Death of a Pale Horse by Opera DiabolicusRelease date: November 26, 2021
Label: Seasons of Mist
Gothenburg’s own Opera Diabolicus are like masters of the macabre. Launched by David Grimore and Adrian de Crow in the mid-2000s, their music is as brutal, vicious, thrashing, symphonic, shock, and elements of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal rolled into one. It has an attitude like no other. And their music is good, it would make Limp Bizkit shit their pants for a long, long time!
Ten years ago, they released their debut album †1614 on the Metalville label. It was a concept story about the darker components of music and quick-witted theatre. Last year, they came back with a huge load of ammunition that is going to lay waste more to the Nu-Metal genre by giving it the middle finger like no other.
Death of a Pale Horse is a tale about witchcraft, the Black Death, and revenge. So if you think this album is going to be shitty-ass Disney animated movie with a musical princess, guess what, you got the wrong movie! This ain’t no Frozen!
And to be allowed to have members from Candlemass, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, and Opeth mixer Jens Borger to the round table, it is a perfect combination to bring this story to life. ‘Listen Everybody’ opens the album up in the style of Gary Jules’ arrangement of Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’ with its gothic piano introduction.
Erik Nickerson’s arrangements on this introduction, brings to mind the orchestral vibes of the first two Edge of Paradise albums while segueing into the brutal powder keg waiting to explode to ‘Bring Out Your Dead’. When you listen to Levén’s vocal lines, it is so terrifying, you can imagine that he wants listeners to be on the edge of their seats.
His vocals brings to mind between two masters; Bruce Dickinson and Arthur Brown. While there are some combinations between Voivod and Mike Oldfield, there’s the revving organ work in the styles of Jon Lord with Blind Guardian handling the mixing levels on this song.
But you know what, is it just me or did Opera Diabolicus pay tribute to the dungeon theme from the NES classic, The Legend of Zelda on the keyboards? Andy La Rocque’s guitar playing is like a shredded chainsaw when he goes for the kill on the ‘Second Coming’. He nails it down for the introduction as the heavenly choir follows his melodic lead taking us into a Beauty and the Beast arrangement.
Mats and Madeline Lijestam share vocals together on this song. When you hear them sing, they are like two peas in a pod. I love how the duo honour Arjen “Ayreon” Lucassen in this composition. You can imagine they listened to both The Theory of Everything and The Source for inspiration on their new album.
From tidal waving segments, gentle acoustic and metallic midsections, and rapid machine gun firing, the clock begins ticking for the nuclear bomb to go off at any second while the ‘Siren’s Call’ is a doomy, crispy, and metallic turned acoustic-folky arrangement. You feel the waves crashing in front of your eyes as you set sail for those sea shanties coming at you for this spiritual figure to come rising out of the ocean.
‘Darkest Doom on the Brightest Days’ is battlefield metal to the core! Destroying the witch who brings these hideous spells across the entire kingdom, it is a bloody gore-fest with an amount of shredding riffs!
Not only that, but there is a monstrous vocal line that would make Cookie Monster transform to its cuddly-like form by revealing itself to be something straight out of the hideous beast-like forms by controversial figure, H.P. Lovecraft. And this creature that Opera Diabolicus has made, it is like a wolverine who’s high on angel dust!
But at the end, it becomes more of a monumental texture for the rain to pour down after an exhausting ride home for the acoustic guitar making a reprise a section from the opening track, ‘Listen Everybody’. Now this is where Opera Diabolicus goes for the prog-rock voyage.
They delve down into the rabbit hole with a mellotron honouring the unsung legends, Gracious. With a ‘Super Nova’ feel, it is quite an intriguing beauty to honour the masters and proving listeners that they’re more than just progressive metal.
Now we’ve come to gigantic push ‘At Nighttime’. Snapping church organs and the vicious beast is rumbling underneath, coming out of the ground quickly, and eating more human flesh like there’s no tomorrow.
And, they bring everything to the end in the styles of Edenbridge with another prog-rock organ that Ring Van Mobius themselves might have brought in to lead everybody back home with a massive tons of alcohol to enjoy and celebrate for a party until the crack of dawn.
Death on a Pale Horse, what a title. I mean what a title that works well like a charm. It is a hard symphonic release. And this is the album that we needed! I hope that the duo one day write songs for the follow-up sequel to the 2019 video game, Blasphemous. Now is this album a milestone in the history of symphonic dark metal? Hell yeah!