BLACKBRIAR – A DARK EUPHONY
LABEL: Nuclear Blast
RELEASE: September 29th, 2023
AUTHOR: Isabell Köster
01. An Unwelcome Guest
02. Far Distant Land
03. Spirit Of Forgetfulness
04. Bloody Footprints In The Snow
05. The Evergreen And Weeping Tree
07. My Soul’s Demise
08. We Make Mist
10. Forever And A Day
11. Crimson Faces
BLACKBRIAR are something special – that was already obvious to me when I first watched the video of “I’d Rather Burn” a few years go. I immediately fell in love with Zora Cock‘s unique soprano and the intelligent, dark and often feminist lyrics. The Dutch sextet’s debut album “The Cause Of Shipwreck” was released in April 2021, contained many great songs and quickly underpinned the band’s growing success. Accordingly, BLACKBRIAR signed a record deal with Nuclear Blast in November 2022. Now, the talented combo’s sophomore opus will finally be released at the end of September. Singer Zora describes what listeners can expect on “A Dark Euphony”: “Some say the beauty is in the darkness – terrifying visitors, worlds far away, gothic romances, eerie legends, sin-eaters, burning hearts frozen in time, songs with a misleading voice and a truthful whisper.” Sounds like we’re in for another treat!
The opener “An Unwelcome Guest” begins with siren-like vocals by Zora before a powerful guitar solo kicks in after about 40 seconds, which leads the listener into the song at high speed. This turns out to be a nightmarish ride through Zora‘s personal world of horror, which she often can’t escape even during the day: in the chorus she sings in torment “There’s a goblin sitting on my chest, an unwelcome guest that never left”, referencing the oppressive sleep paralysis that she suffers from. A memorable refrain that you won’t forget in a hurry, and a story that makes you suffer with Zora and hope that she finds a way to get rid of the malicious imp once and for all.
The second song exudes a medieval flair right from the start. The waltz melody on which the track is based caresses the ear and invites you to dance. Lyrically, “Far Distant Land” is based on the popular historical fantasy novels “Outlander” by American author Diana Gabaldon. The song describes the heroine Claire’s journey through time, to 18th century Scotland, and her undying love for Highlander Jamie. A touching, romantic song not only for “Outlander” fans.
Next on the agenda is “Spirit Of Forgetfulness”, which is a dreamy midtempo song about unhappy love: the protagonist wants to forget her (ex-?) lover and asks the goddess of forgetfulness Lethe (the personification of oblivion in Greek mythology) to grant her this wish. But the capricious goddess plays a cruel trick on the heroine: she makes her forget everything, even her own name, and only remember the beloved person. At the point in the middle of the song when Zora tenderly sings: “And I forgot it all, yet I still remember you!”, everyone who has been truly in love will feel a painful longing in their heart, and sorry for the unlucky heroine.
Track number 4 is probably the eeriest song on the entire album, and in this respect is reminiscent of “Deadly Diminuendo” from the debut album. “Bloody Footprints In The Snow” is a dramatic song based on ominous guitar riffs, embellished with epic orchestral melodies and punctuated by a catchy chorus that revolves around the mysterious Wendigo, an evil spirit originating from the folklore of Plains and Great Lakes Natives of Canada and the USA.
“The Evergreen And Weeping Tree” is a romantic ballad, accompanied by a delicate piano melody by Ruben Wijga, with a special tree at its centre. Here Zora‘s soulful soprano comes into its own particularly well and is complemented by an epic guitar solo by Bart Winters and Robin Kroezen.
BLACKBRIAR have released “Cicada” as their third single in June and shot a very atmospheric video for it. The song is based on a haunting melody that runs through it. Vocally, Zora shines in the verses as well as in the emotional chorus. Lyrically, BLACKBRIAR refer to Greek mythology again: it says that the muses sometimes turned people who loved singing so much that they forgot to eat and sleep and consequently died into magical cicadas. So that they could sing for all eternity. A poetic song and an ode to the power of music.
“My Soul’s Demise” begins with Zora‘s beguiling vocals and quickly develops into an epic midtempo track that ends with a powerful guitar solo. Thematically, it talks about the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love: after the death of the beloved the lover becomes a sin-eater, meaning that she consumes a ritual meal to spiritually take on the sins of her deceased beloved, thus absolving his soul.
The mystical “We Make Mist” is one of the faster songs and makes you want to headbang. It doesn’t stand out on first listen, but it’s one of the more complex songs that grows on you with each listen – a secret favourite, so to speak, and certainly well-suited to live performance.
Up next is the charming “Thumbelina”, which has a driving rhythm, one of the most beautiful choruses on the album and captivates the listener from the very first minute.
Number 10 is a romantic piece with a catchy character, accompanied by atmospheric orchestral sounds and an atmospheric guitar solo characteristic of BLACKBRIAR. The theme of “Forever And A Day” is a love story – based on the plot of “Poldark”, a series of historical novels by the English author Winston Graham.
The final track was the first single that was released from “A Dark Euphony” in November 2022. And rightly so: “Crimson Faces” is one of the heaviest and most captivating tracks, telling a thrilling story based on the gothic novel (and film) “Rebecca” by English author Daphne du Maurier. A suitably dramatic end to a great album.
In Summary, the sophomore release of the talented Dutchmen offers a collection of outstanding songs for every mood. Overall, however, “A Dark Euphony” is a little less sinister than its predecessor. The pieces are still deliciously dark, but overall, it is more of a fairytale-like, romantic darkness. Personally, I miss tracks that aren’t ‘only’ beautiful to listen to, but utterly captivate me, like “Confess” and “Lilith Be Gone” did on the debut album “The Cause of Shipwreck” – “Bloody Footprints In The Snow” comes close though. Nevertheless, it’s a great second album from one of the most innovative young bands currently active in rock/metal. And BLACKBRIAR have already managed to do what some bands fail to do in their entire career: they have created a distinctive sound, which is largely due to the amazing Zora Cock, and established a unique way of telling vivid stories. This clearly sets them apart from the bulk of gothic/symphonic metal groups and makes them a powerful force to be reckoned with – now and in the future.