Review: Melted Space – Darkening Light
By Todd Naevestad
I will always be amazed that anything can be made metal. Pop songs? Make it metal. Philosophy? Make it metal. Children’s edutainment? Make it metal…? You get the idea. So a metal opera is not all that surprising. We can thank Nirvana for the first credited rock opera with The Story of Simon Simonpath in 1967 and the tradition has been carried on ever since. So with a pedigree in piano, French composer Pierre Le Pape founded Melted Space, a metal opera collective and has brought in a parade of talents to work on the previous albums. Now stepping onto the stage again with Darkening Light, Melted Space hopes to show the world the high art of opera and the power of metal.
The first thing that sets this apart is the fact that it is an opera. I’ve made a few snide jabs at power metal that overindulges in the operatic singing style and how it tends to add little, but force Darkening Light, it makes sense. The pomp and grandeur of that style works here specifically because they claim that tradition. What makes it more acceptable to me is that there is more to the vocals than just that opera. There’s three or four other vocal styles as well, including clean male and female vocals and metal growls. Each singer is excellent in their own right. They bring on a truckload of talent for this album including Mikael Stanne, Øyvind Hægeland, Catherine Trottmann, and Clémentine Delauney. The brilliant part is that each voice is portraying a separate character, allowing these separate styles to blend and harmonize in unique ways. No question that the vocals are the strongest part of the album.
And I say that because the rest of it is pretty weak. From guitars to pacing, every other element is bland and unmemorable. No song stuck out to me as the top track, and I couldn’t even remember some of them despite listening to the album five or six times. They have that quality of blending together into an indistinguishable blob. It’s a shame that there isn’t any stand out moments because when I really focus, I can see where they wanted it to go and how the music can match the grandeur of the opera, but they just don’t pull it off musically. The musical phrases sound generic and don’t highlight the vocals enough. And in an opera, that seems like a cardinal sin. The focus of Darkening Light seems to be pretty clearly the vocal arrangement, but instead of creating backing that emphasises that, it feels more like they just wanted a background to put the vocals over and it ends up feeling meaningless. I would expect more from a composer like Le Pape. Instrumentation is as much a pillar of an album’s strength as the vocals and message. And if you’re not putting in the same effort, it shows.
I wanted to like this more than I did. Melted Space is doing something really interesting with their music, trying to create metal unlike many other bands. And I applaud the effort. But when the final product doesn’t feel blow me away, then all the lofty ideas are for naught. Darkening Light may be worth a listen to once or twice, but it doesn’t seem to have much staying power and I usually found myself wanting to move on to something else.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Recomendations: Haggard, Vivaldi Metal Project, Avantasia