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Opera IX - "Strix - Maledictae in Aeternum" (CD)

Opera IX - "Strix - Maledictae in Aeternum" CD cover image

"Strix - Maledictae in Aeternum" track listing:

1. Strix the Prologue (Intro) (2:39)
2. 1313 (Eradicate the False Idols) (6:39)
3. Dead Tree Ballad (5:42)
4. Vox in Rama (part 1) (3:40)
5. Vox in Rama (part 2) (5:12)
6. Mandragora (6:19)
7. Eyes in the Well (6:18)
8. Earth and Fire (7:58)
9. Ecate -The Ritual (intro) (3:29)
10. Ecate (6:04)
11. Nemus Tempora Maleficarum (6:29)
12. Historia Nocturna (8:38)

Reviewed by on January 20, 2012

"Its clear Opera IX wants to recreate the sounds of yesteryear in nearly every way... The music is just all around menacing and demonic, even when the symphonic sounds are front and center, like a mix of early Dimmu and Hecate Enthroned."

The Italian outfit Opera IX wears its influences clearly on its sleeve and offers exactly what is advertised. From the title “Strix - Maledictae in Aeternum” to band member names like “Vlad,” the symphonic black metal theme is in full force from the get-go, reliving the glory days of the early European scene. Opera IX has been keeping this sound going since the early ‘90s, although the act never managed to be as prolific as bands like Dimmu Borgir or become as much of an underground phenomena as Emperor. Despite the lack of recognition, this latest offering from the group keeps up the mix of abrasive black metal and atmospheric symphonic elements that fans of the genre know and love.

The album is definitely one to listen to with headphones on rather than blasting in the car stereo, as the production maintains the same muted and faded quality you’d expect from a release two decades back. Its clear Opera IX wants to recreate the sounds of yesteryear in nearly every way, and not just in the sound quality. The music is just all around menacing and demonic, even when the symphonic sounds are front and center, like a mix of early Dimmu and Hecate Enthroned.

On the symphonic front, the keyboards are constantly present but generally not overdone, as after twenty years the band knows how to play up the atmosphere without going overboard. The screams are a little lower than the standard black metal growling, coming out with a rasping hiss and even a hint of that guttural death metal delivery. Musically there’s nothing too complex or technical going on, with the focus on mid-paced black metal that’s simple but effective. Later songs on the album get a bit of a plodding doom feel and the track lengths increase to the upper end of seven and eight minutes.

Although the album does the symphonic black metal style justice, there is a major flaw in that it seems like the band is actively trying too hard to stay in the genre’s origins, instead of innovating or going in new directions. If the album had dropped in ’95 or even 2000 it probably would have been on non-stop repeat in my rotation, but with how far extreme metal in general and black metal in particular have advanced in the interim, “Strix - Maledictae in Aeternum” just isn’t as mesmerizing as it could be.

Highs: Good mix of the demonic and the atmospheric.

Lows: Low production, and the album sounds like it should have come out 15 or 20 years ago.

Bottom line: European symphonic black metal that sounds like it came straight from the '90s.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 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)