Diabolus Arcanium is a symphonic black metal quintet from Chennai, India. I had a chance to review their demo ‘Spellbound’ when it came out. It didn’t get an overwhelmingly positive review, but it did feel like the band was heading in the right direction. And now they’re back with a new album ‘Path of Ascension’. Have they learnt from their mistakes?
The answer is a resounding yes. The first thing I noticed when I heard this album was the clear increase in production quality. This album is leaps and bounds ahead of its infantile predecessor which sounds like a horrible album compared to this one. The orchestration sounds fuller and there are a few parts that were recorded with a live orchestra which adds to the authenticity of the album as a whole. The guitars have been cleaned up a bit and they got a real drummer to do the drums instead of having it programmed. If Diabolus Arcanium were an employee at a software company, this would be equivalent to a promotion from tester straight to team lead, that’s how much they’ve grown since their last effort.
When it comes to the songs, the album is more like a remaster of their demo with a whopping 8 of the 11 songs being carried over from their demo. The only new songs are ‘Bloodlines’, ‘Arrival’ (a short instrumental) and ‘Christ Eradication’. Though I understand that most debuts do contain material carried over from demos and EPs, the lack of new material on the album is a let-down.
However, even with the songs being more or less the same, due to the increased production quality it brings out a different side to some of the songs that you may not have noticed the first time around. Even with all this work, I still feel they haven’t quite hit their mark. On most of the songs, I felt that there was too much room left; traditionally in symphonic black metal the orchestration is used to fill out the space and the guitars and drums punch through the haze that the orchestration creates. But in this album, the orchestration just rides on top of the rest of the music, leaving a lot of space, making the songs feel shallow and incomplete and bringing down the overall quality of the album.
Production wise, as I’ve already mentioned, this album is way ahead of its predecessor. The instrument levels are well balanced, but I still feel that the guitars need a little bit more love and the orchestration needs to be spread out instead of being pumped in through one channel. I really love the drums on the album; Vishesh destroys the kit on every song. Tormentor on bass rumbles along below all the instruments, I feel he could have been brought a little more to the forefront. Abraxas and Hex on guitars make a good effort but that horrendous solo at the end of ‘Of Fire and Ashes’ really needs some cleanup. Hex’s vocals are impressive, really wretched and evil sounding, reminds me of Abbath’s vocals at times. Archon on keyboards is average. The band needs to really up its game on the orchestration, most of the melodies sound bland and repetitive. They are sounds I’ve heard before and I not memorable.
‘Path of Ascension’ is a good debut album by the band but they still have miles to go before they can sleep. This band knows where they want to go, but they just don’t know how to get there. Hopefully a little more polish and experience will allow them to mature and create what they envision but for now, they’ll need to put their heads down and strive forward, improving their art.
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