Review: Ghost of Mary – Oblivaeon

Oblivaeon was actually released at the tail end of 2016 and the PR company responsible felt that the album deserved another push. Having only now having had the opportunity to give it a listen I can understand why they are so keen to give this record another chance and get it heard. The talent on show is phenomenal and this is a record that you can enjoy whatever genre is normally your thing.

Hailing from Italy, the band are described as gothic death metal but I am not sure that genre defining terms really apply here. This record is so much bigger than that. It is epic… and I mean really epic. It uses orchestral movements and ideas without falling into the rock opera trap, each song has so many ideas and twists and changes that on paper it should not work but this is possibly one of the most thoughtful and intricate pieces of songwriting I have come across in recent times. Every movement, every swap from lead guitar to piano, or cello or violin works. It’s bursting with innovation and yet it flows, it takes you on a journey of emotions from the start of the album to the end.

There are two really discernible threads to this band and these are what makes this record stand out. The first is the songwriting and how they bring in so much instrumentation into a death metal record, how they keep the flow of these songs; and the second is the vocals. The opening intro and the first song proper “Shades” give you an insight into the band and how they not only bring these elements together into one epic twisted tale but also below all of this they have a lot of pop sensibilities as well. This isn’t all showing off, “look at our talents” either. The reason I am so impressed is that for once talent and entertainment meet in perfect harmony, neither overshadowing the other’s role. The gothic intro opening appears to have a harp on it backed up by a violin rolling over into opening track “Shades” and the same melancholy theme is employed.

When the vocals begin we are introduced to the first of the three phrases that the vocalist engages (and in this track, all of them are used to great effect). It is almost a whisper at first but this is the normal singing voice, where the vocals are actually sung. This is a great opening gambit that is instantly transformed with the use of the death growl vocals as the song kicks up a gear. At this point you could be thinking somewhere along the lines of Thranenkind, except the music is not really post rock more orchestral epic metal. When the chorus finally kicks in not only is the melody captivating but also the use of the third phrase of voice. The one that makes the sound for me is the scratch vocals, somewhere between the death growl and singing and it works extremely well and suits the more exciting and breathtaking moments of the album.

When trying to summarise the sound, it is “The Last Guardians” that is a good indicator of their direction and particularly the use of the lead guitar. Yep, I may be talking about sweeping orchestras, pianos, violins but this is a metal band. They rock and the lead guitarist is as talented as the rest of the band and a major influence on their sound. “The Last Guardians” is reminiscent of Avenged Sevenfold and when considering this record in that concept it fits well. Imagine an Avenged Sevenfold just as pop-sensible but with a darker underbelly, a more serious hardcore Avenged Sevenfold and you would not be a million miles off. The use of the piano intro (which is layered to beautiful effect underneath the whole song despite the speed of the drums and pace of the song, throughout) is very reminiscent of Mr Shadows and his friends, but the lead guitar in the second half of the song is what really makes that comparison stark. It would be great to see this performed live.

I could actually wax lyrical about virtually every track on this album. Each track in its own way somehow manages to astonish you. Take “Nothing”, it starts with a refrain straight out of a TV movie and then builds as the band joins in but all of the time with a dramatic violin in the background matching the ferocity of the drums. A lead riff then takes over and we hear the anguished howl of the singer before all the elements come together at a fantastic pace punctuated by those hard-hitting drums. It’s fast, it’s heavy, it changes between scratchy vocals and the death growl. It changes pace on a whim and all the time has haunting melodies floating in and out. You could not dream this up.

“Something to Know” is another standout song on an album where every track stands out. It starts with a catchy riff but then this is explored further with various instruments having a go and the pace is brought down and then up. It is the way they mix these melodies into each other that is just so amazing. You can have a violin playing a traditional sounding tune at one level, the guitars pulsating and matching slow paced vocals and just when you feel you have grips with the song… it changes. It becomes a heartfelt, sang, emotional rock song one minute, a death metal verse the next.

I for one am glad that this record has been given another chance at life because the talent on show here really is something special. This album must have been a labour of love to create. It is so well thought out, with so much going on but each part is in perfect harmony with the others. This band and this record should be massive.

Whatever genres of music you are into I suggest you go and give this a whirl if for no other reason than to be amazed at the skill on show; the songwriting, the mix of gothic and death metal with pop sensibilities. It’s going to be one hell of a record for Ghost Of Mary to top this but something tells me they are probably already on to it.

Oblivaeon is out now

Ghost of Mary: facebook

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