Dark Moor – The Gates Of Oblivion
Dark Moor – The Gates Of Oblivion (2002)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
If The Hall Of The Olden Dreams was a brash and prodigiously talented youth, then The Gates Of Oblivion is its equally impetuous, but quietly deeper and more adventurous twin brother. After breaking its career open, Dark Moor lost little time in assembling another spread of favorites in its signature style of powerized neoclassical metal. In most ways, The Gates Of Oblivion maintained the ultra-high plateau of quality that Dark Moor found itself on with the prior release, but there’s some experimentation at play – almost a subliminal slideshow, especially later in the album, that hints at the sound of future works.
Dismissing the need for an instrumental, “In The Heart Of Stone” hurls the album directly into what is probably one of the band’s most recognizable songs, with a lead guitar soli to match. “A New World” flows in much the same way, and it seems at first as if we are to be treated to the same sort of merciless attack that The Hall Of The Olden Dreams flung our way. However, the self titled instrumental breaks up the overt approach a bit, and leads into the more sweeping and mid-tempo “Nevermore”. This track is important because, on top of being another notable classic in the band’s long catalog, it features one of the first pronounced shifts from Enrik’s lead playing to vocal melodies. Even the gorgeous lead guitar lick is faded somewhat into the background, around the same level as the synths and orchestral hits, whereas Elisa Martin’s commanding vocals take center stage for all portions of the song in which they are present. Even the guitar solo, after a few sequential arpeggios, is a rather lyrical take on the chorus melody – and it all comes together quite beautifully.
“Starsmaker (Elbereth)” takes the album back to a more guitar-focused sound, and in particular, the riff that segues from the verse into the pre-chorus is one of the most chill-inducing and beautiful that I’ve ever heard. “Mist In The Twilight” and “By The Strange Paths Of Destiny” repeat the “The Gates Of Oblivion”/”Nevermore” experience, though in not quite so masterful a manner. “The Night Of The Age” and “A Truth For Me” round out the standard-length power metal tracks, and ballad “Your Symphony” is the album’s slow point. While this song is no match for many of Dark Moor’s newer ballads, it’s a refreshing pause amidst the speed and driving storm of guitar. “Dies Irae (Amadeus)” has the honor of being one (and the first) of only three mini-epics that the band has ever penned, as well as possibly its best.
Though much of the core sound is the same and most of the songs follow a similar formula, The Gates Of Oblivion’s expanded use of ambiance, track length, and slightly more subdued, lyrical songs make it a clear segue. After this album was released, Elisa, along with guitarist Albert Maroto and drummer Jorge Sáez, would depart to form the short-lived Dreamaker to realize their own musical ideas (and thank goodness they did). Before they departed, EP Between Light And Darkness was released, but its largely acoustic and/or re-recorded nature makes it less essential for the band’s core catalog. Enrik would soldier onward with his vision, but would be hard-pressed to meet the twin summits of Dark Moor’s early work.
4.5 // 5