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Darkwell - Moloch

Darkwell - CD Review

Darkwell - Moloch

CD Info
Massacre Records
11 Tracks
English Lyrics
German Lyrics for 1 Track

After a lengthy hiatus, Darkwell, the Austrian Gothic Metal/Rock Band has released their third full length album. The inspiration for Moloch, draws upon Fritz Lang’s Dark Film, Metropolis, and the band does a very good job of bringing out the dark, gothic aspects of the film. Using multi-layering voicing, open chordal texture, and interesting instrumentation, Darkwell shows that they have mastered their portrayal of the film. It is quite apparent that the musicians are quite polished performers and the instrumental parts show plenty of energy. They have used their expertise to create the dark, gritty sound that permeates their music, especially the vocal part. For this album, Darkwell has created the expressionless, emotionless, tone that depicts the darkness within the film, while maintaining the energy needed to transport the listener.

Darwell, as a band, formed in 1999, and was the collaboration between the bassist and guitarist, with Goth Metal Roots. Based in Innsbruck, which is located in the beautiful Tyrol region of Austria, they released their first full length album, Suspiria, in 2000. It was released by Napalm Records and the band had several tours with different bands including Tristania, The Sins of Thy Beloved, Graveworm, and Vintersog. Other releases by Darkwell include an EP, Conflict of Interest in 2002, their second full length album, Metatron in 2004 and the single “Strange” in 2004. In 2002, they headlined a tour with Ashes You Leave and performed at festivals such as Eurorock, Skeleton Bash, and 666-Festival. In 2003, with Stephanie Luzie as vocalist, the band performed at Wave-Gotik-Treffen and Summer Breeze 2003. Then in 2004, Darkwell headlined a tour through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, as well as touring with Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes. The band headlined a tour in 2005 with Vanitas as support. Up until 2007, they played at several festivals, before the band decided to go on hiatus, which lasted until 2012, when they decided to reunite with Alexandra, their original vocalist. Darkwell performed a reunion show at Wave-Gotik-Treffen 2014, and also did a headline tour in parts of Europe. Moloch, was conceived and written during 2015 and 2016 before being released by Massacre Records.

Band members, who have been pretty consistent, with only a couple of changes, add to the higher level of musicianship. Original members included Roland Wurzer on bass, Roman Wienicke on guitar, drummer Moritz Neuner, Christian Filip on keyboards and backing vocals, and Alexandra Prittracher on vocals. Several changes then occurred with the band. First, Raphael Lepuschitz replaced Christian on keyboards in 2000. Roman Wienicke left in 2001 and was replaced by Mathias Nussbaum. In 2003, Alexandra left and Stephanie Luzie assumed the vocal duties. After a hiatus, the band reunited and Michael Bachler took over the duties as drummer, while Alexandra returned as vocalist in 2013, which completed the present lineup.

“Moloch,” the opening song, which is also the name of the album, sets up the tone for the rest of the album, both instrumentally and vocally. It opens with unison, staccato, double beats, which is broken up with a short pattern that is repeated and played on the guitar. This continues with random drum patterns and guitar riffs thrown in. Following this, the guitar is playing the melody, which then leads to the vocals. The vocals are layered with an open chord chant, sung without emotion. Underneath the vocals, there is a three beat rhythmic ostinato that is repeated. A short counter to the chant is played on synthesized keys. The vocals take a short melodic tone to them while the instruments play a straight rock beat underneath. The three beat ostinato pattern and vocal chant return, and the countermelody has a Middle Eastern sound using synthesized keys. Once again, we have the melodic vocals while the interlude is sort of free form with the drums, keys, before the melodic vocals once return. The instrumental part reverts back to the rock beat until the end.

The second song, “In Nomine Serpentis,” opens with a repeated, syncopated rhythm played by the guitar and keys. Also unique is the fact that it is in triple meter, almost making it a ballad instead of the traditional metal/rock song. The vocals have probably the most emotion expressed on the album. There is some close vocal harmony throughout and the listener is treated to hints of a round. Alexandra’s voice is strong, but has a hint of fragility as well. Another interesting aspect of this song is the interlude midway through the song. It starts with the keys playing an ostinato with a light drum beat added. Then the guitar enters playing the melody with wailing sound. The keys continue with the ostinato in a crescendo until the vocals reenter.

The only song so far to have a video, which is quite interesting, is “Yoshiwara.” This song is the band’s interpretation of the Japanese Club that is featured in the movie. Parts of the lyrics in the chorus are interesting, to say the least, considering the nature of the Club. This song is full of energy, both instrumentally and vocally. Sustained keys and guitar open the song with a steady drum beat. This sound becomes more driven, leading to the keys playing an interesting ostinato. The vocals enter, layered, and are chant like before the chorus. In the chorus, they have more energy and a slight hint of emotion. The second verse is similar to the beginning, as is the chorus. The energy continues until the end of the song. The link to the interesting video, which has the band members acting, is here.

