Diabolical Masquerade

Ravendusk In My Heart

Diabolical Masquerade - Ravendusk In My Heart ©1996 Adipocere Records
1. The Castle Of Blackheim
2. Blackheim's Quest To Bring Back The Stolen Autumn
3. Beyond The Spiritual Moon
4. The Sphere In Blackheim's Shrine
5. Under The Banner Of The Sentinel
6. Blackheim's Forest Kept The Season Forever
7. The Darkblue Seajourneys Of The Sentinel
8. Blackheim's Hunt For Nocturnal Grace
9. Ravendusk In My Heart

Katatonia guitarist Blackheim certainly didn't look too far for lyrical content on his first solo Diabolical Masquerade album. Namechecking himself in five songs and perhaps giving nod to Judas Priest's "The Sentinel" on a couple others, the self-oriented nature of the titles is not representative of a masturbatory solo outfit. Instead, Blackheim charges out of the gate with some riff oriented, black-baked metal that pushes the intensity knob up a bit. Blackheim's incredible ability to write razor sharp guitar riffs is obviously the main reason one should investigate the Masquerade. Playing ragingly fast with subtle keyboard underscores over a blitz of drums, the nine tracks blaze by but do remain coherent and gripping. Vocally he is standard black metal screaming. Essentially Diabolical Masquerade is simply a very solid side project of a very talented individual and worth digging up.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/1999

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The Phantom Lodge

Diabolical Masquerade - The Phantom Lodge ©1997 Adipocere Records
1. Astray Within The Coffinwood Mill
2. The Puzzling Constellation Of A Deathrune
3. Ravenclaw
4. The Walk Of The Hunchbacked
5. Cloaked By The Moonshine Mist
6. Across The Open Vault And Away. . .
7. Hater
8. The Blazing Demondome Of Murmurs And Secrecy
9. Upon The Salty Wall Of The Broody Gargoyle

Some people just have too much creativity and time on their hands. As with Dan Swanö, Katatonia's Blackheim seems to be blessed with an endless wealth of inspiration to work from and nearly as many side projects. Diabolical Masquerade represents his solo venture, as opposed to his main job in Katatonia or his previous association with retrodorks Bewitched. D.M. is not too far removed from Katatonia (what would expect?) but does stand apart due to its more experimental nature. Blackheim's attention wanders about through this record, exploring territories not too dissimilar to Opeth and oftentimes taking the spirit of Celtic Frost into rebirth in the 90's. Blackheim mixes a variety of vocal styles from harsh black metal screams, to Tom G. Warrior-esque grunting and everywhere in between. There is a wide usage of keyboard atmospherics and other instrumentation (such as the folk flute in "Ravenclaw"). At the same time, he is able to create sonically sound black metal treats, such as the vicious "The Walk of the Hunchbacked" or the smooth "Cloaked by Moonshine Mist". Of course, I have to credit "Upon the Salty Wall of the Broody Gargoyle" for sounding more like Tom G. Warrior than Tom himself. The Phantom Lodge is a grab bag of moods, approaches and ideas which seldom lags or gets boring. Any fan of Katatonia is required to find this and anyone who appreciates well written black/death metal is also encouraged to visit this lodge.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/1999

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Diabolical Masquerade - Nightwork ©1999 AvantGarde Music
1. Rider On The Bonez
2. Dreadventurouz
3. The Zkeleton Keyz To The Dead
4. Thiz Ghoultimate Omen
5. All Onboard The Perdition Hearze!
6. The Eerie Obzidian Circuz
7. Haunted By Horror

Though I've enjoyed the first two Diabolical Masquerade parties, a dozen listens to Nightwork haven't been quite as rewarding. Blackheim is apparently aiming for a horror theme on the album, complete with inbetween song spoken word segments from real demons ("Out of my way, wretched human!") and real live guest musicians. A lot of attention has been given to a certain person playing drums, almost overtly so since the focus should be on Blackheim and his compositions, not who is behind the drum kit. The main flaw to this album is that it twists, turns and rides a spooky little black metal roller coaster but never really gives the listener a sense of progression. Each time I've listened to the album I've found myself snoozing or not paying attention at all midway through. Occasional bit parts are interesting, such as the flute section in "Thiz Ghoultimate Omen" or some of the riffs that peek out. Unfortunately on the whole it is nothing more than a very plain and very average album from a guitarist who normally just oozes creativity. Stick with the first two Diabolical Masquerade albums and only pick this up if you just absolutely have the dollars to burn.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1999

