A couple of weeks ago I waxed lyrical about Ador Dorath; a new (to me) Czech metal band I had found via the magic of last.fm. After ordering their entire back catalogue and spending a week blasting my ears off I figured I'd best write the megareview I promised.
Adon Nin Edeleth Ador Dorath
The "gothic" album
First up, the band's 2002 debut album. The sound is immediately reminiscent of other gothic symphonic bands like Nemesea and Nightwish, but with a healthy dose of blackened death metal male vocals smashed into it. It's much faster and thrashier than similar bands, too, which makes Ador Dorath more a death/black metal band that happen to have operatic female vocals than a symphonic rock/metal band.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, the sound is a full on assault on the senses. This is proven from the very first noise that comes out of the speakers upon pressing play.
As far as themes go, the album is very grim. Less introspective and more morose and despairing. Lots of mildly disturbing imagery, tolling bells, werewolves and other gothic elements. Many of the songs reflect on pagan imagery, humanity's place in the world, but more often just on symbolic and poetic musings on the nature of the world.
Of course, normally one would glean this information from the lyrics. Unfortunately I can barely make out a word of it. Maybe 5 lines out of the entire album. And that's with the lyrics booklet open in front of me! I'm pretty sure the band wrote a bunch of lyrics, stuck them in a book, then sang something completely different on the album.
The album art is pretty cool, with lots of pen-and-ink drawings in a vaguely mediæval style. The front cover is an x-ray of ouroborous, the serpent eating its own tail, and throughout the booklet other mythology is referenced.
There are a few standout tracks. Ubique Daemon I've already mentioned as the album opener. Arcana Lunis is instrumental and includes much gothic imagery. Circle and Rule Of Nyx are just catchy metal tunes that I like to sing along to, even though I have no idea what the lyrics are.
The title track, Adon Nin Edeleth Ador Dorath, I thought was sung in Czech, but Google Translate can't figure it out. It's a great track, though, playing the two vocalists off each other with an almost folky backing melody interspersed with operatic chants.
The bonus track will make your brain hurt.
The "experimental" album
Next up is Symbols; Ador Dorath's second* album from 2005. In many ways a world apart from Adon Nin Edeleth, and yet somehow very similar.
This album encompasses many different sounds. Every song seems to be unique not just through the melody and lyrics, but style. From black to death to electronic to symphonic to melodic, the sub-genres encompassed and woven into the sounds varies wildly from track to track, and yet always sounds coherent.
The sound throughout the album is far less gothic than Adon Nin Edeleth, and the balance of male to female vocals has shifted slightly in the male vocalist's favour. A bonus is that, for this release, the lyrics are actually decipherable. Many of them, certainly for Rosa, the album opener, are lyricised versions of famous (or not so famous) quotations about the nature of the world. The themes are very similar, although not nearly as dark and depressing as Adon Nin Edeleth. I particularly liked this little gem:
"I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth." - Umberto EcoWhile the tracks contain a bit of everything they still flow well from one to the next. There are no jarring segues here. From the chugging death metal of River to the insane operatic electronica of Mountain, with a soprano ballad in the form of Desert between them, the listener is dragged on a journey through the album by one catchy hook after the next. This all culminates in Nin.E (presumably named for Adon Nin Edeleth) which includes the most off-the-wall church organ metal riff I've ever had the pleasure to have blasted into my head.
Continuing a theme for the album art, there is a lot of pen-and-ink stuff in Symbol's liner notes and cover art. Various different glyphs are used to represent various figures to stylise the lettering. The paper is a strange sort, somehow old fashioned and brittle to touch.
The bonus track will make you fall into a deep, happy sleep.
The "black" album.
Last, but by no means least, is the 2008 album Bestiari. With a new female singer and a completely new style (again). The whole album takes on a far more death/black metal feel with the female vocal parts used sparingly. And yet, while there are less of them, they are used well enough that they fit well and add to the whole.
Bestiari is not as varied as Symbols, but benefits from the consistency. The style from track to track does not change drastically, but each song is distinct in melody, riffs and hooks. The blackened death vocal is clearer still than Symbols so singing along, or just understanding the lyrics, is no problem. It reminds me quite a bit of Martriden's latest concept album, Encounter The Monolith. Except for the soprano singing in the chorus, of course.
There are some definite folk elements still there, especially in Only The Man Has The World/And Is Inside The World, along with the same basic thematic elements. Space gets a look in this time, too, with the anthropomorphisation of the entire cosmos into female form in the aptly named Space Odyssey. Attitude Gyroscope continues this theme and brings some of the crazy keyboard riffs from the earlier albums into play.
As the album progresses, it starts to slowly become less like Martriden and more like a black metal version of Nightwish. Race For Life and Words are very much like Oceanborn era Nightwish, but with Ador Dorath's own manic electronic riffs and harsher vocals layered into the guitar and drum tracks. Dead On Arrival (Nice And Easy) brings some great melodic death riffs and really showcases not only the vocal talents of the two singers, but also their chemistry.
The album art for this one hurts my head. The digipak shows the artist and album title in braille. Inside, there is no book. Instead, there is a square double sided poster. One side of the poster shows the band reflected in a pond. The logo is upside down. The other side is shiny metallic cellophane. Half the elements of the shiny side are upside down, and the band name is jumbled up all over the place. At least the individual tracks' lyrics are coherent.
The bonus track will make you think you're in an 80's sci-fi movie. In the desert.
There you go; three for the price of one. And I for one think it was worth it. For me, Ador Dorath provide the ideal compromise between heavy, growl-laden death or black metal and lighter, female fronted symphonic metal. They should be a guiding light to all the female fronted bands currently losing their way with commercial pop sounds, concept albums, tie-in movies, comic book gimmicks and a distinct lack of heavy, metal music.
* aside: does anyone else detest the word "sophomore"?