. Otherwise, this is very similar to all other albums with Alfred Romero, in that the guitar work is never flashy and is often understated, but when Enrik Garcia gives himself a chance to shine he sure delivers, as some of the solos are quite spectacular, and not just technically: Some of the notes he plays are simply beautiful, which can also be said for many of the melodies. In fact, the ability to write such amazing melodies is obviously important to a power metal band, but Dark Moor has always been one of the very best at that, and on Ars Musica I think they’ve outdone themselves once again, as this is a very beautiful and insanely catchy album from start to finish.

Opening albums impressively has long been one of their strengths, and while this album has an intro track, it happens to be an absolutely stellar one as the sound of the keys combines with the orchestral sound to create a very strong atmosphere that more than does its job of getting you excited for the album. And when the next track “First Lance Of Spain” begins, it instantly proves itself as one of their finest opening songs yet. It has the typical sound you’d expect from a Dark Moor album opener, only Alfred’s vocals are more dynamic and more effective than ever before, and the expected female backing vocals (a tradition for the Alfred albums at this point) sound amazing, which makes for one hell of an awesome chorus to this epic fast-paced power metal tune. Next is “It Is My Way”, which shows how amazing they are at slower songs. It’s very soft and light, with Alfred’s dramatic vocals dominating, particularly on the unbelievably epic chorus, and this is one song that shows how far he’s come as a singer over the years: He was always very good, but he has gotten better with each album, and at this point he has become one of my absolute favorites. Ars Musica is easily his best performance yet, as he shows a wider range than ever before, particularly with his shockingly good lower notes first shown on the opener, which go along nicely with his always smooth delivery and unique style.

On their previous album they celebrated their Spanish heritage, as that was the main lyrical theme for every song, and they even wrote a song in their native language (“Cancion Del Pirata”) which ended up being one of the biggest highlights. This time the lyrics are more varied, but they have given their fans another song in Spanish, this time with “El Ultimo Rey”, and once again it stands as one of the very best songs on the album. Other highlights include the amazing ballad “Gara And Jonay”, which has some rather cheesy lyrics, but Alfred’s vocals and the overall unique feel to the song help make it a stand out, so even the lyrics end up sounding fine just because of how well they’re presented. On the fast side of things, there’s the aforementioned “City Of Peace”, which is dominated by the epic use of symphonic elements in the chorus, though even more impressive is “Living In A Nightmare”, by far their most theatrical song yet and also the biggest surprise of the album, with Alfred going even further than usual with his epic and dramatic vocal delivery, while the backing vocals enhance the song even further. Lastly, “Together As Ever” is probably the best of the slower songs, and the closing instrumental “Spanish Suite (Asurias)” is also very nice.

Dark Moor have proven themselves over the years to be not only the best metal band out of Spain by far, but one of the very best symphonic power metal bands in the world, so it’s no surprise that their latest album Ars Musica is one of the biggest highlights in a very strong first half of a year for metal in 2013. Highly recommended for any fan of the genre, or melodic metal albums in general, as the melodies really are outstanding.

 

 

Written by Travis

Ratings    Travis    10/10


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