And Harmony Dies - Totenamt

10 songs
60:52 minutes
***** ****


Founded a little over twenty years ago as Harmony Dies in Italy, the band chose in the early days of the new millennium to change its name by adding the prefixed And, in order to not confuse them with the identically named German brutal death metal band. Not that the names are now that different, but the music certainly is.

And Harmony Dies started as a black metal band intent on stretching the limits of the genre, so that today their initial sound makes out only a small portion of their sound. Considering the fact that their long time guitarist must have left the band right after the recording sessions of their third longplayer Totenamt, itís weird to see this duo where apart from the bass guitar, the remaining instruments are programmed.

In the case of Totenamt, it makes sense to speak either of experimental black metal, or simply label the sound as avantgarde metal. Take for instance the opener The Day Of The Spring Breeze, a highly classical although not really symphonic operetta where a lot of orchestral instruments have been added to give the song a very dramatic atmosphere that sets you back into Vaudevillian cabaret a hundred years ago. I guess I am not the only one who must have been reminded of Austrian avant black metal pioneers Angizia. The following Sometimes has a straighter sound, with the black metal roots shining through a little stronger, although it is still quite an unusual track that plays around with some darker wave moments. The chorus even has this catchy kind of gothic flair, although without the cheesy romance feeling that you get with so many other bands. The short The Fragility Of A Moment digs deep into the clinical coldness of Eighties wave pop, before we get the two seven minute tracks Birthday and Tears Like Promises that once again highlight the duoís open-minded view of things. Especially the latter track works exceedingly well, not unlike the earlier Sometimes, but even more extreme in combining unexpected twists and turns with unusual melodic parts. I especially want to point out the concluding The Cut. Despite the last five minutes of its quarter hour being dedicated to ambient noises and choir vocals, the first ten minutes are once again cabaret metal of the finest variety.

The opener and the last track alone would have merited this album a maximum rating, as the band shows itself fearlessly from their most outrageous side. The material in between is also far above average, shining through at times with great moments. Compared to some of the bandís earlier outputs, the sound is also much clearer this time. If The Cut is an indication of where And Harmony Dies are heading for in the future, then they are on their way on soon becoming one of the leading avantgarde metal bands ever. Dressed up as madmen in their promotional photograph, the two artists Black and Whisper show that sometimes there is actual genius hidden beneath the maniacal surface.

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