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Diabulus in Musica - "Secrets" (CD)

Diabulus in Musica - "Secrets" CD cover image

"Secrets" track listing:

1. Renaissance (0:52)
2. Come To Paradise (4:47)
3. Nocturnal Flowers (4:23)
4. Evolution's Whim (4:23)
5. New Era (4:55)
6. Lies In Your Eyes (3:57)
7. Lonely Soul (3:50)
8. The Seventh Gate (1:13)
9. Ishtar (4:03)
10. Under The Shadow (Of A Butterfly) (4:26)
11. Beyond Infinity (4:15)
12. The Forest Of Ashes (6:26)
13. St. Michael's Nightmare (7:53)

Reviewed by on June 14, 2010

"Despite the flashy live getup, the music is neither better nor worse than their competitors."

Try not to be disappointed, but the band Diabulus In Musica is nothing like Slayer’s “Diabolus In Musica” album. Diabulus In Musica is a female-fronted gothic metal band from Spain, while the other is an album by some thrash metal greats. The band Diabulus In Musica differentiates itself from other female-fronted gothic metal acts by taking their shows farther than everyone else. In the 2009 “Blue Elf’s Dream Tour,” for example, Diabulus In Musica covered the entire stage in leaves and branches and had multiple modern dancers in full-colored bodysuit costumes putting movement to the music. Despite the flashy live getup, the music is neither better nor worse than their competitors.

Diabulus In Musica’s first proper full-length starts with a somber string opening, but that is quickly wiped away by the power chords and lithe keyboards of “Come to Paradise.” By the time vocalist Zuberoa Aznárez gets into her high-pitched croon, the rout is on. Symphonic vocals over the top of modern metal passages all the way through the album are the prescription here. Even Adrián M. Vallejo’s intermittent growls don’t give much surprise, as the light-dark vocal aesthetic has been covered before and Vallejo’s growls tend to disrupt the flow more than anything else.

Now this dismissive attitude toward gothic metal doesn’t stop Diabulus In Musica from writing some compelling music. “Come To Paradise” has intriguing melodies playing with each other, the symphonic layered crescendos are exciting, and the chorus melody that Aznárez belts out is plenty hooky. On “Evolution’s Whim,” the enchantingly quiet opening and syncopated march moves well into the gentle roll of the cut’s continuing crescendo. The strings and backing vocals just add to the jumbled excitement.

But there is plenty of banality as well. “Nocturnal Flowers” is a modern hard rock pit of boring that puts the entirety of focus on Aznárez’s lilting vocals and the tired big hook chord progression. The riffs on “New Era” don’t punch hard enough and the pinch harmonics sound out of place, as do the interspersed sound bites of Barack Obama. On “Lovely Soul,” Aznárez doesn’t plumb the depths of sorrow enough to be a true rain-maker ballad, and the piano ends up sounding like a local studio recital.

“Secrets” is hit and miss until “The Forest of Ashes” and “St. Michael’s Nightmare.” Like many metal bands that are more melodically inclined, longer run times help the band finally get to musical places that are truly compelling, and that is the case here as well; the last two tracks are easily the strongest on the album. Moving between layered melodies, pounding riffs and drums, haunting bridges, dirty growled vocals that highlight and towering crescendos – particularly the end to “St. Michael’s Nightmare” – Diabulus In Musica finally gets their results.

Kudos as well on recruiting an impressive supporting cast of classical musicians and producer-types to make this record’s fantastic production values and sound quality a reality. Those qualities pay off in spades on “The Forest of Ashes” and “St. Michael’s Nightmare” too, even if they are underused on the preceding 11 tracks.

The ultimate reality, however, is that female-fronted gothic metal is already a pretty mature genre, and for a debut full-length like “Secrets” to compete with albums like Lacuna Coil’s “Karmacode” or Nightwish’s “Wishmaster” is asking quite a bit. But Diabulus In Musica certainly has potential to climb the ranks and be considered equal to those female-fronted standard bearers in the future. And with enough work and a little luck, maybe, just maybe, they might be mentioned as equals with Slayer too.

Highs: “The Forest of Ashes” and “St. Michael’s Nightmare” are easily the best two songs on the album.

Lows: The growled vocals usually detract from the songs instead of adding to them.

Bottom line: Impressive debut full-length from female fronted symphonic/gothic metal outfit shows lots of potential.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)