Opera IX first appeared to most of us via their 1995 debut album The Call of The Wood, but the band had already been together for seven years at that point. Now almost 24 years since the band first formed, they have released Strix Maledictae in Aeternum, their seventh full length album and their most mature and definitive to date. Strix Maledictae in Aeternum is the band's medieval album, with witchcraft and extreme darkness at its core, which of course, gives the album a very dark feel.
The Italian pagan/symphonic black metal band has a very unique sound that could be best compared to Dimmu Borgir when they jammed with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra or maybe even Behemoth, but there are some major differences between those bands and Opera IX. The most notable difference is drummer Dalamar, who adds a lot of power and punch to these tracks at certain times that are a bit faster and louder than the other bands.
Opera IX relies heavily on keyboards on this album, but they give the material an eerie and and almost visual sound that brings out the images of what the band is trying to say. The music bounces from pagan worship chants to baroque and medieval themes at times, but the overall theme is doom. The result is something that might be a big more symphonic that epic. Long gone are the days of of 18 minute songs and a near 70 minute album of only seven songs.
The song Earth and Fire, which changes time and its key quite a few times, features some very thematic piano notes embedded at appropriate times to give the song an absolutely evil undertone. Earth and Fire isn’t the only dramatic piece on the album – it’s full of drama and stories, but it should be noted that even though most of the songs still retain a certain epic feel to them, only the last one, Historia Nocturna, breaks the eight minute mark. That one is also notable for its evil piano, but it also features bagpipes and flute at peak of the song. I’m also not too sure what is being said here – the language is hard to understand or figure out.
Opera IX is one of those bands that produces some pretty exciting and daring music. They are continuing to develop a unique sound which could go even further if some proper vocals were intermixed with the standard pagan/black metal growls. Strix Maledictae in Aeternum is a challenging album and something that fans of the band, as well as Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth, should enjoy. But beyond that, it's not something for everyone.