Thee Orakle succeed where many have failed, namely in the complex task of convincingly blending their gothic death doom with prog and, at certain junctures, even jazz, making their proposal certainly fresh and original. I recently had the opportunity to review the latest album by Harmony In Grotesque, a band that has tried to move in similar territories: well, where the Russians partially fail in their attempt to amalgamate evenly the different musical souls, the Portuguese hit the mark by constantly keeping their balance despite the fact that they are walking on a very thin rope from which a fall is possible at any moment. The Lusitanian group has many arrows in its bow, starting with the distinctive talents of each component: the powerful growl of Pedro Silva, the elegance of Micaela’s voice, the surgical and melodic guitar work as appropriate of Pedro Mendes and Ricardo, the essential keyboard tapestry of Luis, and the perfect rhythmic base of Daniel and Fred. In addition to this, several guests bring their valuable contributions to the cause, among the most notable the mention is a must for Yossi Sassi of Orphaned Land and Marco Benevento of The Foreshadowing, as well as other local musicians from outside the metal world. Thee Orakle take just a few seconds to make their intentions clear with the opening Faraway Embrace: a peculiar intro, with a muffled-sounding guitar that makes you think you’ve received a failed CD, until suddenly an anthology riff explodes in the speakers that, combined with a feral growl and keyboards, make the reference to Moonspell automatic (easy, no?); too bad the whole thing lasts only a few seconds, just enough time for the angelic Micaela to enter the scene for the panorama to mutate and turn like a glove. By the time one gets to Psi-Drama, one may think one has already heard every range of possible musical influences until, at the tail end of a track that is as beautiful as it is linear (for our people’s habits, that is), a trumpet insert appears in pure jazz style for what, in my opinion, is perhaps the only moment on the disc that is a bit forced. Subsequent tracks present the inevitable series of stops and starts, brutal moments alternating with softer parts, with a band that has the great virtue of not tiring precisely because of the taste it possesses in untangling itself in this kaleidoscope of sounds without the music appearing excessively fragmented. It must be said that the presence of the guests somehow orients the sound of the tracks they are featured on, so if Evil Dreams, not only because of Yossi’s bouzuki, suffers the influence of the innovative Israeli group, even Winter Threat thanks to Marco’s voice assimilates at least in part the refined dark doom of the Roman band. The album’s climax, however, comes in closing with the sublime Rescue of Mind, another track characterized by a murderous riff and the perfect combination of the two voices; here, too, the surprise element shows up in the form of a saxophone that, unlike the trumpet in Faraway Embrace, reveals itself for all intents and purposes as an integral part of the sound by merging magically with the other instruments. The coda of the piece, with lyrics that are strongly and legitimately critical of the war, is pure doom overlaid with a sampling that relives the darkest moments experienced by humanity in Hitler’s Germany. Smooth Comforts False is a work that at first impact is disorienting if not downright hostile, but which, listening after listening, reveals all its unusual charm by introducing us to a band like Thee Orakle, who, with their second album, establish themselves as one of the most important realities of the Portuguese scene, and not only.

2012 – Ethereal Sound Works