How interesting that 2012 brings new recordings from both Opera IX and Cadaveria, two groups that share a great deal of drama and history. When the vocalist Cadaveria fronted Opera IX, they made an important impact on Italian symphonic death metal and were even poised to break big. Things fell apart, however, before what their seemingly inevitable rise could occur. Fans have since wondered whether the band could work as well as it once did without Cadaveria's voice. Moreover, the band hasn't always produced consistently strong work since her departure. But that feels like a long time ago. With this new release, Opera IX seems to have rediscovered its footing, giving them a newfound promise for what may lie ahead. Sure, I miss Cadaveria's voice, but Strix Maledictae in Aeternum is a solid recording, one that has a rich musical texture and a generally compelling concept. Fans should in find this album much to feel happy about.
Opera IX is currently made up of founding member Ossian (Guitar), Vlad (Bass), Dalamar (Drums), and M (Vocals). Their overall sound is quite powerful, especially with M's extreme vocal style that is, at once, a menacing growl and an evil hiss. Behind the growl, M's voice is sometimes surprisingly clear, thereby giving listeners at least a sense of this album's overall theme concerning medieval witchcraft and ritual. Opera IX is certainly committed to their dark image, complete with the pagan-inspired lyrics and fashions.
The band plays with a great deal of strength throughout the album. I was particularly drawn to the sound of Dalamar's drumming which uses plenty of blast beats, but not to the point that a lack of rhythmic variety merely creates the endless machine-gun fire sound of other bands. Dalamar keeps the beat regular, but adds lots of surprising fills and hits the skins very hard. Listeners will be even more impressed, I think, with Ossian, whose guitar playing constantly roams from riff to lick to melodic line to a short solo. He has been with this band from the beginning and brings far more melody than one expects from extreme metal. He won't top the list of best metal players because he isn't an old school shredder; nevertheless, he is relentless and has a wonderfully dark, melodic style. Listen to his guitar parts on "Mandragora" for a good sense of how well his playing sets the overall tone. He is clearly the heart of this band. The other element of this album I enjoyed was the sound of the organ which was just loud enough to make the music sound like a rather odd blend of death metal and medieval church music. Too many bands use keyboards to play long and complex runs that choke out the guitar. Opera IX uses it to create texture and tone. Listen to "1313" or "Dead Tree Ballad" for examples of the organ's exciting, yet patient, overall presence.
The musical themes this album deals with are probably not meant to be taken as literally as Opera IX wants us to believe. Nevertheless, the menacing themes raised here are handled with a sincerity that goes well beyond mere pageantry and makeup. Strix Maledictae in Aeternum is a very impressive recording from a band that clearly still has a great deal to offer.
3. Dead tree ballad
4. Vox in Rama
5. Vox in Rama part 2
7. Eyes in the Well
8. Earth and Fire
9. Ecate the Ritual
11. Nemus tempora maleficarum
12. Historia Nocturna