Apparently I have become in some kind of prophet, as the metal gods insist on talking to me through my dreams, and they have sent me all the possible subliminal messages they could to urge me of setting my review of Forbidden Memories, by Downcast Art, based on how magnificent and outstanding this album has been to their divine ears. Well, all I can do is to tell you about the brilliance and soundness of the album, partly because the wishes of the metal gods are my command, partly because I have fallen under the charms of its music too. It may seem odd to the eyes of some of our readers that the gods of metal express themselves so eloquently about a band, especially because this band is novice and obscure, but we must understand that art should be appreciated and purchased by its content and not by the hand that has signed its authorship. This is a commandment, and although many of us have forgotten it, at least the metal gods remember the rules of the game.
Downcast Art is a Croatian symphonic metal band. The journey of their conceptually began in the autumn of 2005, and their music is a fusion of alternative and classical influences, heavy riffs and ornamental elements. Forbbiden Memories is their debut album, started by keyboard player Zdravko Smenderovac, was developed with Kristijan Radeka on the guitar, Lukas Šomek on the drums, Davor Grdić on bass guitar and Jelena Mužar as the lead singer. While giving birth to the album, the band had done live shows and a tour, they had appear also in some shows of Croatian TV, magazines and released a promotional CD with three songs in 2009, All of this had lead them to gain fans and experience. And it’s quality over quantity. Downcast Art has taken the time to develop every aspect of their first child without overlooking any detail, making a neat labor, full of inspiration and energy that dangerously touches perfection, at least in their genre.
Leaving aside the notorious interest of the metal gods on this album, there are many aspects that link myself with it. We all know how I love symphonic metal, and if I repeat it, is only because my passion dominates me and is hard to control. But poor me, everything stands out on this record… I really don’t know where to start … Let’s try with the cover art, I know it is something that I never mention, at least not when I’m writing a review, but this one impacted me since I saw it, and I must mention it. The gothic essence emanating from a simple image, the smell of the sea and a rolling ship in its texture, the mystery of who is behind the writing, and why it is important that this antique pocket watch is frozen on the table at 1:19 am / pm … Seriously, I could write a great fantasy story just by looking at this cover and studying the details…
Then the voice … and this is something that I must elaborate, as the things that the voice of Jelena Mužar provoked in me are by no means common or transitory. The unprecedented flood of emotions caused is indescribable, and this is the only definition I can make of what I felt: Overdose of beauty. Jelena demonstrates a technique far superior of what most of the singers of the genre have shown lately, she could be comparable with Tarja, but that would be purely because of their classical and fully operatic style. Jelena sounds very comfortable in low tones (which is rare coming from a soprano), and the color of her voice is warm, magnetic and heavenly beautiful. More than sweet, it is angelic, more than good, it is perfect, and believe me, I am not someone who speaks about perfection very often. Hence, as the French novelist Stendhal suffered from vertigo, dizziness and tachycardia just by seeing Florence’s beauty, I suffered a choking sensation and numbness just when I heard Jelena… Stendhal syndrome in its entire splendor.
The influence of Nightwish, at least of their first albums (Angels Fall First, Oceanborn), is remarkable. It’s shown in the vocals and in the ethereal and magical atmosphere that is created based on the intensity of all the instruments dancing in unison, each one of them playing a key role in their music’s theorem. The work of keyboardist, Zdravko Smenderovac (who also wrote the lyrics), is also something I must highlight, since his playing is emotive, and manages to go beyond a simple accompaniment, to become prominent in more than a song, also forming a glorious and abrasive atmosphere that envelops the other instruments and even the vocals, soaking of emotion, melody and a magic aura the final product. The album has eleven tracks, and two of them are instrumental. The first one, Everlasting, tackles the senses slow and intensely with a synth / classical sound (that is epic in every sense of the word), and reveals guitar, bass and drums in the middle of the song, making very clear that any sweetness on the album is based in darkness and heaviness. The other instrumental is Chants from the Deep, a catchy song, in which Kristijan’s guitar explodes into a melodic and delicious interpretation, and along keyboards, captures a major attention, supported by the solid bass of Davor Grdić and the great drum work of Lukas Somek.
Another noteworthy song is Home of Silence, which first appears as a sort of goth-metal symphonic ballad, with dark riffs, a minuscule but powerful solo, and a compelling drum work, the same song appears again at the end of the album, but this time in the form of a piano ballad, where Jelena’s interpretation shines on levels that I had not suspected possible. We confirm once again that the singer is not another run-of-the-mill soprano, but she may well develop her singing in the classical field, in an opera, because of her fine vocal technique and because of her soulful performance. Believe me when I tell you that if feelings had sound, they would sound like Jelena’s voice… [pullquote_right]There is just one song that is in Croatian, Miris Proslosti (“Smell of the past” in english), which is just my favorite. Needless to say that I don’t understand a word, but what can I say, I like challenges. That’s why I asked a good friend of mine to help me translate the first lines of the lyrics, and this is what I got: “Another world in the silence of times, all, all that I am dreaming about, somewhere inside of me, keeps the secret of the far away star.[/pullquote_right]Other tracks like Bloodred Ink, Innocence Never Dies With Desire and Downlight, are struggling between a neat symphonic sound, pure as untouched snow, and the intensity of a sleek beauty burned by a heavy and powerful metal background. Forbidden Memories, the song, brings an attuned female-male duo to the stage, with an even stronger scourge of metal power, and what I like to call “the Whiplash Effect”. Is as if all the muscles of your body contract under the intense domain of the song’s whiplash, and you cannot move, or even think, because your head is filled with music, and your heart is squeezed by the sound, until suddenly the song ends and you feel like your feet tread earth at once, and tension magically evaporates in a microsecond.
Not bad huh? On its own, the song had hooked me instantly, maybe were the thunders of the intro crashing on my ears which captivated me at first, but it was the song itself which penetrated my brain, especially because of the marvelous work of keyboardist and the great and addictive guitar solo. The album also has a tight and detailed production, which does nothing but exalt the geniality of the band. The lyrics on this album are fascinating, sounds and feels like they are not made lightly, the most of them show a strong orientation to the gothic side of the band, to the mysterious and even romantic and fantastic suspense, as shown in the second verse of Forbbiden Memories that says so…
[pullquote]Locked helpless in spider lace, Memories live in Forbidden place. Around candle light’s final dance, Calls my name and my last chance.[/pullquote]
The point is that there are many stories behind every song, and we may never know all that is behind the lyrics, even the band might not even have been able to decipher every of its meanings, nautical allusions and mysteries of a distant colony that seems to have disappeared in the past, are just the starting point to open up the door of the imagination of any music lover, and encourage us to dream and lose the ratio between the hidden stories of our own subconscious.
But I’m a little sad, because I am an incomplete prophet. I cannot predict how many of you will buy this album, or if you will like it. But I must clear up that our readers, as every well-educated audience, are cautious and have a very fine palate, and I would not, no sir, I would not in any way recommend an album so eagerly if it’s not 100% quality. The orchestration, the production, the lyrics, the songwriting, along with guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals, everything, absolutely everything is top notch, and if the first album of the band is so outstanding, I cannot wait to see the following ones… Watch out, a big earthquake is coming to the lands of symphonic female fronted metal.