Review: Dark Symphonica – 'Immersion'

Sunny Brisbane, Australia, is, let’s face it, the last place you would expect to find a dark symphonic metal band called (naturally) Dark Symphonica. Perhaps they grew up goth? Whatever the case, the band got together as an instrumental act in 2010, before entering the studio in 2012 to record their debut album. After overcoming “numerous obstacles” (intriguing) and recruiting a vocalist, ‘Immersion’ was finally released on November 4th, 2015. Lead single ‘Chains Of Misfortune’ was out last year as a taster; so what’s the rest of the album like?

Said lead single opens the album with a dramatic piano intro, before launching into some proper symphonic metal pomp; some great low end guitar work mixes well with the skittish keyboards, whilst out front, Sam Wolstenholme gathers all the threads together with a beautiful and melodic vocal performance.

The rest of the album largely follows that pattern: delicate intro, big swing into symph metal, dramatic instrumentals, and so on. Second track ‘Farewell’ also incorporates classical piano in its intro before the rest of the band make a bombastic entrance as Wolstenholme intones the word “liiiiieeeeesss!”. It lowers the pace to a pixie-like delicacy – almost like a Disney soundtrack – before hitting the throttle again, complete with throaty guitars. ‘Envy’, which follows, is the best example of combining all the elements of symphonic metal on the album. From its gnashing guitar intro, to its rapidfire riffs and admonishing lyrics (“the greed in your soul is what makes you whole”), it’s certainly the heaviest track, with moments of trashy melody, there’s even an actual guitar solo, and yet there’s also a whimsical feel added to the brawny keyboards, which are even played at one stage just like a guitar solo. It’s simple, yet ballsy and effective. ‘Apophis’ is broadly similar, although its tribal beat and tinkly guitar give the track an almost Celtic feel… albeit a brawny, double-kick filled Celtic feel.

The fairly epic ‘Estrella’ is next, complete with drawn out piano intro, triumphant lyrics and a terrific vocal performance. It’s slower in pace but no less dramatic or emotional, although the gratitude and positivity in the lyrics stand in stark contrast to the ‘end of days’ flavour of the rest of the album. Following a plaintive cello turn, the band up the pace briskly, with a pounding beat, full of strength and vigour. This is a bit of a ‘kitchen sink’ number, frankly, fairly common in this genre: there’s drama, beauty, optimism, and delicacy, not to mention a multitude of instruments. It’s testament to the power of the song that its ten minute duration seems to pass by in a blink. Perhaps to reign in the overblown nature of the previous track, ‘Set Me Free’ is an altogether simpler affair. Its acoustic guitar intro, ‘radio rock’ feel and more straightforward vocal performance result in the most structured song on the album, while its ‘filmed by helicopter on a mountain top’ guitar work is glorious.

That simplicity is blown out of the water by final track ‘Goliath (Tyranny Part 1)’. A fourteen minute long epic tale, it begins with a tumbling drum intro and some moody as hell bass before launching into a blistering pace with everything thrown at it. For once, they forgo the almost hymn-like structure of their lyrics, replacing it with loose couplets that actually rhyme. Slow and murky tempo drops alternate with impressively thunderous beats, giving the song a real sense of ebb and flow. The final section, following an abrupt cessation, is a real showstopper, complete with bitter, venomous, lyrics of war and corruption sung choral style (“the shores of heaven are lined with the bodies of the pure”). It’s a mournful, yet emphatic ending, that sums up the bombast and power of the entire album.

‘Immersion’ is a really rather impressive album, especially when you consider it’s a debut. Dramatic, dark, and grandiose, it takes the listener on a journey through murky waters, emerging not quite triumphant, but certainly stronger and ready to fight. And although a quick glance at the lyric sheet makes you wonder if the songwriter was hit on the head by a thesaurus (“I ponder with evocative wonder”? Really?), it does lend the album an intelligent and suitably rhapsodic air. Proof, indeed, that darkness springs eternal – no matter where you may live.

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Review by Melanie Brehaut


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