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Death's Design: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Diabolical Masquerade - Death's Design: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack ©2001 AvantGarde Music
1. Nerves In Rush
2. Death Ascends - The Hunt (part 1)
3. You Can't Hide Forever
4. Right On Time For Murder - The Hunt (part 2)
5. Conscious In No Materia
6. A Different Plane
7. Invisible To Us
8. The One Who Hides A Face Inside
9. ...And Don't Ever Listen To What It Says
10. Revelation Of The Puzzle
11. Human Prophecy
12. Where The Suffering Leads
13. The Remains Of Galactic Expulsions
14. With Panic In The Heart
15. Out From The Dark
16. Still Coming At You
17. Out From A Deeper Dark
18. Spinning Back The Clocks
19. Soaring Over Dead Rooms
20. The Enemy Is The Earth
21. Recall
22. All Exits Blocked
23. The Memory Is Weak
24. Struck At Random / Outermost Fear
25. Sparks Of Childhood Coming Back
26. Old People's Voodoo Seance
27. Mary-Lee Goes Crazy
28. Something Has Arrived
29. Possession Of The Voodoo Party
30. Not Of Flesh, Not Of Blood
31. Intact With A Human Psyche
32. Keeping Faith
33. Someone Knows What Scares You
34. A Bad Case Of Nerves
35. The Inverted Dream / No Sleep In Peace
36. Information
37. Setting The Course
38. Ghost Inhabitants
39. Fleeing From Town
40. Overlooked Parts
41. A New Spark - Victory Theme (part 1)
42. Hope - Victory Theme (part 2)
43. Family Portraits - Victory Theme (part 3)
44. Smokes Starts To Churn
45. Hesitant Behavior
46. A Hurricane Of Rotten Air
47. Mastering The Clock
48. They Come, You Go
49. Haarad El Chamon
50. The Egyptian Resort
51. The Pyramid
52. Frenzy Moods And Other Oddities
53. Still Part Of The Design - The Hunt (part 3)
54. Definite Departure
55. Returning To Haarad El Chamon
56. Life Eater
57. The Pulze
58. The Defiled Feeds
59. The River In Space
60. A Soulflight Back To Life
61. Instant Rebirth - Alternate Ending

According to the "official" word, Death's Design is an actual soundtrack to a movie that was scrapped by its producers. Since this music was already composed, Diabolical Masquerade saw fit to release it as their fourth record. Insofar as the record stands in the scheme of the outfit's recording history, Death's Design is a marked step up from their previous release, Nightwork, and sees the band acknowledging Dan Swano as a fulltime contributor rather than just a session musician and of course, producer. And as we all know, Diabolical Masquerade is essentially Blackheim from Katatonia doing his black metal tinged side project.

Succeeding where Nightwork failed, Death's Design is a remarkably cohesive, visually provocative and ambitious album that is split into twenty "movements" and sixty-one individual tracks within those movements. Considering the cinematic inspiration of the music, the wide array of approaches used throughout benefits the album immensely. Swano's keyboard and synthesized effects provide a great deal of depth to the sound, while the music generally uses a slight black metal influence, but mostly a more traditional metal approach. However, elements such as jazz guitar leads, symphonic underscores and a string section help move this into its own realm of very far reaching music. The vocals, when used, are mostly rasped in black metal fashion while there are segments of clean singing. Considering there are so many tracks in such a short time, many of the subsections in each movement blitz by the listener in under a minute, but they retain a common thread between each other, creating a very smooth flow throughout. The production is absolutely stellar, very smartly capturing everything and not letting the various instruments clash in competition.

Death's Design, regardless of whether the film it is associated with exists or is a ruse for this album's lore, is by far the best Diabolical Masquerade release yet. Perhaps the further usage of Dan Swano's input has helped, but this is truly a soundtrack to a terrifying inner world. Highly recommended towards anyone into a theatrical form of extreme metal.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2001

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