Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Diabulus In Musica - The Wanderer (2012)

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The Wanderer

Diabulus In Musica - The Wanderer
The Wanderer, the sophomore album from Spanish symphonic power metallers Diabulus In Musica, is awash with influential sounds. Shades of Epica, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, and Tristania can be heard as the album progresses from bombastic opener "Ex Nihilo" to the wistful acoustic breeze of the title track. In between, the soaring voice of frontwoman Zuberoa Aznárez skillfully parries the harsh snarls and growls of guitarist Adrián M. Vallejo and keyboardist Gorka Elso. The resulting product is intriguing for its use of numerous style elements, but ultimately The Wanderer stops short of delivering a memorable wallop.

Diabulus In Musica gained attention with their debut album Secrets due in large part to the voice of Aznárez. Classically trained and an active member of a chamber choir, Aznárez injects elegance and grace into the band's sound as her voice soars and dives in harmony with (and sometimes opposition to) the grinding music around her. "Ex Nihilo", for instance, is an epic power metal track of the most symphonic sort with driving riffs, robust background vocals, and thunderous beats. Aznárez' unhurried vocals offers a stark but welcome contrast to the immediacy of the music, making the song one of the highlights of The Wanderer. At times she can be a bit over the top in terms of theatrics, but by and large she does an outstanding job of fitting in with shifting tones as the album progresses. "Sentenced To Life", an agonizing duet with John Kelly of the rock opera production Elfenthal, contains one of her smoother performances but pales in comparison to the power she brings on the faster tracks.

Diabulus In Musica
Photo: Stefan Heilemann
Adding another dimension to the band's vocal style, Vallejo and Elso accompany Aznárez with a variety of snarls and grumbles. Used most often as accent pieces, the extreme male vocals take center stage on "Shadow Of The Throne" as Vallejo's riffs and leads are delivered just a tad darker and more chaotic. Monastic choruses and a brief contribution from Aznárez punctuate vocals that otherwise shift only between deathly growls, gurgled whispers, and blackened shrieks. The supporting gurgles on "Blazing A Trail" come courtesy of Epica's Mark Jansen and contrast nicely with the otherworldly refrains, but "Oihuka Bihotzetik" is another male-dominated track where the vocals descend into annoyingly screamo territory - as do the stop-start riffs. "No Time For Repentance (Lamentatio)" follows suit, with swirling melodeath riffs and shrieked vocals, but Aznárez offsets the foolishness with some ethereal refrains and ends the track a cappella.

The aforementioned tracks aside, much of the riffage contained within The Wanderer is quite pleasing if not necessarily remarkable. Nearly always hefty and with decent variation, Vallejo's riffs are nevertheless rather safe. The muted licks on "Sceneries Of Hope" are a nice touch, as is the acoustic performance on the title track, but once the album closes there's little about the guitar sound to remember. Elso's keys, on the other hand, manage to remain in memory long after The Wanderer has ended. As the dominating orchestral factor, the ever-present keys are richly textured and satisfyingly grandiose. Elso expertly conveys the proper sense of atmosphere each track demands, from the intimidating "Oihuka Bihotzetik" to the soothing "Call From A Rising Memory" - which also features a haunting vocal melody from Aznárez. Together with the wide array of vocal styles, the keyboard defines the core of Diabulus In Musica's sound.

The Wanderer is an album that is practically flawless, from a production and execution point of view. The musicians of Diabulus In Musica are obviously highly skilled, talented, and able to craft complex arrangements, yet their sophomore album fails to break through into remarkable territory. Fans of symphonic metal, particularly those inclined toward bands like Nightwish and Epica, will undoubtedly want to add The Wanderer to their collections. The rest of us might want to wait for something a little more lasting.

Track Listing
1A Journey's End (Intro)2:16
2Ex Nihilo5:33
3Sceneries Of Hope3:52
4Blazing A Trail4:04
5Call From A Rising Memory (Intro)1:18
6Hidden Reality4:44
7Shadow Of The Throne4:45
8Allegory Of Faith, Innocence And Future5:21
9Sentenced To Life5:04
10Oihuka Bihotzetik4:53
11No Time For Repentance (Lamentatio)8:30
12The Wanderer4:38
Total Runtime54:58

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