Review: Blackbriar – ‘A Dark Euphony’

In today’s edition of “Every Day Is a School Day” it turns out that ‘euphony’ means “good sound”, or better still – “…the quality of being pleasing to the ear”. Both of these descriptions sum up Blackbriar’s Nuclear Blast Records debut perfectly. However, one would be forgiven for perhaps going overboard and adding a few more substantial synonyms for “good”, such as “exceptional”, “excellent”, and “superb”. None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the alternative metal-gothic rock band from the Netherlands since they released their debut EP ‘Fractured Fairytales’ in 2017, and with the might of Nuclear Blast Records behind them now, the entire world is beckoning.

There is only a small step up in production quality from 2021’s debut album ‘The Cause of Shipwreck’, purely because the debut didn’t bear any hallmarks of a small, independent release. And with the Midas touch of uber-producer Joost van den Broek guiding them, Blackbriar created a major-label debut in all but name. With van den Broek alongside them again, and with Nuclear Blast in their corner, there is a touch of bigger and better about ‘A Dark Euphony’ (especially in the arrangements of ‘The Evergreen and Weeping Tree’ and the sweeping, majestical ‘Cicada’), but the DIY-spirit of the debut is still there.

Led by the otherworldly vocals from Zora Cock, ‘A Dark Euphony’ is a delight from start to finish. One change perhaps from the debut is that there is more variety found within the new album. ‘The Cause of Shipwreck’ is an album to get lost in, and at times, because of familiarity, one song seeps into the other; not so with ‘A Dark Euphony’ where the six-piece (now completed by the bassist with the biggest smiles known to man, Siebe Sol Sijpkens) constantly mix it up. Opener ‘An Unwelcome Guest’ sets the scene with siren-like vocalisation from Zora over the opening few seconds, and the twin guitars of Bart Winters and Robin Koezen are on-point. Probably the most “metal” of the 11 tracks, it’s a fantastic way to open the album and don’t be too surprised if it also opens the live shows. ‘Far Distant Land’ slows it down a notch or two with a waltz-like pace in places (think the ballroom scene during the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World) and the ethereal, fragile vocals from Zora are hypnotic as the song begins to twist and turn into this fantasy-filled piece with some traditional instrumental touches. Changing it up again, ‘Spirit of Forgetfulness’ strays onto what might be classed as symphonic metal territory – but without the tropes of the genre that can often be overpowering – and the hushed vocals from Zora bring some of the biggest hooks on the entire album.

The mid-section of the album is particularly strong. Beginning with the gentle ‘The Evergreen and Weeping Tree’ – where the production really shines through on an enchanting slow-burning track that explodes to live mid-song with some gorgeous arrangements and enthused playing, continuing with ‘Cicada’, an enthralling five minutes of music that ensnares the listener with Zora’s breathless vocals that feel like she is right there on your shoulder, and the opening arrangements are powerful enough to make any fans of Tim Burton weep with tears of joy. Ending on the engrossing and stunning ‘My Soul’s Demise’ – where Zora gives a haunting masterclass performance on how to showcase a vocal range in one song – all three are perfect examples of mature songcraft from a band only 2 albums into their career. A beautiful 15 minutes of music to fall in love with.

The standouts don’t end there though as ‘Thumbelina’ is a special moment, and with a few seasonal flourishes, it could be a killer Trans-Siberian Orchestra track. And with ‘Forever and a Day’, Blackbriar have come up with a genuinely stunning piece of music filled with heartache and emotion. ‘Cicada’ though – one of the top 5 songs of the year.

The fall equinox and the first day of autumn arrived on Saturday, September 23, 2023, and six days later Blackbriar will deliver their sophomore album, but in the same sense that ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ movie is not just for Halloween or Christmas, and that it is totally acceptable to watch ‘Hocus Pocus’ in January – ‘A Dark Euphony’ is an album for the entire year. The gothic melancholic charm found within the 11 tracks is ideal for when leaves start to fall from the trees, and darker nights start to creep in, but do you honestly only listen to ‘Floodland’ or ‘Bela Lugos’s Dead’ once summer officially ends and it is safe to go outside without bursting into a ball of flames? Of course not.

Review – Dave

BLACKBRIAR is:
Zora Cock – Vocals
René Boxem – Drums
Bart Winters – Guitars
Robin Koezen – Guitars
Siebe Sol Sijpkens – Bass
Ruben Wijga – Keys

Pre-order A Dark Euphonyhere: https://blackbriar.bfan.link/a-dark-euphony

Live dates:

28-09 – Tivoli, Utrecht NL
29-09 – Nieuwe Nor, Heerlen NL
30-09 – Resonanzwerk, Oberhausen DE
02-10 – Logo, Hamburg DE
03-10 – Hellraiser, Leipzig DE
05-10 – Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg DE
06-10 – Kammgarn, Schaffhausen, CH
07-10 – Kofmehl, Solothurn, CH

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