Sound — 6
Dark Moor is a classical metal band that hails from Madrid. The band released its first album in 1999, though it was founded in 1993. Since then, there have been frequent lineup changes with only one original member, Enric Garca, the principle songwriter, remaining in the band. "Ars Musica" is the band's ninth studio album. The first thing I noticed about this album is that it has a pleasant identity crisis. The album leans towards both classical operatic music and power metal leading to the sub-genre that defines them: symphonic power metal. However, at few points do I feel that these two genres directly intertwine. Most of the time, the album is either symphonic or metal, usually not both together. While each song certainly shows both genres, the genre of each section within the song is clearly defined. A case in point would be the closing track, "Asturias." It begins with a power metal tapping section but then turns to a classical orchestral section that is devoid of guitars, drums, and vocals. As a side note, the drums pound a double bass metal beat throughout the majority of the album regardless of what else is happening. In this way, the drumming shows a lack of dynamics. But, the drums are mixed fairly low into the mix, so it is not as easy to tell. Aside from the drumming, as I mentioned before, the identity crisis is pleasant. The different sections weave through each other very well and the vocals are the uniting force that ties the whole thing together. Spearheaded by the vocals, the album has an epic, uplifting feel. I don't mean "epic" in the hyperbolic sense, more so in the Homer sense like with an epic poem. The guitar rhythms are melodic for the most part and the solos are the typical power metal shredding. Aside from the drumming, the guitar solos are what really make this album a part of the power metal genre. The melodic rhythms and textures do well to advance the standing of the song they are in but the shredding has the opposite effect. Seor Garca acts like shredding is a new phenomenon and that the listener should be awed by it. Unfortunately for him, all of his listeners and I have heard guitarists shred before and his rendition of it is by no means unique. These solos, in my opinion, subtract value from the song by taking the listener out of the surreal, epic, and unique and forcing him/her to listen to something we have all heard before. Still, Enric's songwriting abilities greatly outweigh his foresight into this matter to the effect that it is hardly noticeable, at least at first. What really sets this album apart, in my opinion, is the fusion of the symphony lines with the guitars and the operatic vocals. I think this fusion is best exemplified in the tracks "First Lance of Spain" and "Living in a Nightmare." Individually, the tracks of each instrument are not that unusual for their respective genres. However, the sum of their parts is what really makes this album unique. For example, the individual sections and parts of "Living in a Nightmare" are not that intriguing separately, when listening to each one. Yet, when the chorus brings them together a couple of times and the song reaches its end. As my listening of this album wears on, I am becoming slightly annoyed by the overriding theme/feel of the album. To put it in another way, the initial appeal of this album is starting to wane on me. The vocals, which sounded so great at first, are becoming repetitive, in my opinion, to the point that their intrigue wanes. The album almost feels like its mentality is built towards the success of singles. I mean that each individual song feels more significant than the experience of the album as a whole. Everything that felt so heartrending and revolutionary before is starting to feel less so, only through listening to the album repeatedly. While this experience may be confined only to me, it certainly has lessened my overall opinion of the album. I guess a nicer way to say this would be to say that the album will sound magnificent at first but then wane in appeal and intrigue later.
Lyrics — 8
The vocals of Alfred Romero are the driving force of this album. His voice in general, similar to that of singers in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, fits the music very well and the operatic harmonies that he layers in mesh well with the orchestral element of the album that is present in one way or another. His vocals bridge the gap between the classical and power metal sections of the album and certainly give the album a Spanish feel, even without knowing the home country of Dark Moor. To elaborate, I somewhat feel that the album, especially the vocals can bring thoughts of medieval Spain and the Inquisition (you didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition) and the expulsion of the Moors. Just to be clear, most of the lyrics are in English but they are less comprehensible than the Spanish ones, which are unintentionally sang with a greater clarity, most likely because Spanish is Romero's first language, I would assume. To that end, I like the vocal delivery on "El ltimo Rey" (The Last King) more than that of any of the other songs because of the clarity of the lyrics. Still, as I mentioned before, his vocal style wears on the listener and after some time, it won't seem as special and unique as it did at first.
Overall Impression — 6
Overall, Dark Moor's ninth album is really more of a Mach piece (M=metal), successfully blending elements of power metal and classical orchestration. While the album never fails to impress and there are really no low points, the overall theme started to wear on me as the album progressed and it became less special in my mind. Still, I highly recommend that you check out this album. A good starting point would be "First Lance of Spain" and "Living in a Nightmare," my favorite tracks. If the pre-released music video "The Road Again" is below this review, let me tell you that this song is more mainstream than the others are. If it hasn't piqued your interest, the rest of the album has much more to offer. And, if it has, your journey has just begun.