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Blackbriar – A Dark Euphony

Blackbriar – A Dark Euphony

Blackbriar - A Dark Euphony

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Release Date: 29 September, 2023
  • Label: Independent
  • Musicians:
    Zora Cock - vocals,
    René Boxem - drums,
    Bart Winters - guitar,
    Robin Koezen - guitar,
    Ruben Wijga - keyboards,
    Siebe Sol Sijpkens - bass
  • Favorite songs:
    We Make Mist, Far Distant Land
  • For Fans of:
    Ad Infinitum, Epica, Within Temptation

I’ve been looking forward to Blackbriar‘s new album for a while. I think this is one of the few bands that still finds ways to bring something new out of symphonic metal without having to mix it with other genres or put some unexpected twist to it. Their sound is symphonic metal at the core and can’t really be described as anything else. But at the same time, they are very unique and can’t really be easily compared to any other band artist roaming the symphonic metal realms. Authenticity is strong with these guys.

A Dark Euphony” is their second full-length release following their very well received debut “The Cause of Shipwreck“. With a number of EP releases prior to these 2 albums, they’ve gained quite a lot of traction and established a well-defined sound that seems to have become their trademark. Now, with “A Dark Euphony”, they seem perfectly satisfied with keeping the same sound going. As a prog fan, I always like to hear new things and get some surprise factor, but in Blackbriar’s case, the formula hasn’t yet become redundant and I’m perfectly fine with another album following this recipe.

Blackbriar – My  Soul’s Demise

Unlike many symphonic metal artists that build their orchestrations over a generic heavy/power metal groundwork, Blackbriar’s approach seems more groove focused, with moderate tempos and interesting dynamics. This allows their music to be more atmospheric and more impactful at the same time! The drums set up an inviting pace that hooks the listener. They appear toned down when covered by the full soundscape of guitars and orchestration, but they’re actually quite loaded with details. Over somewhat straightforward kick and snare patterns, drummer René Boxem can create immersive build-ups, often under the verse, leading towards the chorus. Every now and then he creates interesting drops, accentuating the riffage and inducing a bit of a stink-face on the listener (‘Cicada’ bridge). But he also knows when to space out his playing and keep it simple, leaving room for the melodies to flow, often during the chorus. His playing is expressive and adds to the overall theatrical aura of Blackbriar’s music, knowing the ideal moments to accentuate certain patterns and drop some extra spice.

On guitars and bass, a beautiful wall of sound is created that sounds both heavy and grandiose. The riffs and orchestrations go hand in hand nicely and are tightly linked in the production creating a flow of sound that doesn’t aim to spotlight a certain instrument in particular, but is rather focused at refining the overall texture and emotion of the sound. The attention to detail and aim of the music as a vessel for their stories is obvious. However, a careful ear will notice that certain galloping and down-picking sections actually bring a lot of beef in the riffage and allow the songs to get properly heavy, despite the whimsical and hypnotic surface.

Blackbriar – Cicada

The groovy nature and infectious rhythmic creativity sure makes Blackbriar stand out to me. But their real A-game is displayed in the melody writing. Whether it be the lead vocal lines, the guitar leads or the many layers of keyboard and orchestration, the melodies are what binds the songs together and creates the captivating, hypnotic and continuous flow of sound and emotion that they’ve gotten known for. Guitar leads have a tendency to emulate the chorus line on certain songs and every now and then we also get some full-blown solos where some impressive technical skill from Bart Winters is also put on display (see ‘Far Distant Land’). For orchestrations and piano, I must pick the song ‘The Evergreen and the Weeping Tree’. Starting out as a voice and piano duo between Zora Cock and Ruben Wijga, it gets gradually drenched in orchestrations as the song progresses, building tension and releasing more emotion, with the rest of the band only joining in at the end. This song is great for noticing all the layers in the orchestrations and the way the melodies bounce off one-another and complement each-other, balancing out the full soundscape.

Zora’s vocal performance is at its peak on this album. Her unique, high and slightly nasal vocal tone and her eerie charisma allow for the goosebumps and witchy vibes to flow stronger than ever. Sometimes she sounds beautiful and hypnotic (‘Forever and a Day’), while other songs allow a more dramatic and menacing attitude to come across (‘Bloody Footprints in the Sand’). Clever production tricks and vocal layering present her in many different lights. See the bridge in ‘Cicada’ for some interesting backing voices. And of course, her ability to step into certain characters and deliver stories brings a whole new element of beauty to their craft on top of the music, one of words and images. Stories of lost love, cursed monsters, sleep paralysis and mythological tales build a whole dream-like world that the listeners can lose themselves into, forgetting about everyday life and basking in the wonder, the fantasy and the horror that the lyrics develop.

Blackbriar – Spirit of Forgetfulness

So, if symphonic metal is your thing, look no further. Short of the predictable song structure’s slightly formulaic approach, there is hardly anything to complain about. ‘A Dark Euphony’ sees Blackbriar putting their best foot forward as one of the most exciting and unique voices in symphonic metal today!

Track List:

  1. An Unwelcome Guest (04:10)
  2. Far Distant Land (04:38)
  3. Spirit of Forgetfulness (03:51)
  4. Bloody Footprints in the Snow (05:12)
  5. The Evergreen and Weeping Tree (04:56)
  6. Cicada (04:32)
  7. My Soul’s Demise (04:25)
  8. We Make Mist (04:37)
  9. Thumbelina (04:25)
  10. Forever and a Day (04:58)
  11. Crimson Faces (03:41)

About the Author

Andrei Dan

Born and raised in Romania, currently living and studying in the Netherlands, Andrei was introduced to both classic and modern prog at once when he discovered Symphony X and Intervals in 2015. He has quickly grown fond of all the sub-categories of metal but keeps a focus on progressive or innovative music. Most of his free time is spent keeping track of new artists or releases and visiting concerts.

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