2020 marks, more or less, the 25th anniversary of the genre we know as gothic metal. Twentyfive years ago Theatre of Tragedy released their nameless debut and set up a recipe for an accessible kind of metal, heavily leaning on keyboards and the combination of male and female vocals. Dutch band Orphanage did the same, yet in a heavier setting, and of course The Gathering released their Mandylion to! In the years that followed loads of bands made, for a shorter or longer period of time, music in this style, making their own variations. Some heavier, some more symphonic, etcetera.
Why start with this introduction? For one, because it is a good thing to realise this style is there already for a quarter of a century (time flies!), but secondly, because is makes it hard for bands to do something that really stands out.
Aurium, a Servian band released their first album Still Life in 2015. It was an interesting mix of styles, starting with an almost Pink Floyd-isch introduction I have never heard in this style of music. Very nice and hypnotic. After a few songs the classic style of gothic metal came through. Followed by the EP The Silent Moon with solely orchestrated songs, of which some can be heard on this new album. Finally an orchestral sound that fully gives space to classical elements instead of overloading it with heavy guitars. Both albums promised a great new chapter within the genre, or maybe even a step into a completely different direction.
Then finally about the new album: The Second Sun can be seen as the most fitting album within the gothic metal scene. A solid album, that is, where the band shows they are very confident with their instruments and vocalist Dragica Maletić displays all registers of her varied vocal art. Style wise the album is more in balance, no huge style changes, only a few surprises, and of high quality. As a critic I was hoping for more creative takes on the gothic metal style, but basically that is the only thing that is missing a bit.
Nine songs stay within the four minutes, making clear that the band does not need to spin things out in order to get their message across. Phasianidae is the only exception, taking almost nine minutes to make a song that listens away nicely. The spoken word part has a heavy Servian accent in the English. On the one hand normal, without English as first language, but it would sound better if they would have hired someone for it, the accent is more distracting than meaningful.
Nodus Tollens strongly reminds of Nightwish, partly because of the song structure and style, partly because Dragica’s operatic voice strongly resembles Tarja’s voice at times.
Highlights on the album: The first three songs; Asylum, Leaden Skies and Curtain’s Fall are great songs. Timekeeper is one of those gems, only three minutes long, catchy, good guitar and bass and interesting marriage between instrumental rhythm and the way the vocals go. Reminiscence is more easy going and would work well on repeat for a couple of hours. The Silent Wake is the second surprise, an interesting combination of rock with heavy symphonic elements. A very radio friendly chorus, although at the end they add a bit too much keyboard beats, making it a bit slovenly.
But then… The bonus track! Again fairly Nightwish like, but the outcome is altogether a very, very fine song. Hopefully it will be featured on the normal album too, because it is the icing on the cake. The album would not be the same without it, for Dragica’s voice has the best stage here.
Basically, the biggest questionmark I am left with is: why on earth is this band so unknown?