The second album by Russia’s Intaglio, unassumingly entitled II, follows their debut by more than 15 years. It is filled with moments that set off fireworks inside a listener’s head.
That’s probably not something you expect to read about a band whose music is classified by Metal Archives as “Funeral Doom”. Most music so classified is more likely to mesmerize than it is to provoke gasps of wonder. But II isn’t typical, and while it is indeed entrancing, the magnificent spell it casts derives from unusual ingredients and an unusual conception (and Funeral Doom is no longer an adequate description).
In its conception, II was intended to be experienced as a single long piece. It has a 7-part track list (though there are no pauses between the tracks) and consists of movements, but it is accurately described as a single “doom opera” which achieves its full impact only when heard from beginning to end.
For its ingredients, Intaglio assembled a large cast of performers and live instruments. Seven professional singers contributed voices that range from basso profundo to soprano. The instruments included not only a panoply of electric and acoustic guitars and percussive sources but also classical instruments such as upright bass, cello, chimes, and flute, as well as mouth harp.
The opera begins with the three-part “Midnight Sonata“, which occupies the album’s first 13 minutes. The opening part, “The Night Sky”, begins creating the spell with heavy, grim reverberating chords coupled with whistling flute and cello strings. It slows and becomes more crushing and desolate under the impact of Evander Sinque‘s cavernous growls and Roman V‘s methodical, bone-smashing drum-blows. The first fireworks come when some of those trained voices make their first appearance and reach a crescendo as the cello soulfully wails.
The music flows seamlessly into “Melting Like Ice”, the second part of “Midnight Sonata”. Backed by a softened drum beat, a duet between the upright bass and the cello leads the music into a phase of remembrance and warmth, which provides fireworks of a different kind, because the music is so sublime. Mountainous chords and more heavy-handed drums increase the music’s intensity, and ghostly gasps make it more haunting, but a crystalline guitar melody seizes attention with its sparkling tones and beautiful feeling of wonder and wistfulness.
When that melody briefly vanishes, the music begins taking a much darker turn, leading into the final part, “Always Return”. That melody surfaces again, but craggy chords, abyssal gutturals, and a mournful cello arpeggio bring the music into the gloom of desolation — only to have tenor vocals soar in a way that lifts up the heart.
“Midnight Sonata”, in all its phases, is completely enthralling, and so is the rest of the album. Intaglio continue to create ebbs and flows of intensity and changes in mood, using the classical instruments and varying voices to great effect. Along with the cavern-deep vocals and the heavy metal instrumentation, they lead the music into phases of harrowing hopelessness, wretchedness, and regret, but also periods of yearning, fond remembrance, awe, and even delight.
It should be noted that the classical instruments and voices aren’t used as occasional accents, but are a continuing and vital part of the experience, fully integrated in everything that happens. It should also be noted that drumming always seems perfectly attuned to these changes, and becomes more than a mere rhythmic backdrop.
The path of the album is carefully plotted, sometimes ornate and elaborate, and at other times relatively stripped-down and simply crushing or jolting. It’s produced in a way that provides clarity and separation, enabling the listener to identify all the contrasting and complementary pieces of this rich musical tapestry as it’s being woven, even if the full picture doesn’t fall into place except gradually.
And with that introduction, we invite you to set aside 42 minutes and allow yourself to be carried away by the album in full, which we now premiere:
ADDITIONAL DETAILS: II was recorded and mixed at Slow Burn Studio (When Nothing Remains, Woe Unto Me), and it was mastered by Mika Jussila (Shape Of Despair, Isole, Unholy, Moonspell) at Finnvox studio in Finland. It includes stunning cover art crafted by the much-sought-after Polish artist Mariusz Lewandowski (Bell Witch, Atramentus) and the art was designed to highlight and complement the album’s unique music.
The performance credits are extensive, but it would be shameful not to credit all these people by name, given the vital roles they all played in this extraordinary experience:
Evander Sinque – Lead Vocals
Evgeny Semenov – Acoustic, Baritone, Electric Guitar, Bass, Korg MS-20
Alexey Batrakov – Double Bass, Bass
Nadia Avanesova – Cello
Roman “V” – Drums, Percussion
Tres Hunter – Bass Vocals
Andy Grig – Tenor Vocals
Reverend B. – Spoken Words, Baritone Vocals
Maria Balakina – Soprano Vocals, Chimes
Artur Shaura – Basso Profundo
Dmitry Litvintsev – Baritone Vocals
Anna Semenova – Spoken Words
Alexander Tretyakov – Additional Guitars
Aleksey Samoschenkov – Flute
Sergey Sevastyanov – Mouth Harp
Solitude Productions will release the album on October 29th in CD and digital formats, and there are plans for a vinyl release in late 2021.