Formed in 2001 from the ashes of acts such as Opera IX and Necrodeath, Cadaveria peddle a curious subgenre named ‘horror metal’ which is, according to their histrionic biography, “(a) definition that means all and nothing and that therefore leaves them the chance to play from the classical Heavy Metal to the new progressive tendencies, passing through Death, Gothic and Black Metal” (sic). Couple this with the fact that they describe themselves on their Facebook page as ‘unconventional extreme horror metal’, and you might be forgiven for being a wee bit curious about the Italian quintet, possibly anticipating horror-flick samples, the odd song about the undead and maybe an obligatory Misfits cover. If any of that floats your boat, stop reading now – in this case, ‘extreme horror metal’ seems to be a diplomatic way of describing some very generic and frankly dull black-tinged gothic metal. Oh, and one more thing – in what is either a stunning display of egotism or a total lack of inspiration, the band share their slightly teenage-goth monicker with their frontwoman. Confusing stuff, I know, but you should be able to make the distinction.
‘Flowers in Fire’ opens the album with some ‘atmospheric’ sound effects (rainfall, chanting, marching boots and a squawking cry of horror) before a solemn guitar line introduces things properly. Music-wise it’s slightly suggestive of later Madder Mortem, but unfortunately frontwoman Cadaveria’s voice possesses neither the caramel tone nor the sheer power of the Norwegians’ iron-lunged vocalist Agnete M Kirkevaag, instead coming across as pleasant if pretty lacklustre. Later in the track she does get to exercise her range a little further, a high-pitched shout and the obligatory grunting giving a tiny metallic edge to the music. On the subject of vocals, one thing that’s immediately noticeable from the moment Cadaveria opens her mouth and which becomes ever more apparent throughout the album is the bizarre production. It’s tidy enough as far as each of the instruments are concerned but the vocals are swamped beneath the music, Cadaveria’s clean vocals sounding like she’s singing from the crowd at her own gig and her growl rumbling irritably away like a wasp farting against your eardrums.
‘The Night’s Theatre’ and ‘Whispers (Of Sin)’ ratchet up the metal-ness a bit, the former in particular coming on like Arch Enemy in their poppier moments with its anthemic chorus – in fact, substitute Angela Gossow’s gargle for Cadaveria’s timid mew and it could almost be an out-take from any one of the latter AE albums. However, despite occasionally going for the listener’s throat, another flaw persistent throughout Horror Metal is the length of each track. Even slightly more interesting tracks like the bizarrely groovy ‘Apocalypse’ and the steady head-nodder ‘Assassin’ suffer from being unnecessarily lengthy, dragging on for five or six minutes when three full-on minutes would have knocked a fan bandy and left them wanting more. This momentum of sorts doesn’t continue throughout the album, either; for every thrash- or black-flavoured track there are also moments like the more gothicky ‘This Is Not The Silence’, which for all its aggressive opening still manages to chug its way blandly towards a repetitive ending. Upon first listen to this album I thought that that was where Horror Metal ended, similar to that abortive attempt at intimacy where you know the… er… ‘big finish’ just isn’t going to happen but you’re too polite/determined to continue /numb to say so. No, Cadaveria have saved a little treat until last in the form of ‘Hypnotic Psychosis’, a ditty that screams Day-Glo dreadlocks and wavy dancing and will probably go down incredibly well at goth clubs everywhere. Fortunately, at just over 3 minutes it’s the shortest track on the album so it mercifully flies by before you can hit the ‘stop’ button.
Cadaveria’s band bio states that their previous album Far Away From Conformity distanced them from “the stereotypes of Death/Black Metal” – if that was the case, then this current album is them running back to those stereotypes. To be fair, the music is played well by proficient musicians, but it’s just so incredibly dull that you could compare it to any other band doing a remotely similar thing – Arch Enemy and latter-day Cradle of Filth were two of the biggest sound-alikes to my ears. Te be fair to the band, however, you can’t honestly call Horror Metal a death metal album or a black metal album, but this is largely because the album is so disjointed that it’s impossible to label. So in summary: avoid unless you are an established fan, a very curious masochist, or quite happy to listen to music that sparks up the auditory equivalent of a flat line in your head. If nothing else, let the abysmally amateurish cover art be a deterrent.