Astral Domine – Arcanum Gloriae
Astral Domine – Arcanum Gloriae (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Astral Domine’s story is a difficult one for me to approach because of the sheer weight that Fabio Lione’s reputation has had on this debut, and of the comparison of this band to Rhapsody (according to most of the press and online buzz thus far). I’m going to skip that approach as much as possible, because I’m a firm believer that this sort of album needs to be weight based upon its own merits, and because Lione himself is increasingly indiscriminate about where he appears as a vocalist.
Arcanum Gloriae is a symphonic power metal entry, assembled in what we think of as pretty standard Italian fashion for such things – high, warbly vocals, substantial keyboard support, and a general lack of guitar riffing. With song titles like “Holy Knights”, “King Of North”, and “Tale Of The Elves And Pain”, as well as bundles of hokey part-latin, it’s pretty clear what the band is getting itself into. Still, we’ve bit pretty hard on this kind of thing in the past, so what’s the harm?
No immediately evident harm, perhaps, but Astral Domine is about as generic as they come. Singer Marco Scorletti certainly has modeled his vocal styling after a certain emerald sword-bearer, and while his voice isn’t nearly as strong or capable as Lione’s, I don’t find his timbre as irritating to my ears. Otherwise, however, this leaves a considerable amount to be desired. There is a distinct lack of heavy and listenable guitar work, as the keys (which in and of themselves aren’t overly interesting) take the lead. What instrumental melodies exist are quite simplistic and uninspired, and as much as I’m trying to avoid direct comparisons, this sounds like a collection of B-sides from mid-era Rhapsody (think Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II and Triumph Or Agony). Speaking of, Fabio shows up on the sixth track, “Where Heroes Die”, a terrifically elongated ballad (over nine minutes) that manages to expertly drive itself into the ground despite the guest appearance and some neat choirs.
In my mind, this is reminiscent of previous sub-par releases like Heralds Of The Sword and older Kaledon – there’s just not enough METAL to go around. Sure, there’s some double bass with a sprinkling of chugging and prominently placed keys, but every song eventually goes back to the same formulaic drum patterns, the same uninspired (and horribly downplayed) power chording, the same acoustic piano arpeggios, and the same sort of shallowly impressive wailing with excessive vibrato that most Rhapsody knockoffs have built their sound around.
Well, now that I’ve hoisted my true colors, let me mention that there are also some truly abysmal harsh vocals during “Welcome To My Reign” that invite comparison to the depths of shame that I usually only associate with Dark Moor (see “Phantom Queen” from Autumnal). Actually, the only reprieve from worryingly tawdry and/or poor singing (aside from Lione’s decent stint) is the appearance of Giuseppe Cialone of Rosae Crucis on closer “Falsi Dei”.
There you go. I think Arcanum Gloriae is so predictable, lazy, and dull that it’s actually treading into the land of being offensive, as well as wasting the time of good, accomplished musicians (I include the band itself in this statement!). The English isn’t great, but good enough to indicate that a story isn’t important to the compositions, and the metal instrumentation is clearly backseat. As far as the Rhapsody comparison is concerned, the English have said that imitation is the most sincere sort of flattery, but I’m surprised that Lione put up with this.
And you know what? Now I’m a little fired up. Astral Domine could maybe succeed at being a Rhapsody cover band (if their guitarists could indeed ape Luca’s lines), but I can’t in good faith recommend this to any who is looking for either originality or even a good take on a classic formula. For most, Arcanum Gloriae is a waste of your precious listening time, don’t buy it.
1.5 // 5