Picture of Avrigus

The Secret Kingdom

Avrigus - The Secret Kingdom ©2001 Hammerheart America
1. Overture
2. Solitude * Salvation
3. Dark Angels' Ascension
4. Veritas
5. Qliphoth
6. Desolate
7. Flesh
8. 'Til Death Do Us Unite
9. Shade Of My Heart
10. The Grail

Avrigus is a duo formed in 1995. It consists of Simon Gruer who plays the keyboards, guitars, drums and provides backing vocals and his counterpart, Judy Chiara who plays keyboards, piano, guitar and sings with a voice that is astounding.

Their style of play could be called progressive doomy ambient classical influenced darkwave music, but that's quite the mouthful. Let's just call it stunning music and leave it at that. It's not in-your-face stunning music. This is a graceful album that moves at a stately pace through some of the most thought provoking lyrics you are going to find. For the most part the music is fueled by lush tapestries of keyboards that serve as the vehicle for Chiara's otherworldly vocals. I could go on and on about how rich, creamy and buttery her voice is, but suffice to say that Judy Chiara has one of the best singing voices I have ever heard. I'd recommend this disc based on nothing more than the vocals regardless of the music.

However, I can recommend it for the music as well. It is wonderful to find a disc of fantasy based material that is not full of the stereotypical gallant knights of heavy metal riding upon their horses of steel la Manowar or Hammerfall. This music is a deep and darkened forest that beckons you to enter its world of shifting shadows to behold its wonders. The atmosphere captures the medieval feel giving it a deliciously dark twist with its eerie ambience. That ambience is fleshed out a great deal in the ethereal vocals. It is easy to picture an ancient forest wreathed in mist with this music beckoning the listener to enter. Like that forest, the secrets of this album are not going to be completely discovered on one visit. Each return to it will reveal nuances missed the previous trip. It is hard to call this metal, though it has its moments. The music is slow and graceful. It is symphonic and sweeping, resorting to the heavier side only for moments of emphasis. Music that can conjure the images surrounding its themes as well as this disc gets very high marks in my book. Most bands that do music steeped in fantasy themes seem to go for the blunt "noble warrior" themes that don't take much effort. There are not very many bands that go toward the elusive and not-quite-there shadows of magic and mystery. Avrigus have succeeded in creating a world that is inviting and forbidding at the same time.

Fans of majestic gothic music will appreciate this effort. Those who appreciate exemplary female vocals will really enjoy this disc.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 09/2001

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