Foreword: an album like this should garner unanimous acclaim, but it’s not hard to imagine that some might find it overly derivative; In fact, while it cannot be denied that Darkend draws abundant inspiration from the best productions of the masters of the genre such as Dimmu Borgir or Cradle Of Filth, it is undeniable that the symphonic black metal proposed by the band from Reggio Emilia succeeds in annihilating the plasticised and rich in form, but lacking in substance, releases churned out in the last decade not only by numerous epigones, but also by the same bands just mentioned. This is their third full-length in six years and, despite the good value that their previous releases had in common, their popularity has always remained confined to the underground level; Grand Guignol – Book I could and should prove decisive in changing this state of affairs. Despite being released without the backing of a proper label, this work has been taken care of by its authors down to the tiniest detail, including the graphic and lyrical side: quoting the band, the record ‘is the first part of a complex philosophical concept concerning the common roots of occultism, spiritualism, martyrdom and black and white magic rituals’. Since I do not consider myself sufficiently prepared to deal in depth with such themes, I refrain from mere copy-pasting and merely observe that such challenging lyrics, although not easy to interpret, constitute something more than just added value to the aspect that interests us most, namely the musical one. In this sense, we find ourselves before an album of unusual quality which, despite a duration of more than an hour, is completely devoid of dead moments or simply interlocutory tracks. Each song lives by its own light in a pyrotechnic alternation of atmospheres, sometimes symphonic, sometimes rhythmic and aggressive, in each case united by an extraordinary melodic taste and by a vocal and instrumental contribution that is devoid of blemishes. In contrast to the vast majority of similar releases, the keyboards do not end up saturating the album with their omnipresence, but prove to be a component perfectly amalgamated with the rest of the instrumentation. As I have already had occasion to state at other times, starting from the assumption that very little remains to be invented in the musical sphere, a work such as that of Darkend is striking for its freshness, creativity and compositional expertise, and those who would snub it as a stale recycling operation would be committing a serious error of judgement. So there’s no reason why those in our lands who still contribute to the success of the now inoffensive Dimmu Borgir or the swinging Cradle Of Filth shouldn’t allow themselves the chance to look around and listen to some symphonic black, played with all the right chords and still able, despite everything, to amaze.

2012 – Independent

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