Review: Darkwell – Moloch

images.jpgWritten by Tyler Krueger

Austrian-born Darkwell releases it’s third studio album on September 23rd. It’s been 14 years since the band has released a studio album, and they came back to show they haven’t lost anything. The album is worthy of a listen if you like the gothic metal genre. The album lacks some creative merit in some aspects, but overall, it isn’t offensive in its musical style.

Darkwell’s Alexandra Pittracher returns to lead vocals in 2016, having sat out of the last album’s creation. Pittracher’s vocal ability is worthy of a leading role in The Phantom of the Opera, but the creative prowess of the band didn’t use her abilities to their full potential. Many songs feature a chorus of perfectly tuned harmonizing vocals that showcase her broad vocal range. However, most of the songs have her sounding generally the same, giving each song a similar feel, which can make the set list grow stale quickly. There’s a fine line between being a part of a genre and limiting your creative ability, and Darkwell seems to have erred on the more cautious side, which is unappreciated in music.

Yet, if the criteria were confined to the merits of gothic metal, Darkwell did pretty well in embodying the genre. Pianos and synthesizers team up with choirs to give the entire album the feeling that it was recorded in an old cathedral, which is always appreciated in gothic metal. Raphael Lepuschitz carries a great deal of weight on the keyboards in this album very well, but an incorporation of a string section may have strengthened the appeal to give it a more complete sound.

The tempo of Moloch serves a credit to the band, as it shows a captivating use of fast- and slow-paced songs. Some albums like to have a bell curve-like flow of intensity to captivate the listener, but some of them can be a mosh pit of tempo variance from song to song, which is a creative intelligence in itself.  The energetic hard-hitting opening to songs like ‘Bow Down’ and the ‘Yoshiwara’ contrast nicely with the slow, developing feel of songs like “Awakening,” and “The Fall of Ishtar” does a great job of mixing both. Much of the structure of the songs are based around Moritz Neuner on drums, who shows truly impressive speed on some tracks and technically masterful management of the cymbals, snare, and toms on others.

The area that is most sinful in Moloch is the guitar section. Many of the songs do have some enjoyably crunchy riffs like in “Clandestine,” but it rarely deviates from this formula. The focus of gothic metal is not so much on the guitar, and while there is no rhythm guitarist in the band, there were some moments in which the guitar could have broken off from the chord progression and taken a shot at a more exploratory solo performance. The six- and four-strings do a nice job of holding the songs together, but most times they fail to show true skill.

Overall, Moloch is a decent gothic metal album. The sections of the band come together in many ways that make it listenable. However, is it rather predictable. Darkwell has done a good job of encompassing the gothic metal genre, but doesn’t add much to it. A more adventurous approach to the album may have garnered them more respect and allowed them to grow. The band’s return to the new music scene is a satisfactory attempt, but to cross the line from ‘good’ to ‘great,’ Darkwell has to be more creative to be respected. 7/10

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