Dark Moor – Dark Moor
Dark Moor – Dark Moor (2003)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Here it is, the first Dark Moor release without Elisa Martin as the band’s lead singer. Let’s get one thing straight here: Elisa was fantastic, and Dark Moor has, to date, never written an album to rival the likes of The Hall Of The Olden Dreams or The Gates Of Oblivion (at least, not in quite the same style), but this album gets a fair amount of undeserved flak simply for her loss. There’s not a bloody thing wrong with Alfred Romero, and while all Dark Moor fans know this nowadays, the switch to his voice on this album was quite a shock for the community.
I, for one, *almost* don’t miss Elisa when I throw the band’s self-titled album in. Romero’s much smoother, much more accomplished croon goes a long way. He’s nowhere near as developed a singer as he would come to be in time, but his clear, confident tenor is in some ways a breath of fresh air. A band’s self-titled album always seems to arrive either as a debut or after a period of reinvention, and the latter certainly fits this work. In addition to Romero, Arwen’s guitarist José Garrido and Saratoga’s drummer Andrés Cobos show up to fill in the cracks for the album. In a certain fashion, this release is almost a miniature supergroup project for Spanish power metal musicians – and one that is decidedly worthy of bearing the Dark Moor name.
On the whole, Dark Moor is a little bit slower, a little bit more graceful, and a little less frenzied than its predecessors. The change in lineup certainly had a substantial impact upon the compositions, and while I do not have any insight as to whether or not these songs were originally written for Elisa or not, Romero has no problem fitting the vocal lines like a glove. With the average tempo trailing off somewhat, bassist Anan Kaddouri, always a subtle talent in the band, gets to strut his stuff a bit on the low end – a dynamic that had rarely surfaced on a Dark Moor release, and which hasn’t to the same degree since! Dark Moor also marks a changing of gears in subject matter. While earlier albums were largely based around fantasy themes or fictitious settings, the self-titled work displays a noticeable increase in focus upon historical figures and famous literature. Songs like “The Bane Of Daninsky, The Werewolf”, “Phillip The Second”, “Cyrano Of Bergerac”, and “Attila Overture” are obvious nods in this direction.
Where The Gates Of Oblivion began to toy with compositions outside of what had been the band’s fast, neoclassical norm, Dark Moor continues the trend with the guitar moving over to make way for choral work on songs like single “From Hell”, “Cyrano Of Bergerac”, and “Wind Like Stroke”. Let’s look a bit closer at the last two of these three. “Cyrano Of Bergerac” is a narrative storytelling work with touching female guest vocals and some superb vocal melodies for both the lady and Romero. “Wind Like Stroke” is a beast in and of itself, and one of my favorite Dark Moor songs, bar none. Calling to mind the neoclassical frenzy of Dark Moor past, the bombastic orchestral hits and mercilessly catchy verses make it a clear winner for fans of the band, new and old. Despite the slightly awkward pronunciation, title track “Dark Moor” is a great tune as well (though the song “Dark Moor” from the album Dark Moor, by the band Dark Moor has some Black Sabbath-syndrome about it), and sees the most extensive use of another new tool of Garcia’s that pops up on this album: harsh vocals. They’re not even as embarrassingly bad as they’d come to be on later albums.
Dark Moor is as worthy an album of the band’s title as any, and though it might not be instantly recognizable as the same act from mere months prior, Enrik Garcia’s songwriting holds strong, churning out an hour chock full of signature songs. There’s even a bonus track – “The Mysterious Maiden”, a rather lovely tidbit of a ballad that might help make up for the lack of one on the album for some. Similar to my feelings on the band’s debut, Dark Moor is perhaps not the best entry point for new listeners to the band’s catalog (especially of the Romero-era of vocals), but it’s a must-have release all the same.
4.0 // 5