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Ava Inferi - Onyx 4/5

Reviewed: 5-1-11


1. Onyx
2. The living end
3. A portal
4. Ghostlights
5. Majesty
6. The heathen island
7. By candlelight & mirrors
8. Venice (In fog)

Ava Inferi is a gothic doom metal band from Portugal and this is their 4th studio CD. The first few songs on ‘Onyx’ are generally driven by down-tuned rhythm guitar with backing clean guitars and keys providing the melody. These songs are heavy and dense with rumbling percussion, usually melancholic and often quite ominous, featuring flowing tapestries of changing riffs just slightly warmed up by the backing melodies. As ‘Onyx’ continues the songs start to take on a warmer, more melodic and gothic feel, with more and more passages being driven by clean lead guitar against heavy backing percussion. The last few songs are decidedly lighter and perhaps even upbeat, at least compared to the first few. The common thread throughout the songs is a peculiar dramatic intensity, sometimes brooding, sometimes almost delightful, that gives the listener a strong sense of a musical journey through various emotional moods and feelings, beginning with angst and ending with triumph.

This sense of journey is all the more enhanced by the stellar vocal performance of Carmen Susana Simões. She is not at all the typical operatic or soprano female vocalist so prevalent now in gothic and doom metal. Her primary style is rather a fairly deep mezzo-soprano which she modifies very nicely depending on the heaviness and mood of the music. For the more ominous passages she typically transitions between chanting and a deliberate, somewhat cold, even sometimes slightly sinister singing approach. As the songs warm up, so does she, changing to a more cheerful and optimistic style; even here she still retains a colder edge than most female singers in this genre, but her delivery is unfailingly emotive and melodic and reminds me of Riina Rinkinen from Silentium.

This CD was quite a surprise for me because, frankly, I am not a fan of their first 3 CDs; they feature a much colder less gothic doom metal that, for my tastes, tends to meander and drag; indeed, Carmen’s vocals are the one redeeming feature that makes them interesting at all. ‘Onyx’ is a huge step forward in a better direction, much more along the lines of Draconian but without the extreme vocals. ‘Onyx’ features engaging, emotionally varied songwriting at its best and is essential for fans of the darker side of gothic or doom metal.




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