Sunday, February 17, 2013

Skylark - Gate of Hell (1999)

This is the Divine Gates, part one (yes, I have part two as well).

Skylark are an Italian Power Metal/Symphonic Metal band that formed in 1994 and are still active today.

This album is very attractive - and not just because it has a naked lady on it - walking towards the gates of Hell, a cloak draped across her arms (but not her entire back) and trailing behind her like wings. Before her, a scary face carved from wood or rock, staring at the ceiling. Inside, the lyrics, in a font that is very fancy - but difficult to read. Ther eis also a cast list, meaning this must be a concept album (makes sense, given that a, it's called "part one" and b, they ARE a power metal band). So I shall henceforth refer to the singers as "The Divine Speaker, White Warrior, Guardian Angel, Lady of the Light, Princess of the Snow, Belzebub, Satan, The Divine Spirit and The Unknown Spirit. We also have the Divine Gladiators. They seem to be a choir.

Right let us being our aural journey into the Gates of Hell!

Firstly, the Divine Speaker offers us an "Intro". His accented voice explains that the world was being torn asunder from natural forces, and one man had the power to stand against him.

Now it is time to "Welcome" the White Warrior. It begins relatively slowly, as he converses with the Divine Gladiators, before the keyboards and guitars herald us into the song, our hero is gathering his weapons, armour and resolve and striving forth. Mighty rhythms, high spirits, uplifting music.
After all, he has the Dragon's sword by his side.
Hrm, the lyrics make sense, but the English is a little broken.

The harpsichord seems to indicate that he is riding a horse of delicate stature and poise, whilst birds soar about him and he picks up the pace.

We rip into "The Triumph" (which seems a bit premature this early in the album). There is something very positive about this European Power Metal. The high vocals, the elation in the music - bot the guitars, the keyboards and the harpsichord - even as our hero is striving to fight for his various causes.
"...My mission is the Triumph, so I will cross the dasrk room until my senses will approach the Golden Gate..."
(see what I mean by the broken English?).

"Belzebu" begins with a cascard of harpsichord and galloping drums. After a lengthy and rhythmic passage, filled with small triumphs and lots of keyboards, the White Warrior finds himself  facing Bezelbu himself. Not surprising, he is not a very nice person. Or being.
"No man was born able to fight me..."
I believe the White Warrior may be about to meet his match.

Melancholic and loaded with the mournful voice of the harpsichord, the Guardian Angel steps in to ask "The Last Question". It is a haunting, melodic piece.

Disaster strikes! Bezelbu rampages upon the scene with a shout and a cacophany of drums and brings upon the world a most devasting "Earthquake!"  Along with a storm of guitars, warring as the sky and ground are torn asunder.

In the aftermath, the Guardian Angel walks through the torn and tattered, ravaged and ruinous landscape and mourns the calamity that has struck the world in "I Can't Find Love Tonight". Another track loaded with melancholy and a touch of longing.

Now is the turn for the White Warrior to fight back - but oh no, for "Satan Arise" (although he pronounces it "satin arise"). A powerful song, with raging guitars and storming drums and much turmoil, over which the keyboard soars.

Now the Guardian Angel faces the White Warrior and asks him "Why Did You Kill the Princess?" which brings to me the question - what princess?  When did he kill the princess? Both the Guardian Angel and the White Warrior have similar voices - singing in a higher register, and I find it quite difficult to differentiate between who says what. The song is classic power metal, with complex rhythms, dropping into slow melodies and then rising and soaring once again.

Now a magic lift appears, with the Princess of the Snow upon it (is she the one they were discussing the killing of? I'm so confused! This storyline makes no sense). It is time, it appears, for the White Warrior to step upon this "Lift for the Sky".

Presumerably to take him into Part 2 - the Gates of Heaven.

In "Dance of Stars" he must ride this magic lift through the stars in order to fight the beast, reach Heaven and fulfil his destiny. Whatever that is. Another epic, rousing power metal song with a hint of triumph:
"I have to leave the Earth , give me my chance to start so I will save the world, no more demons, no more war."
Okay, so the story doesn't make a lot of sense (and is rather cheesy). The vocals could do with a bit more variation, maybe some lower male voices to play some of the roles? They all sound rather alike, excepting for the sinister "Bezelbu" and "Satan" voices, but the music is triumphant and powerful, energetic and rousing. It's appealing and oddly joyous and the harpsichord adds a nice touch. Compared with fellow Italians, Rhapsody, it's fairly light weight, with not quite the overwhelming, symphonic layering, which gives it a fresh, almost innocent, playful feel. It seems like these guys are having fun. The production isn't great, and some of the percussion sounds a little tinny, so I shall rate it 7/10.

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