Ashes To Ashes - Cardinal VII

Year of Release: 2002
Label: DVS Records
Catalog Number: DVS006
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:54:00

When I first heard the term "Gregorian Metal," I pictured the hood wearing group of guys at the beginning of Def Leppard's "Rock of Ages" video. That may have been a bit extreme, but I did expect chanting, a very gloomy feel, and a certain Therion-ish element. Now, Cardinal VII contains most of those things, though there is not really any chanting, but the CD falls to more the doom/power metal side in my opinion. The music is sometimes progressive, sometimes dark, and sometimes pretty thrashy; yet, with all that is good, this album treads the fine line of being solid. There is some potential here, but they need to work on their style to elevate the overall sound and mixture of their music.

It seems that the guy who gets most of the attention from the band is singer Kenneth Brastad. They say that his vocals are much more diverse on this album, though I never heard the album prior. Integrating about three or four different styles of vocals, he is diverse. Yet, when he's not clean or Gregorian (there's that word again), his voice can actually hurt the songs. If he sticks to his clean style, then he is actually a plus. However, his thrash vocals leave much (very much) to be desired. Thinking about it now, when he does sing in that harsh tone, combined with the style of the music they play, the band sounds very similar to Therion on Lepaca Kliffoth. And, if you remember that Therion album, you know the vocals were pretty horrible. Luckily, the Ashes To Ashes singer does sing clean for most of the time, generally, especially in the latter part of the album.

Musically speaking, the band has some really interesting parts. To me, they are a mix between that Therion CD mentioned above and Memento Mori's La Danse Macabre (the classic doom/prog metal album in my opinion), though they are a ways away from hitting the level of La Danse. The keyboards on Cardinal VII are very well done and fit well as a backdrop to the different guitar and drum rhythms. Actually, they are what usually set the tone, whether it is atmospheric, powerful, or doomy. The rest of the instruments don/t really stand out, but there are some nice drum tempos that are apparent. However, one flaw I see is that the sound, especially of the guitar, seems extremely distorted. Sometimes, a very nifty riff or solo cannot be heard because of the sound structure. Also, Ashes to Ashes has a tendency to go into straight ahead power metal grooves that you hear too often in other bands, and that is not a plus in my book.

The 13 minute "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi" is a well thought out song, maybe a bit overlong. And tracks like "Embraced in Black," "Behind Closed Eyes," "Cardinal VII," and the nice keyboard pieces are all solid creations but there are certain parts they really should have left out, but that may just be me. Plus, I expected something a bit darker, but this turns out to be more like normal metal at times. Yes, the lyrics paint a gloomy interpretation, but the music doesn't really compliment them as well as it should.

Now, if you are in the mood for something a bit doomy, but powerful at the same time, then this CD should go over well with you. Actually, I can see many people getting into this band because they really don't stick to one genre, but they just to have strengthen their direction to really excite me. There is something there with Cardinal VII; yet, they still have a "rock of ages" to go.

[This review originally appeared November 2002 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]
New World Obscure (3:54) / Embraced In Black (5:38) / Among Mortals (3:48) / Truth On Scaffold (6:56) / Iben (1:00) / Dualism (6:16) / Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (13:32) / Ravenous Unleashed (2:20) / Behind Closed Eyes (4:52) / Cardinal VII (8:27) / Iben II (1:58)

Michael Stenberg - guitars
Björn Luna - bass
Ronny Kaasa - drums
Kenneth Brastad - vocals

Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea (demo, oop) (1993)
Temples Of Ice (demo, oop) (1995)
Shapes Of Spirit (1999)
Cardinal VII (2002)

Genre: Dark-Doom Metal

Origin NO

Added: November 26th 2004
Reviewer: Shawn "Zero Hour" Lakhani
Artist website:
Hits: 1055
Language: english


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