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Opera Diabolicus - "+ 1614" (CD)

Opera Diabolicus - "+ 1614" CD cover image

"+ 1614" track listing:

1. Overture
2. The Gates
3. Blood Countess Bathory
4. The 13th Guest
5. In Memoriam
6. Mythos Lamia
7. Forbidden
8. Stone By Stone

Reviewed by on February 17, 2012

"Gothic-tinged atmospheres set the tone for tales of vampires, witches and ancient castles on Opera Diabolicus’ '+ 1614' album."

Opera Diabolicus provides a fix to King Diamond junkies that have suffered from withdrawal the last five years. Gothic-tinged atmospheres set the tone for tales of vampires, witches and ancient castles on Opera Diabolicus’ “+ 1614” album. The Swedish group, comprised of composer/musician David Grimoire and lyricist Adrian de Crow, has compiled a list of familiar names in the metal community to create a dark opera. Not only does this project resemble King Diamond in approach, members of the King Diamond family also participate in its making. Stead-fast King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque produced the album, while Snowy Shaw drums and provides vocals.

It’s not clear whether Grimoire wrote parts specifically for Shaw, but Shaw has an apparent influence on the album. “+ 1614” yields a similar quasi-black metal style, especially at the vocal level. Niklas Isfeldt of Dream of Evil, another band on Shaw’s long resume, appears on the album. Mats Levén (Krux, Therion, and Yngwie Malmsteen) rounds out this collection of Swedish veteran metal musicians.

Utilizing the voices of these three artists is vital to the success of de Crow’s metal opera. Each voice plays a different character, often trading lines with female vocalist Camilla Alisander-Ason. Not since Ancient’s “The Cainian Chronicles” has a band successfully created a male-to-female dialog with as much dramatic impact as Opera Diabolicus. Alisander-Ason’s vocal performances are stellar, but their placement is what makes the album so solid. From alluring, ghostly female voices to middle-range growls, power metal highs and rich, melodious-sung chorus, Grimoire’s compositions mesh perfectly, providing the perfect mood for each song’s chapter-like transformations.

Because of heavy piano and keyboard usage, Opera Diabolicus contains aspects of Dimmu Borgir, Arcturus and Cradle of Filth. In terms of atmosphere, the group possesses elements of those three bands. “+ 1614” doesn’t overuse or misplace its classical instruments, though. Thankfully, one won’t find speed metal piano here. Symphonic parts construct and deconstruct heavy passages, so the heavy remains heavy and the light remains light. “The 13th Guest” begins with lush keys, violin and female vocals, but morphs into churning Swedish thrash. “Mythos Lamia” is set forth through bombastic, militaristic movements and super natural choirs. Its descent into metallic realms is not far removed from producer LaRocque’s juggernaut rhythms on King Diamond’s crowd favorite “Them.” Never hitting a speed metal or black metal stride nor trudging along at doom metal tempos, the guitar work, much like Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, finds medium ground.

“+ 1614” is an album that requires several listens. Depending on one’s mood, the piano and female vocals might turn off listeners looking for balls-out heaviness, but a close listen will reveal classic horror score ambience, exceptional arraignments and plenty of hard riffing. If you proudly display albums by the bands mentioned in this review, then Opera Diabolicus is a band you simply can not overlook.

Highs: Expert composition and dynamics, chilling atmosphere, powerful choirs

Lows: Piano and high-pitch vocals subtract from the album's heaviness.

Bottom line: "+ 1614" is an exceptional Gothic symphony. Fans of Therion, King Diamond and Cradle of Filth should take notice.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 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)