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When I heard Dark Moor for the first time, I was struck by their majestic symphonic guitar work, which blurred the line between classical music and heavy metal. The record I listened to then was "The Gates Of Oblivion", which I consider to be a masterpiece. However, I think their abilities to create that splendid blend have waned.
This album starts off very promising with the title track, which has this fantasy feel to it. Reminds me of several scores for movies and video games, which for me is a good thing. My expectations where risen high and it was with great anticipation I dove into the next song. The first track promised too much and I felt that the subsequent songs didn't really deliver what I hoped for. Although the intro of "First Lance Of Spain" is good, the chorus ruins the feeling and it does not fire up the record as desired. It feels a bit cheesy, but not in the good fashion.
Alfred Romero's pronunciations sometimes almost destroy the songs. "It Is My Way" is a good example of that. One thing to note here is that I had no problem with their earlier vocalist Elisa Martin who didn't really sing perfect English either. On the contrary, I miss her a lot. "The Road Again" is one of the highlights with great memorable chorus and beautiful melodies, where Alfred Romero's voice actually gets to shine. They've released a video of this song which I don't really feel suits the music, but check it out if you like racing.
After a pair of quite dull songs "Gara & Jonay" makes a lame appearance. For me the singing was a bit painful to listen to, and actually made me laugh. I guess the song isn't that bad, but for my expectations I felt it wasn't what I wanted. After that sleeping pill, the coolest and best song by far is delivered in the form of "Living In A Nightmare". There are very interesting lyrics and speedy riffs. It showcases the bands potential with great arrangement and displays their skill with spectacular solos by both guitar and bass. As a bonus song an orchestral version is also included.
A song with Spanish lyrics follows, "El Ultimo Rey", which isn't really much to speak about. Some of the instruments and sounds feel a bit crappy and sort of like a backing track, if that makes any sense. However, I feel that his singing is better in Spanish, so maybe they should try that some more? The last song that is worth mentioning is Asturias, which is a metal cover of the Spanish suite. I would rather recommend listening to their version of Vivaldi's "Winter", but it's kind of enjoyable.
After my first couple of listens I had to conclude that this record had potential but never went the whole distance. The metal elements are lacking, and those that are present feel shallow. They've peeled of the rock, so to speak. In my opinion it has been an ongoing process through their last couple of albums, to make it more symphonic to the brink of almost erasing the metal. Some of the riffs feel a bit generic and added just to "make it metal" instead of actually enhance the compositions. The drumming was also quite anonymous. Maybe they should listen to their older material and forge new neo-classical power metal songs instead of pursuing this current path they're headed.
To summarize, this album could maybe be more appreciated for what it is, but for me it feels like a step in the wrong direction. In earlier records they succeeded to create a seamless blend of classical music and power metal, now I feel the components are drifting apart. Some highlights make the listen worthwhile though.