Opera IX – The Black Opera

Opera IX – The Black Opera – 3.5/5

Melodic Black Metal? Female Vocals? Opera in the name? Twice!?!?

Fairly quickly we can conclude that this was a band that sparked my interests – something the opening moment of this album did nothing to dissuade – though certainly the term ‘Opera’ has been misused here. Beyond the track names there is nothing here to suggest it is anything more than another melodic black album; a fairly strong one, admittedly, but by no stretch of the imagination an opera. If there were lyrical themes to suggest otherwise, they were too difficult to discern to have much of an impact.

This is an album with clear strengths and weaknesses. The drums often feel fairly monotonous, effective in certain passages but I wouldn’t go in expecting any flashes of brilliance, or indeed much beyond the basics. The keyboards for the most part as well are a drawback, all too often in the background providing a subtle atmosphere, utilising organ sounds, which in such an extrovert sound as this, doesn’t work very effectively. Once again, they are there purely for backing, creating an atmosphere, and whilst they have certain periods where they excel in this manner, for the most part contribute little. As for the bass guitar, I could barely tell there was one.

But on the positive side, the guitar work was frequently capable of producing some decent riffs, both utilising rapid tremolo picking, as well as slower, more atmospheric passages. For the most part they are capable of sustaining the rhythm of the piece effectively, though perhaps at times overuse palm muting leading to excessive ‘chugging.’ Not to mention the vocals, which if anyone reading this has heard of Cadaveria from her work with the band of the same name, take no notice, for this is the reason she received recognition. Outstripping her later work she roars with a black rage, spitting out her hostilities with passion and conviction. With an impressive range, providing a shriek not as harsh as many other vocalists, she instead retains a certain level of clarity and femininity which helps to distinguish this band from other, similar acts. Its simply unfortunately that very little else does.

The songs themselves feel well written on the surface, plenty of pace changes, shifts in aggression, instrumental interludes and so forth, but it all eventually begins to sound rather similar. Distinguishing between songs becomes a matter of which track had that slow omniscient and atmospheric introductory build up (Act IV), or which track were the occasional clean vocals heard (Act II), and it gets rather repetitive. Its as though they took the rulebook for creating melodic black metal and followed it to the letter, and whilst they certainly do it fairly well, there are simply others who do it better.

Highlights: Act III: Carnal Delights in the Vortex of Evil, Act IV: Congressus Cum Daemone