June 18th, 2013
Release length: 55:56
There’s plenty to be excited for with Ars Musica, having a nice array of symphonic pieces, as well as classic Rock inspired material. The innocent, yet somewhat dark “Ars Music” introductory track sets up an atmosphere that largely ends up ignored later on, though “First Lance of Spain” does feed off of it a bit. The vocals sound fantastic, ranging from a passionate clean performance to a more enthusiastic operatic tone for two words here and there, backed by guest female vocalist Berenice Musa of Tears of Martyr. The additional keyboards also set up a subtle symphony that really sticks out in the bridges, and during the guitar solo. “Living in a Nightmare” taps into that Operatic element a bit more with some additional Classical music that does go over-the-top much of the time. The pace is pretty fast with solid guitar work and eccentric vocals that Berenice enhances in the chorus. However, without the symphonics, this one wouldn’t have the same impact, as they really do build up a whimsicle environment that plays off what “Ars Music” had woven earlier.
On the other end, you have really moving Rock infused cuts, such as “This is My Way.” The simpler riffs and passionate singing are met with a slightly symphonic push to give the music a rather beautiful atmosphere that matches the lyrics very well. The chorus finds a richer, more emotional performance with some quick guest vocals as well, all working together to tug at your heart strings and bring a tear to your eye. “Gara and Jonay” sounds like an early Rock and Roll ballad piece you might hear at a sixties sock hop for the last dance of the night, right down to the moving guitar solo. It’s another beautiful piece, though insanely familiar despite not really coming up as a cover in all the research I’ve done. There’s also “The City of Peace,” which is more a straight forward Power Metal composition that brings a grander, yet oddly laid back chorus thanks to the keyboards, and the addition of a tamborine. While not the most amazing, it definitely stands on its own among the mild variety the album offers.
Ars Musica will also have a few different pressing, such as a five song bonus disc Japanese edition. However, it seems the limited edition Slipcase version will feature two additional cuts as well, including an acoustic performance of their single “The Road Again.” This comes off more like a serenade than an actual ballad piece. It’s a solid performance, though cut horribly short, even if it is something the band did more for exclusive radio presentation. “Living in a Nightmare (Orchestral Version)” is just the symphonic elements of the song. It’s an engaging piece, though doesn’t necessarily leave you with your jaw dropped, as some of the additional eccentric touches the vocals and other instruments give it are absent, though proving without this solid composition, the original recording wouldn’t really stand out as much as it does.
There are some issues to be found with the album. First of all, there is an atmosphere established right at the start that is loosely stuck here and there. Some tracks simply don’t fit the environment at all, and others go out of their way to glorify it. Aside that, the other is a major issue with the cymbals. Unfortunately they sound like they have some kind of wash-out over them, though that’s not exactly what it is. It’s hard to explain, but it does end up being highly distracting on nearly every track despite how distant they are in otherwise crisp mix. While not every track is as awe-inspiring as the last, there’s a good deal of variety to them that ranges from emotionally moving to contemporary Dark Moor compositions. Ars Musica demonstrates why the band has earned such a loyal fanbase over the years. If you’re new to them, or you’ve been a long time fan of their work, this album is another stunning entry into the band’s discography that shows further grwoth, and even some additional experimentation that will hopefully be played with for their tenth full-length effort.
01. Ars Musica (Intro) – 2:10
02. First Lance of Spain – 5:06
03. It is my Way – 4:17
04. The Road Again – 4:43
05. Together as Ever – 4:52
06. The City of Peace – 4:07
07. Gara and Jonay – 4:26
08. Living in a Nightmare – 4:21
09. El Ãšltimo Rey – 5:17
10. St. James Way – 4:06
11. Spanish Suite (Asturias) – 5:31
12. The Road Again (Acoustic version) – 2:42
13. Living in a Nightmare (Orchestral version)
|Initial Pressing Score: 8/10