Without Face Astronomicon

Visually and lyrically, Without Face could be another gothic metal band, but Astronomicon is far more progressive than just goth. The Hungarian six-piece initially released their debut with Hammer Music in 2000, but this is their first album for Earache's Elitist Records. Vocalist Juliette has a wonderful voice that is well supported by male vocalist Andras, but her high singing tones are almost overwhelming after a while. The songs on Astronomicon are long for the most part - there are only six tracks on a 44-minute CD - with the musical explorations characteristic of progressive metal. While you can clearly hear the metal guitars and powerful rhythm section, Without Face's heaviness is fairly subtle, partly because the piano and female vocals dominate the music to the point of distraction. Eerie opening chords suck you in as the album begins, but after that Astronomicon is the kind of record you have to absorb for a while before it can fully sink in. It may take several listens, but eventually it all falls together with satisfying completeness. (Earache)