Opera IX
The Black Opera
(Symphonae Mysteriorum in Laudem Tenebrarum)

Act I - The First Seal
Act II - Beyond the Black Diamond Gates
Act III - Carnal Delight in the Vortex of Evil
Act IV - Congressus cum Daemone
Act V - The Magic Temple
Act VI - The Sixth Seal
Bela Lugosi's Dead (Bauhaus cover)
(total playing time 51:08)

Before me lies the third offering of Italian occult-metallers Opera IX, sporting a pretentious title: 'The Black Opera'. This must certainly be something, for I am still a big fan of their debut 'The Call Of The Wood' (although not familiar with the follow-up 'Sacro Culto') and, as probably any male appreciator of extreme metal music who saw her, mildly infatuated with the vocalist Cadaveria whose quite extreme screams and roars were all over that record.

In here, the concept of a warrior's dark search for power and his/her dealings with several ancient deities is laid out in six acts (a posh way to put six songs on an album). Where TCOTW had a dark and occult atmosphere reinforced by the thin and somewhat distant, yet crisp production, authentic instrumentals and a piano softly playing eerie melodies in the background behind the adventurous guitar riffs, the first thing that draws attention here is the huge sound and, technically speaking, excellent production. Overproduction I'd say, because a thick layer of 'orchestral' keyboards combined with the distorted guitars washes out part of Cadaveria's vocals, which is an annoying mistake because her vocals were quite an effective tool on TCOTW. Not a good start, and then I haven't even talked about the music itself yet.

The music is largely narrative and often without direction, to the extent that it at some moments seems as if a few riffs are merely being pasted together. It seems generally built up from blackened metal ideas vaguely reminding of the '80s, however in presentation and execution this record is definitely of this age. One can hear the occasional black metal riff on top of a blastbeat but these are exceptions.

The repeatedly upcoming poor songwriting grates the mind and this lack of focus perpetuates more aspects of this work. Keyboards are superfluous most of the time, providing an additional layer of sound, either following the riff structures, or adding tonebars and a few broken chords as often heard in bad movie soundtracks: 'cheese' is the word generally used for such escapades. The only aspect shining on this release are the vocals, delivered with force, thus accounting for the wondrous combination of fierce screams with a sexy accent, although they were better, and better used, on the debut album.

All these mistakes would still be forgivable if the metal on this disc was intense, mysterious, symphonic and dark as the CD title seems to suggest, but sadly this is not the case. I think it is a damn shame if a band misses a mark like this (in a way not entirely dissimilar to Emperor's case with 'Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk') and especially if it is a band with such a great debut album. Go for that one, it is carefully constructed and artistically tasteful, something that cannot be said of 'The Black Opera'.

Oh, there's also a cover at the end of the disc, I don't know the Bauhaus original but let's say that this rendering sounds like severely overdressed wave/gothic rock, hardly worth buying the CD for.

2000 dwaallicht