Romania's Magica has been navigating the seas of symphonic power metal since 2002 and, frankly, has more often than not been dismissed as just another Nightwish clone. The comparison is not unwarranted, with the band's first four albums deviating little from a formula that has been established by bands such as After Forever, Epica, and the aforementioned Nightwish. Magica's output thus far has been solid, if unremarkable, but on Dark Diary the band takes a turn toward distancing themselves from the power metal masses.
The first genre cliché that Magica tosses aside is the way the album opens. Typically, power metal outfits use the first track as an opportunity to attempt to establish mood with a (usually over the top) keyboard composition. Magica, on the other hand, launch Dark Diary at full speed with "Anywhere But Home". Built upon some nice technical riffs, the song sets the stage for an album that is just to the right of ordinary. The keyboard elements are still an integral part of Dark Diary, but they are held tastefully subservient to the six-string efforts of Emilian Burcea and Magica founder Bogdan "Bat" Costea. Both axeslingers put forth riff after catchy riff, such as those on the Dokken-like "Need" and the thrashy "We Are Horde" - which stands as the most aggressive track on the album and a definite highlight. The usual galloping riffage isn't completely absent from Dark Diary, but there's less of it than one usually gets with this style of metal.
The strongest argument for the accusations of Nightwish emulation have been focused on frontwoman Ana Mladinovici's vocals, though her style is less refined than that of Tarja Turunen and her range isn't as broad. On Dark Diary, however, Ana's somewhat throaty delivery simply darkens an already dark, moody atmosphere created by the riffs and keys. Magica turns up the Gothic elements even further through the use of male backing vocals, with the male-female interplay during the choruses of stand-out track "On The Side Of Evil" having more to do with Lacuna Coil than Nightwish. With gruff male vocals on "Never Like You" and some brief growls on "Release My Demons", the band again shows a commitment to break away from their roots and deliver a more substantive sound.
Finally, on their fifth album, Magica begins to emerge from behind their influences and make a mark for themselves on the genre. Not all songs on Dark Diary hit the mark, with the closer "Dear Diary" being the album's weakest point, but there's enough here to deserve attention from fans of Gothic power metal.
|1||Anywhere But Home||4:23|
|3||Never Like You||4:00|
|4||Wait For Me||4:19|
|6||Release My Demons||4:09|
|7||On The Side Of Evil||4:22|
|8||My Kin My Enemy||4:06|
|9||Used To Be An Angel||3:35|
|10||We Are Horde||4:22|
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