Opera Magna - Poe 4/5

Reviewed: 8-1-10


1. El cuervo (intro)
2. El pozo y el pendulo
3. Un sueno en un sueno
4. La mascara de la muerte roja
5. Annabel Lee
6. El dominio de la diversidad
7. El entierro prematuro
8. El retraro oval
9. El corazon delator
10. La caida de la casa Usher
11. Edgar Allan Poe

Japan's Red Rivet Records are beginning to make a name for themselves by signing high-quality Spanish melodic power metal bands. Last year I was highly impressed with their release of Quelonio's 'Vicio y virtud' CD, which was reviewed on this site. This year our friends at Red Rivet have outdone themselves by picking up Opera Magna, a long-running 7-piece act from Valencia, Spain. I was unfamiliar with the band, but feared from their name and fairly abstract, nondescript cover art that they might veer too far too the progressive side of the spectrum for my tastes. How wrong I was.

Opera Magna specialize in highly symphonic exciting Spanish-language melodic power metal. 'Poe' is their 2nd CD, and is something of a concept CD, with all of their songs save one based on specific works by the poet laureate of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. Classic works like "The fall of the house of Usher", "The pit and the pendulum," "The tell-tale heart", and lesser known pieces like "The imp of the perverse" and "The oval portrait" are all duly represented here. Some may lament the fact that all lyrics are in Spanish, but the CD booklet is accompanied by a special insert that helpfully translates all of those lyrics into English, so that should soothe your pain. The final track, a 10-minute epic, is simply entitled "Edgar Allan Poe", and offers first-person imagined insights and reflections by the master himself. It's a cool lyrical theme to tie the songs together.

Of course, all the Poe-inspired texts in the world amount to little without strong music to back them up. Opera Magna deliver in spades here. Building on the symphonic tradition of countrymen Dark Moor at the pinnacle of their creativity (circa 'Gates of oblivion' and 'The hall of the olden dreams'), Opera Magna layer on the elaborate orchestral and choral flourishes in every song, so much so that one of the band's members, Fernando Asensi, is credited solely as "sound engineer, choirs." (I've never seen that one before.) But Opera Magna haven't forgotten the metal either, as guitarists F. Javier Nula and Enrique Mompo unleash searing riffs and neo-classical solos galore. Most of the songs are hook-laden, memorable and uptempo, with scads of double-bass pounding. And lead singer Jose Vicente Broseta turns in a fantastic performance, expressive and clear, with his soaring voice melding beautifully with the choirs and occasional female vocals of Julia Moller.

In terms of band comparisons, the obvious starting place is Dark Moor and, to a lesser extent, Spanish melodic power metal gods Avalanch (before they turned wimpy and decided to forsake metal a few years ago). I'm also reminded occasionally of Mago de Oz, not because Opera Magna's music is folky (it isn't), but because it shares that epic grandeur and pomposity that characterizes Mago's work. And the influence of Rhapsody of Fire is readily identifiable here too, with Broseta sometimes sounding a bit like Fabio Leone and the melodies and choirs occasionally reminding of Rhapsody's early work at its most aggressive. Among symphonic bands, Opera Magna also share elements of Kamelot's sound, back when Kamelot were still a speedy symphonic power metal band. But there's another important ingredient here too that differentiates 'Poe' from the hordes of European power imitators. Specifically, the haunting melodic guitar themes of Nula and Mompo bear striking similarity at times to those of Andy LaRocque (King Diamond). That sort of eerie creepiness in the guitar melodies is a brilliant touch that neatly connects the swelling orchestral music to the sinister lyrical content.

I have no idea whether and how 'Poe' will be available to the CD-purchasing metal public in the United States and Europe. What I do know is that Opera Magna should be mandatory listening for afficionados of symphonic European power metal and Spanish-language metal alike. You will be hard-pressed to find a better CD in this style in 2010. My only complaint is that the music and arrangements are sometimes just a bit too busy and involved for my old-school, plug-and-play heavy metal mentality. After much contemplation, I've decided to award 'Poe' a 4/5, downgrading it only because of the "busy-ness" factor and my general fatigue with this heavily layered sound. But if symphonic metal is in the sweet spot of your musical tastes, tack on an extra half-point immediately. Yes, 'Poe' is that good. Hats off to Opera Magna, and to Red Rivet for unearthing this sensational band.




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