Ah, the Italian metal scene just never ceases to amaze me. From the mountainous foothills of the upper North to the very bottom of the heel, you will find a plethora of metal bands. Their styles are as diverse as the geographical spread they cover. From deep, dark Black Metal over airy Symphonic to Pagan Metal – you have them all. To top it, many of them are of international renown, I would like to add.
Then you got the new and upcoming bands like Ghost of Mary with their debut Oblivaeon.
In many ways, the style of Ghost of Mary reminds me of Fleshgod Apocalypse. But if anything, they come across as a more melodic and very light-weight sibling with their own set of colors and coat of arms. Far away from the copycat other bands try to achieve so hard. Add to that a round of Meadow’s End or two and we are all set.
Their intriguing way to present Gothic Metal with sturdy Death Metal trappings, complete with classical and orchestral elements always manages to captivate. And they manage that without slipping down the slippery bombastic slope, nor do they lose themselves in operatic machinations that some of their brethren like to indulge in.
Now, kind of harking back to the times of Lucrezia, they sprinkle a baroque flavor on some of their tunes that I find truly refreshing. On top, the record comes complete with a fulminant drive and a cheeky energy that adds to its allure.
Now, a theme or concept drives Oblivaeon, powered by a story from the vocalist Daniele Rini. The tale centers around a variant of the Tree of Life concept in a larger sense. Souls escape from the tree and roam about an imaginary landscape on a quest for a home. One of the souls finds a voice through the oracle called Ghost of Mary.
All ingredients are thus assembled to make great pottage, right?
Well, this being a 6-member band with all of them contributing lustily, their tune often overflows and disintegrates into a lack of separation and general loudness. This, in turn, renders it difficult to pick up all the details at all times. On top, they brick-walled some of these tracks out to fucking space, so that you really need to listen to the disc on top-quality gear or you will start to lose some of that. More’s the pity.
That said, the positives largely weigh in over the negatives. The intro The Moon and The Tree nicely progresses into their center-piece Shades. From dreamy and soft into a tremolo-picked faster-paced screamer – and back.
I really like the well-executed changes from blinding hot #metal to laid-back classical/acoustic passages. And it is really well done, not like some of their brethren, who change pace (and style) like whacking their fans over the head with a spiked club. As an example, Last Guardians or Something to Know contain a couple of these really smooth transitions. The former sports one of the relatively rare, but pretty sturdy solos of the record.
Now, Ghost of Mary happily mix styles, sometimes even erring onto Power Metal terrain for some. The way they do that in Nothing, whilst at the same time stealing from the classical world is pretty cool.
Talking about classical. The title track Oblivaeon is a full classical offering. Yep, you heard that right! And this – shockingly – in the midst of a metal record. Admitted, during the first listen I sat there waiting for the metal to (finally) assail my eardrums with WTF written all over my face. But in the end, I grudgingly admit that this is pretty well done nonetheless.
And this highlights the quirky way the band fashioned their tracks, never letting you descend into boredom. On the other hand, you will need to listen to this actively – or else. I found it easiest to settle down somewhere quiet and give the record your time of day.
To conclude, Oblivaeon ricochets pretty wildly around the known parts of the metal universe. And this is a good thing. Mixing Gothic Metal with a penchant for Death Metal and other styles and shaking well with classics and orchestral parts thrown in exerts an almost magic pull on the listener.
And make no mistake, this is pretty tough fare. The cubes in this Italian metal Spritz are hard to crunch and swallow. But never fear, Ghost of Mary created an astonishing and cool debut of high-quality metal, full of quirky turns and surprises. This will keep your attention levels up to the very end.
Well done, I am already looking forward to what will come next.