It could have been a huge success of the east European cinema: Cooperation between the mysterious landscapes, the grim myths and moods with the melancholic spirit. But instead the film, the music came along. One can wonder, how all this can be translated as a whole into a giant epos by a German landlord, who knows best the secrets of nature. Markus Stock can compose the heavy trace of grey clouds above this region. He lets the orchestra speak the ancient tongue of the vast woods which covers the gloomy land, until only the mountains are above it.
Carpathia refers to the largest chain of mountains in Europe, specifically in its east, today divided between Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia and Serbia. This was quite a mystery zone, where several fictional works dedicated to its gloomy atmosphere, its castles and its Dracula (and to further extent, the mythical Count von Count of Sesame Street). It’s not a wonder that many of the related images of the horrific legends were carved here – wolves, vampires, witches, all got their share. Therefore, it’s only natural that a band which is described as a ‘horror metal’ band would cook a delicious dish out of these ingredients: this is a concept album, in the vane of Bram stocker and co., about a business man who launches a journey to the mountains in order to claim an old family residence. In his way, he faces evil dreams, ghoulish creatures and a secret Kutulu (yes, this spelling is used in the tale) worshippers union, lead by a strange priest. So it is not surprising to find a dedication for H.P. Lovecraft in the first page, huh? All is cinematic, spotted in the booklet scenes with sentences such as “Wisps that in the morass glow mounts with diadems of snow” – enough to imagine the rich scenery and the much pathos.
Ever since the beginning of Empyrium’s glory, Stock talks with the nature, speaking through it to the moral beings. With The Vision Bleak as the current incarnation, this time he lets himself express his more pompous side, inhale and exhale the drama. This drama is the very essence of the album, with arrangements that are larger than life, in Hollywoodic manner, clearly influenced by composers such as the obvious Moricone and Badalamenti, and even Howard Shore and Danny Elfman. This sense gives the music its gothic touch and the epic feeling that derives from the intentions of raising this legendary world into life – and the bigger, the better.
Stock embraces the aesthetics of the period, starting with the exquisite artwork of an old forgotten book, his deep vocals that almost echo narration of horror movies and the musicianship itself.
After a grandiose female-lead operatic intro which includes marching drums and semi-soothing harps, the guitars of the second song, “Secrecies in Darkness”, boom-and-bang as if to specify this effort will be full with them heavy strings, not to let the orchestral backgrounds to create a diversion. Even so, one cannot ignore the truly tasteful and unique arrangements and their highly impressive use: they never steal the headlights, but emerge as shadows from the glens (and the orchestra name, “Shadow Philharmonics”, does imply). The guitars cannot be classified into one branch, as they hide under that label of ‘dark metal’. They have mid-tempo inner groove that fits perfectly with the melodies and with the orchestra above and definitely more heavy than most of the gothic bands, so they may stay in the grey enjoyable zone.
The songs follow that narrative presented by the concept and filled with mood-changes, melody swings of both guitars and orchestral strings which capture the exact atmosphere and showcase this grand epos as the movie that its darn shame that no one ever thought of producing. But then again, it is a movie, with a script, score, actors and the direction of Stock, all seen in your head. Every spot of the album cries the grand and the epic: the riffs which wink to old compositions of horror movies, the oriental touches in “The Curse of Arabia”, the bells and the lead piano in “Sister Najade”, the pagan feeling of “Kutulu!” and all sorts of elements assembled in the songs which of the album is full with. They enable us, with a malicious smile, to locate and enjoy them as in a good movie.
Apart from the lead vocals of Konstanz and the growls of Schwadorf, the album features some female vocals courtesy of the Soprano Sophia Bremmer and depth vocals from the tenor Thomas Helm, which indicated about the sheer attitude of the band: the story at its full shining, whereas the drama rule, and what can be better to express the drama, if not the good old classical way? It works like a spell. All these parts compose a grand picture, detailed and delightful, and prove that Stock’s vision isn’t bleak at all.
01 – The Drama Of The Wicked
02 – Secrecies In Darkness
03 – Carpathia
04 – Dreams In The Witch-House
05 – Sister Najade (The Tarn By The Firs)
06 – The Curse Of Arabia
07 – Kutulu!
08 – The Charm Is Done