The next three songs are mixture of Pop, Rock, and Metal sounds. “Fall of Ishtar” opens with sustained keys over a straight drum beat before the guitar takes over. The vocals display a touch of energy and at times employ some syncopation against the straight instrumental beat. In the second verse, the guitar has a growling sound at times. After the second verse, a long instrumental interlude is started by the guitar, changes to the keys and returns to the guitar leading to the vocals, which sound like an energetic chant. At the end, the keys take on a rock anthem sound, with the melody played by the guitar until the end of the song. Interesting, synthesized keys open “Save My Sight,” which gives it a pop feel. This changes quickly when the heavier guitar sound enters. The vocals are soft and seem to float over the steady drum beat. In the chorus, her voice displays more energy. Two thirds of the way through, the song seems to stop. However, the guitar restarts the song and we have the chorus repeated almost like an afterthought. “Bow Down” starts with staccato drums and synthesized keys. Then the keys take a lighter sound and the guitar enters leading to the vocals. The vocals are strong and the keys play a counter melody. The chorus involves the band chanting a choral part, while Alexandra sings her part over them. Verse two is similar vocally and instrumentally, except for an interesting synthesized sound before the repeated chorus. The instrumental part ends the song.

Two songs that have a driving metal beat to them are “Loss of Reason” and “Golem.” The first song has a driving, heavy guitar sound and steady drum beat. There are some moments in the song where the piano plays a softer countermelody. The vocals are multilayered, and at times use the upper range of Alexandra’s voice. The heavy guitar sound opens “Golem” before the drums enters. Throughout the song, the guitar plays staccato chords. The vocals are softer, yet strong, and float over the instruments. There are a couple of interludes that are rather lengthy, but well played.

A song that features German Lyrics is “Im Lichte,” which translates to “In the Light.” A guitar and the keys play an ostinato throughout the rather long intro. A drum pattern brings in the vocals. The vocals are layered and have a listless feel to them that fits in nicely with the driving, steady instrumental beat underneath. The instrumental interludes are full of energy and as the song progresses, the vocals become more energetic, and the instruments build in a small crescendo. A nice guitar solo ends the song.

The final song on the album is “Awakening,” and I almost chose this song for my favorite. This song has multiple changes musically throughout and is, in my opinion, the least Gothic Song. There is a lighter feel to the song, and even though the vocals have a chant-like style at times, they still have an emotional hint that isn’t prevalent in some of the other songs. “Awakening” opens with the guitar playing broken chords over a steady drum beat. The bass enters and the guitar continues with a tremolo effect until the keys enter with an organ sound. A steady rhythmic beat leads to the vocal entrance. The voices are layered and use the upper range of her voice. Instrumentally there is an ascending chord pattern played at the end of each vocal phrase that pushes the song along. The vocals then float along and the instruments repeat the opening. An interlude follows played by the keys and drums, and the second verse and chorus is played the same musically. One change is a countermelody that played by the guitar. Again, a long instrumental interlude leads to the next verse. After that verse, the keys take over the melody before the vocal chorus. The haunting vocals end the song.

My favorite song, after much consideration, has to “Clandestine.” The instrumental parts are rhythmically active and the vocals have a floating, calm feel to them. It was also interesting to hear the word sung differently than the American version. After a lengthy opening in which the guitar plays a repeated melodic ostinato and the drums play a steady rock beat, we have a short counter played on the keys with vibrato. Then the guitar and keys play in unison, layered, before the melody is taken over by the keys. There are some short guitar riffs thrown in and right before the vocals enter, the instruments come together rhythmically. The vocals are calm and in a way, soothing to the ear. For the chorus, there is some vocal layering. The second verse is pretty much the same as the first and the instrumental interlude is a repeat of the opening. The chorus comes in again with the vocal harmony and the song follows the classical AB repeated form. Toward the end of the song, the instrumental part has the melody played by the guitar and keys very effectively. This song has a pleasing, lulling effect, to me that adds to the appeal of the album.

This album has been an interesting experience for me, to say the least. Darkwell has come back from their hiatus, and with this release, has given the listener, a true Gothic Experience. The band has returned stronger and have a more mature sound. Their interpretation of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” has the ingredients that allow the listener to experience the movie through music. The sound is dark, gritty, and devoid of emotion at times. The band demonstrates it musicianship with tight rhythms and the vocals, while sometimes emotionally flat, still portray the experience most effectively. This album is a definite for Goth Metal/Rock listeners. If you would like to experience a unique sound with Gothic Music, then you may want to give this album a try. For additional information on the band, please check out the following links: