Anyone remember Diablo? Returning after a lengthy absence from the scene, these Finns have eventually delivered the follow-up to 2008's 'Icarus' album, a brand new studio offering titled 'Silver Horizon'. To be entirely honest, I'd presumed this Finnish crew to be defunct a long time ago (a natural assumption after such a long period of inactivity), so it was with great surprise when a brand new album turned up for review. It was also with great joy as, personally, I considered 'Icarus' to be a modern metal gem, so I've kind of missed Diablo in the intervening years. They're back now, though, alive and kicking once again with the same array of stylistic quirks that made them such an exciting and refreshing band in the first place. However, don't expect 'Icarus' Mk II. After all, it's been seven long years. Time has moved on and so have Diablo.
What we have this time around are a series of compositions that are geared more towards a storytelling vibe, both in instrumentations and lyrics. The music's characterised by rich textures with all kinds of mood-driven passages, and the lyrics are distinctly narrative driven. Loosely based on 'Aniara', a 1950s science fiction poem penned by Harry Martinson that, has been said, was rather ahead of its time in its thematic sways, 'Silver Horizon' is best regarded as a quasi-concept work. In fact, they're not the first metal band to draw inspiration from said poem as Sweden's Seventh Wonder, who feature current Kamelot crooner Tommy Karevik in their ranks, based the 30+ minute title track from their 2010 album, 'The Great Escape', on 'Aniara'.
Even though most songs are around the 5 minute mark (a little less or a little more), the tracks feel a lot longer in length and wider in scope than they perhaps ought to. In a good way, I hasten to add. Diablo have crammed so much variance into each composition - tempo and time signature changes; an incessancy of both consonant and dissonant melodies that come thick and fast; a barrage of hard-hitting riffage... this is certainly not an album that'll bore you. Quite the contrary, it'll bewilder you with all of its twists and turns, although we're not talking wildly progressive streaks of innovation here. It's more an amalgam of metal's tried and tested motifs, albeit a very effective one that manages to retain the Diablo sound without ever sounding like a regurgitation of their past glories. And it's certainly an accessible listen although, with so much depth in the music, it's also a grower that seems to get better and better with each new listen.
Vocally, the album's also a marvel. Rainer Nygård has such an emotionally expressive voice, be it his quasi-death growls or clean singing, it has so much character. Some of that character is engendered by his wavery style where he seems to have transformed vocal warbling into an art. And the rest of it derives from his ability to skilfully accentuate the innate aggression in the instrumentations with his semi-growls, while being able to switch with consummate ease to a mellower, smooth-toned delivery as and when songs' moods call for such. And, not forgetting, we're dealing with a guitar playing frontman here so, considering the disparate complexities and variance in the music, pulling off these songs live, from a simultaneous vocal/guitar perspective, will be no easy task (although I have seen Diablo live back in 2009 and he's a master of singing flawlessly over complex guitar patterns).
Packaged in a rather attractive digibook, no expense has been spared by Sakara Records here. So, for those of you who still value and cherish physical media, this is something rather beautiful to own. Let's hope that 'Silver Horizon' finds the wide global audience it so very much deserves. Diablo have always maintained a healthy fanbase in their home country, with major Finnish chart success; I just sincerely hope they can achieve a similar level of success in other territories as they represent everything that's great about metal in the twenty first century.
Review by Mark Holmes
6th Nov 2015
1) The Call
3) The Serpent Holder
4) Into the Void
6) Prince of the Machine
7) Silver Horizon
9) Corium Black
10) Voyage to Eternity
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...an amalgam of metal's tried and tested motifs, albeit a very effective one that manages to retain the Diablo sound without ever sounding like a regurgitation of their past glories."