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Saturnus: Veronika Decides To Die

The title alone will tell you that this record puts the death back into death metal, the doom into doom metal, and the darkness back into black metal.

But unlike so much low-budget doom metal these days Saturnus approaches the subject with sensitivity and a high standard of musicianship. There's no question that the band's style was deeply influenced by My Dying Bride and Anathema, but they are far from being a clone. They're more upbeat (okay, less downbeat), more approachable, and the song structures are more progressive - with tempo changes and style shifts, and it's a concept piece. It's loosely based on a similarly named novel by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. We understand that the book isn't from literature's top drawer, but it's a poignant subject and Saturnus handles it with a such delicate touch that - ironically - it wouldn't be surprising if the book is given a boost from the music. Listen to the ballad "All Alone". Not a note of doom or metal in there, yet it's elegantly dark, depressingly beautiful, and powerfully emotive.

There are clean vocals (not the album's strongest point, but respectable nonetheless), there's a deep, rich baritone growl that may be one of the album's stronger points, and there's spoken prose. But the two elements that contribute most impressively to the mournful ambience are the bluesy guitar, and the almost classically oriented piano. You'll hear many of death metal's standard elements here, and some of the chord sequences will be familiar, but there's more to Veronika Decides To Die. It's heartrendingly emotional, and that graceful piano playing off the slow, powerful guitar will put a lump in your throat. And that's the big discriminator between doom metal like Saturnus, and death or black metal. Doom metal is defined by its atmosphere- and in that respect Saturnus must be on the verge of trumping their mentors My Dying Bride.

This is the Danish sextet's Saturnus's third album, and their first since 2000. Let's hope they won't wait as long before releasing the next one - because unlike the book it describes, this record goes into the genre's top drawer.

Track Listing:
1. I Long
2. Pretend
3. Descending
4. Rain Wash Me
5. All Alone
6. Embraced by Darkness
7. To the Dreams
8. Murky Waters

Added: July 20th 2006
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Related Link: Saturnus's Web Site
Hits: 6097
Language: english

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Saturnus: Veronika Decides To Die
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-07-20 12:29:19
My Score:

A passionate theme album inspired by Paulo Coelho's book, Veronika Decides to Die is the third full-length disc from Denmark's Saturnus. Sadly, I haven't heard their previous efforts, but judging by the material on this disc, Saturnus is an amazing band in a genre overpopulated by too many cliche bands. Not to say Saturnus is 100% original; they do have their influences, but overall, this is a fairly original album, with great vocals, strong melodies, and superb production.

To get a feel for the Saturnus' sound, all you have to do is give a listen to their ten-minute album opener "I Long", since it encapsulates everything the band wants to achieve musically. Like most other songs on this disc, it starts with slow piano notes, so gentle and sweet, before heavy drums kick in pounding and guitars create thich threads of atmosphere. Thomas A.G. Jensen's vocals project maturity and sense of calmness. He delivers the lyrics in a semi-sung monotone, yet his voice is very clean and smooth. Then, he shifts to unique growls, quite different from the sound you hear on Opeth or Morbid Angel albums. His growls evoke the stuff on Anathema's The Silent Enigma to me; they sound tortured and rough, but every word is discernible. Halfway through the piece, string effects float above the piece over a solo piano with only spoken narration. There is even a drone passage at the end, not unlike the stuff on the new Cult of Luna album, but it's kept to a minimum in order to maintain the song's unity. It finishes just as it had started, with a soft piano coda.

"Pretend" and "Decending" serve to fully establish the sound of this disc. "Pretend" is actually heavier, considering its brutal guitar riffs, but the The Silent Enigma influence is even more apparent on this track. It does carve its niche though; there are tranquil passages filled with eerie keyboard effects and superb clean guitars covering them. More spoken vocals follow, only to be replaced by an ever-present blues solo that simply takes the lead and lets guitarists Tais Pedersen and Peter Erecius Poulse shine. There is a good deal of bluesy guitar work throughout the album, which is one of the things what makes this band different. So brutal and doomy at one time, and so bluesy and rockish at another, "Rain Wash Me" and and "All Alone" both boast a good deal of lucid synth lines, blending them effectively with sparse piano and gentle acoustic guitars. While there is some growling on the former, "All Alone" is fully clean-sung. It even has a cool folky melody happening under ethereal guitar riffs. The album ends on a more melodic yet also aggressive note: "Murky Waters", lots of melodic guitars strung across.

The album was produced by Flemming Rasmussen (Metallica, Morbid Angel) and the sound is amazing.

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