Released: 2016, Massacre Records
It seems like a long time ago that debut album SUSPIRIA was released by Austrian gothic metal band Darkwell. This female-fronted band formed in 1999, released two full lengths and an EP, then called it a day in 2007. During that span, original vocalist Alexandra Pittracher was replaced by Stephanie Luzie in 2003 and Luzie would handle vocals on 2004’s album METATRON. Looking back, Luzie had the greater range but Pittracher was the better fit with the music. So ,the fire still burns as the band has reunited and Pittracher has reclaimed her place back at the microphone.
MOLOCH (there is an overused word in metal) picks up where SUSPIRIA left off, the band showing greater versatility with more modern tones and production. Pittracher has stepped up her game, harmonizing her own vocals to great effect throughout, particularly on deep album track “Clandestine”, which features a fairly heavy opening guitar riff. The lead off title track highlights one of Darkwell’s continuing strengths in being able to offer dark and foreboding verses with memorable and slightly brighter choruses. The band also manages to deliver tougher passages without resorting to the predictable and tired growly male vocals, instead relying on speedy double kick drums sprinkled here and there along with some tremolo guitar riffs and crushing rhythms.
A definite sign of the band’s maturity is knowing when to shift course when the Gothic and melancholy doom is about to become overbearing, such as on the melodic and more uplifting grace of “Fall Of Ishtar.” We also get a movie tribute to 1927’s METROPOLIS in “Yoshiwara” , the name of the nightclub in the film as well as a complete throwback tune to SUSPIRIA on “Bow Down.” Overall the guitar work is solid without flash, laying down heavy opening riffs and then providing color when Pittrachers starts to sing. The drum work from Michael Bachler is an unquestioned highlight, and while the keyboards provide mood and variety they are just too profuse.
Pittracher sounds more engaged and expressive than she did in the past, and while her vocals still come across sometimes as lackadaisical, some of that is due to her somewhat limited range, which tends to falter when testing the higher registers such as on “Loss Of Reason.” Think of maybe a second tier Liv Kristine and you will have an idea of Pittracher’s approach and timbre. Overall, MOLOCH is a fine return for Darkwell fulfilling much of the unrealized promise of their earlier albums. Sure it’s mid-tier female-fronted Gothic metal, but Darkwell does not sound like many of the contemporaries, and they deserve credit for being different.