Released: 2009, Scarlet Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
You have to respect any band that can craft a head banging anthem set to the musical score of the classic ballet “Swan Lake.” And Spain’s Dark Moor has done just that on their seventh full length release, AUTUMNAL. Though the band hasn’t made much of a dent outside of the European market, Dark Moor has built a strong history of creative and strongly crafted metal. AUTUMNAL is no exception to that tradition. A hybrid of gothic fantasy, symphonic power metal, and a lot of imagination, AUTUMNAL could not only be the album that opens up their fan base, but it could well be the sleeper hit of 2009.
Choosing “Swan Lake” as an album opener could have gone either way with metal fans, but it’s composed so well that it begs to be heard. Galloping rhythms, broad vocal dynamics, and full of orchestration, it covers all the wants of a metal fan. “On the Hill of Dreams” liberally borrows its main riff from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” but is thematically a unique animal all of its own. The band produced a video for the track (check it out on YouTube), which is creatively stark in contrast to the dynamic elements of the song itself.
It’s no wonder that the band would pull inspiration from the theater, as AUTUMNAL is characteristically theatrical across the board. Most of the songs feature huge layers of keyboard arrangements and are individually grandiose efforts. But even with so much going on in each of the songs, AUTUMNAL is without question a metal record. Longtime creative stalwart and guitarist Enrik Garcia drives the core of the music with his powerful riffs and tasteful solos, keeping the sound heavy throughout the affair. It’s the way that the guitars are interwoven with the orchestral elements so naturally that make the album such a great listen again and again.
Vocalist Alfred Romero’s distinct, accentuated style is both charismatic and captivating atop the layers of instrumentation. “For Her” starts off with a baritone vocal introduction paired with heavy keyboards and guitars in a minor key, which then gives way to an escalating harmony chorus in a bombastic major key change. “The Enchanted Forest” is an emotive track that has been stuck in my brain since the first spin of the disc, and a chorus that will have you pumping your fist and singing along. “Fallen Leaves Waltz” is an instrumental album closer, that is strictly orchestral in performance. On its own it might seem a questionable inclusion, but after the preceding ten tracks, it’s akin to the closing credits at the end of an amazing film.
AUTUMNAL has been available since January, but I’ve seen zero press about this disc in the western metal press. It’s disappointing that an album of this caliber could potentially see such a limited release. I’ve had this in my playlist since its release, and I don’t see it phasing out anytime soon. A masterful piece of metal from a band in their prime, AUTUMNAL will have you looking at Russian ballets in a completely different perspective.