Diabolical Masquerade Death's Design

Back in 1993, Swedish guitarist Blakkheim (Anders Nyström's nom de guerre) began Diabolical Masquerade as a vehicle for venting the black metal frustrations that he couldn't release into the tamer metal of his main band, Katatonia. His debut album was recorded under the aegis of Edge Of Sanity/Karaboudjan mastermind Dan Swanö, at Unisound Studios, and now, three records later, Blakkheim reunites with Swanö for their most ambitious opus yet. Strengthened by the classical strings of Estonia's Maalten Quartet and impeccable production, Death's Design is a concept work of 61 tracks in 20 movements, each spinning a yarn of horror movie metal ten times heavier than the Broadway leanings of recent Therion. Blakkheim handles most of the guitar lines, while Swanö paints in the corners with keyboards and ambient soundscapes. Passages of At The Gates-esque black metal riffage and throaty vocals ("Death Ascends-The Hunt [Part I]," "A Bad Case Of Nerves") unexpectedly open into airy prog chords and rhythms ("Ghost Inhabitants," "Old People's Voodoo Stance"). Telltale King Crimson-ish progressions crop up in "The One Who Hides A Face Inside," and Blakkheim even tosses in some authentic symphonic touches: "Out From The Dark" follows the melody lines of Grieg's "In The Hall Of The Mountain King." Much more than a one guitarist plus guests project, like Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects, Diabolical Masquerade unveil a black/prog metal soundtrack to some seriously introspective nightmares and, with Travis Smith art throughout, quite a profusive one at that. (Olympic)