Released: 2012, Agonia Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Attention aspiring Metal bands: When in doubt, show some boobies. It won’t make your music any better, but it’ll make a lasting impression.
The first time I became aware of Italy’s Opera IX was around the release of 98’s SACRO CULTO, and the reason I remember that album was because of the nekkid Italian chick spread on the album cover. The tunes were pretty straightforward late ‘90s black metal and didn’t really do much for me, and the nekkid chick seemed like a cheesy marketing ploy even then, but for better or worse I remembered Opera IX. Fast forward to the present; a promo for the new Opera IX album is sitting in my inbox, and low and behold, the band’s new promotional photo has another random nekkid chick (presumably also Italian) in front of the band looking spooky. I’m still not sure what the connection is here; is it just that girls like to take their clothes off for black metal dudes? Is that the band has such supernatural power that they can compel the opposite sex to abide in their evil rituals? Or is the chick just a model trying to earn a living that they plied with fifty bucks and a value meal to pose with the band, and the band knows that it’ll draw the attention of horny adolescents everywhere to a mediocre black metal album? Doesn’t seem so spooky when you think of it in that context, eh?
So yes, Opera IX are back with their first full length in eight years, STRIX MALEDICTAE IN AETURNUM. The included press sheet describes the album as “a lustful journey throughout the deepest and most macabre desires of man.” Hmmm. If that’s indeed the case, then I suppose that man’s deepest and most macabre desires involve lots of keyboards, stale riffs, and more keyboards. I suppose.
The problem with STRIX is that it’s just not that interesting. Most of the songs are borne of the same recipe, and as such, end up being interchangeable and unmemorable. I feel bad for the band’s guitarist, because he’s not really given much to work with. The riffs are introductory level generic bar chords played either really fast, or in a brooding chugga, chugga. The keyboards are so prominent in the mix that they overshadow most of everything else going on behind it, almost as if the album was written around the synth parts first and everything else was tacked on around it afterwards. I openly asked the question at one point, “why did the rest of the band bother showing up for work?” And the drums are waaay up front too, but they sound flat and dull. There’s a spot in the track “1313” where the drummer goes into a blast fit, and I swear it sounded like the starter problem in my old Ford Escort.
There are a few high points on the album though. “Mandragora” has an interesting opening lick that unfortunately gets wasted, and “Earth and Fire” has some old school thrash in its DNA. Beyond that, the rest of the album just blurs together. It’s like watching a “Murder She Wrote” marathon; you may not know which episode you’re watching, but you know that someone’s gonna end up dead and Angela Lansbury is going to solve the crime before the hour’s up, but you watch anyway to see who the celebrity guest star is going to be.
I’d like to go on record and say that this is probably the first time in history that boobs in your promo photos, black metal and Angela Lansbury have ever been mentioned at the same time.
Check out Opera IX’s website for more details on STRIX MALEDICTAE IN AETURNUM.