Grecian band Caelestia bring their own brand Symphonic Extreme Metal, with their sophomore album ‘Thanatopsis’ released via the EMP Label Group (SPV Europe) just last month, dropping worldwide on 8th December 2017.
After the short opening intro track, the first song ‘Initium Vitae Et Mortis’ plays out and I’m met with an extreme-meets-gothic symphonic metal style featuring female operatic vocals performed by leading lady and singer/songwriter ‘Dimitra Talamantes Vintsou’. Her vocals are juxtaposed against the ferocious extreme roars of Nikos Palivos, creating an intriguing dynamic between the two. Unfortunately I struggle with the parts where both vocals are performing together as I’m not sure which to concentrate on. They execute their own separate lyrical refrains at the same time rather than call-and-response or the same lyrics in unison, resulting in a confusing narrative. It’s like trying to listen to two separate conversations at once, with neither dominating. In addition to the vocal arrangements, the orchestral synth arrangements, though atmospheric, are a little sparse and are easily drowned out by the drums (Socratis Panagouleas) and guitars (Vassilis Thomas, Vangelis Evangelou & Stelios Varotsakis).
Next up is title track ‘Thanatopsis’. Stand-out features here are the haunting melodies and druid-like chanting, lending the song an almost Rotting Christ-like vibe, which is certainly a positive. That said, it’s a track with some interesting qualities, but sadly not a full-on attention-grabber.
Fortunately things improve significantly with ’Chamber Of Torments’. This track, my first highlight of the album so far, features ferocious, guttural extreme vocals combined with thunderous kicks and dark, ominous guitar licks. There is something decidedly sinister and foreboding about this song with Gothic operatic vocals playing a key role in complimenting the dark, mysterious tone. The band then continue their momentum on ’Devil’s Game’, maintaining the high tempo and ominous tonal themes of the previous song, only this time with more brutality and darkness. The chorus is insanely catchy too.
Changing the tone altogether, ‘Dancing With The Demons’ begins as a gentler, acoustic affair. Gaining momentum the heaviness creeps in, building to become a brooding, Gothic ballad track. It oozes atmosphere and the Middle-Eastern melodies are hauntingly beautiful.
‘Travel To Eternity’ carries on where ‘Chamber Of Torments’ and ‘Devil’s Game’ left off and is very much in the same vain as these two songs, though with slightly less vitriolic attack.
Beginning with a horrid synth intro and a very messy guitar passage, I really don’t enjoy the melodic arrangements or the mist-mash of ideas running through ‘Underlife’ and I guess they didn’t really know how to finish this one either, opting to fade out rather than with a crescendo. This is definitely the weak-point in the album for me.
Despite the momentary blip, ’Martyrs’ brings things right back on track with a cracking dose of brutal death metal and a tinge of haunting Gothic atmosphere. The soaring operatic style of Dimitra’s vocals really shines here. Structurally, all elements seem to click perfectly, resulting in another outstanding highlight pick.
To end on a bleak yet dramatic note is ’Lament Of The Sea’ with its gloomy, brooding melodies. I feel as though I’m getting lost in a sea of musical ideas at times, though this song has its merits, especially the guitar solo section two thirds in, which momentarily gives it a much-needed lift before delving back into its murky depths.
The multitude of ideas throughout this album have a tendency to meander too often and even run wild in some cases, which is a shame because there are some real gems in there. Additionally, the individual stylistic and musical ideas are fascinating and well executed, however upon the final execution of those ideas, they sometimes seem at odds with one another.
It was a shame that Dimitra’s vocals were dominated by the musical arrangements at times, especially as there were moments it was hard to understand the lyrics at all. As a key narrative within the songs, it’s difficult to engage when the voice is drowned out and I’m genuinely surprised given that experienced engineer Fredrik Nordström, famed for the “Gothenburg sound”, was in charge of production.
As an entire body of work, ‘Thanatopsis’ isn’t an album I would personally choose to play from start to finish, however there are some note-worthy tracks that really do stand out. When the band hit their stride they can really carry that momentum. There’s some foundations to be built from here and I will definitely want to return to three or four of the stand-out tracks I’ve taken from this release.
It’s great to see that two of my stand-out picks have been released as videos, so I’ve shared them below.
VIDEO: ‘Devlis’ Game’
VIDEO: ‘Chamber Of Torments’