24 Novemeber 2010
by Tom Dare
When you think of the powerhouses of world metal, you probably don’t think of Spain. Perhaps this is why Dark Moor remain slightly under the radar – it certainly isn’t because they lack anything musically. Following up last year’s storming Autumnal, Iberia’s kings of widdle return in double-quick time with another slab of Castilian excellence.
Eschewing the Tchaikovsky inspiration of Autumnal’s opener ensures things sound different straight away. ‘Gadir’ leads in gently with a lilting melody that is rapidly taken up by more ballsy orchestrals, before the chorus comes along and you accidentally find yourself whistling it on the bus. ‘Love From The Stone’ and ‘Alaric de Marnac’ follow on strongly, orchestral textures enriching Alfred Romero’s powerful vocals while the guitars and kick drums provide the punch. So far, so good. There are more gears to shift into, however.
From the Holst-like intro to the uplifting heroism of ‘Mio Cid’ onwards, Ancestral Romance rapidly becomes a more individual record. An atmosphere of medieval Spain descends to cloak proceedings, and manages it without slapping on the Rhapsody Of Fire-esque faux-Baroque cheese-like fake tan before a night out in Basildon. There is a genuine feel that is highly unusual in metal’s most theatrical and over-the-top subgenre, and that adds something on top of the inherent strength of the music. The hooks and textures may be there in number, but there is a strength of mood most such bands fail to achieve.
That’s not to say the vast amounts of widdle and choirs are not there, however. The compositional depth to some of the songs is highly impressive, from the sing-a-long numbers like ‘Canciòn del Pirata’ to the instrumental ‘Ritual Fire Dance’. The skill of the orchestration layers the music skilfully, not simply blasting a brass them out every now and then but actually weaving a rich fabric between the beefy guitars and vocals in a manner few bands outside Blind Guardian ever manage.
Dark Moor have achieved what few bands in their world have come close to since they themselves last released an album- make a record packed full of memorable tunes that has genuine character and shows a willingness to develop as a band. Ancestral Romance goes some way to make up for the likes of Kamelot and Avantasia fluffing their lines badly in recent months, and further enforces the talent Dark Moor have shown in the past.
Sounds like: Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, Kamelot
Top tracks: Gadir, Ritual Fire Dance, A Music In My Soul
Dark Moor – Ancestral Romance tracklisting:
Love From The Stone
Alaric De Marnac
Tilt At Windmills
Canciòn del Pirata
Ritual Fire Dance
Ah! Wretched Me
A Music In My Soul