posted on 1/2010 By:
What I expected when I signed up to review Siegfried’s new album, Nibelung, was an interminable hour or so of intolerable symphonic pablum in the guise of a metal album. What I got instead was a surprisingly engaging piece of epic metal that not only held my interest for its relatively modest forty-two minutes but left me eager to further explore the world of symphonic/operatic metal, a realm I’ve actively skirted around up to now.
Nibelung is this Austrian septet’s final chapter in a trilogy based on the Germanic/Norse mythological saga of the same name (Siegfried is its hero). It is very much a metal opera, but don’t let that get your eyes to rolling just yet. Sure it is overflowing with bombast and utilizes the full range of operatic accoutrements, including several distinct vocal styles to push the story, but Nibelung never lets you forget that it is a heavy metal record. The guitars are tuned to a gratifying, often old school, crunch and carry plenty of weight in running the range from doom to thrash to melodic death metal. Despite staying loyal to the tenets of heavy metal, these nine songs might have easily drowned the listener in theatrical pomposity if it weren’t for some finely crafted song composition to sustain the momentum. All the pieces of the epic tale, from symphonic keys to multiple vocals (heroic baritone, evil rasps, and soaring soprano), fit together remarkably well, rarely meandering outside their appointed roles. The bass should have been afforded a little more space, and the vocals occasionally get too much (the male vocals can be a little kitschy, as well), but overall Nibelung sounds great. Also, it should be noted that the lyrics are all done in German, although I have to admit this didn’t detract from the overall experience nearly as much as I thought it might.
Perhaps obviously, anything branded with tags like “symphonic” and “operatic” is likely to get relatively sparse attention in the metal world, maybe because these projects are too often overblown and unfulfilling. Siegfried have created an example of how to (mostly) avoid the most cloying aspects of the subgenres in reconstructing an enticing piece of epic mythology atop a foundation of solid heavy metal.
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