Released: 1998, Shiver Records
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
This album has been in my collection for several years, though it has not received as much attention as it deserves. I blame this on the fact on several factors. First, that my CD collection expands at an exponential rate, and inevitably, albums are shuffled in and out of rotation. Secondly, Shiver released this album in one of those infernal digipak dealies, which I abhor and shove to the bottom shelves of my collection, as they screw up the shelf spacing.
Thanks to Totenkopf on our Disgruntled Metalheads board inquiring about the band, I dug out SACRO CULTO for some long overdue spins.
SACRO CULTO is an excellent album with a variety of styles, blending doom metal and extreme metal with epic, atmospheric, and symphonic stylings, and even some gothic influences. The album is quite long, clocking in at over 70 minutes in length, and each of the six songs on this album is a unique piece, most running well over ten minutes long.
The heart of Opera IX is “Pagan doom metal.” Many of the songs start out slow with the basic elements, most prominently in the thick, heavy riffs by guitarist Ossian. Instead of sludgy distortion, however, the guitar tone is rawer and has a sharper edge. The band does not stick with any one style for very long, moving from doom to frenetic, chaotic riffs and blastbeats.
In addition to the talented and experimental songwriting, two additional elements accentuate Opera IX’s unique blend of dark, epic metal. First, is the vocalist Cadaveria. Her style varies from the harsh, typical black metal growl to a clean, almost operatic style. Cadaveria’s voice is not polished as many of the other female vocalists, but she performs the duties well throughout the spectrum. Secondly, the skillful use of the instruments creates a dark, haunting atmosphere throughout each of Opera IX’s tracks. Mellow acoustic passages, vocal chanting, folkish breakdowns and ethereal keyboard melodies alternate with harsher passages in an intense juxtaposition of styles. The end result reminds me somewhat of a doomier version of fellow Italians Stormlord in some places.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is “Fronds of the Ancient Walnut,” a 12 minute epic that incorporates every element in Opera IX’s repertoire. My other favourite is also the most unique track on the album, “The Naked and the Dance,” which begins with an extended folky intro of wood flute, clean chanted male vocals, clean female vocals, and handclaps over a base of acoustic guitar melodies and thumping tribal drumming.
In the end, my words cannot adequately describe the multitude of styles and influences that Opera IX meld on SACRO CULTO. This album is an excellent piece of epic extreme metal with Pagan themes and a dark atmosphere throughout. I encourage any fan of this style to check this album out, or pull it off your shelf for another spin if it has been a while.