I have no format for this so it's going to long and rambly but that's how I like it maybe!
Welcome to Macabria. A land of suffering and pleasure... At a time when I have very much gotten into goth, want to get more into metal, and haven't yet, what better time to find a gothic metal album to completely fall in love with?
How I found this album: YouTube gave me a video of someone recommending gothic fiction, and I watched it, being interested in the subject. The one that stood out to me was a vampire story called Carmilla, which I am currently over halfway through reading. On the Wikipedia article for that book, I believe it mentioned that a band called Theatres des Vampires made numerous references to the book in their lyrics. This name caught my eye, and in their discography, one album particularly caught my eye: Nightbreed of Macabria~
I clicked on it, and the album art greeted me with a character that was so my style. Then it said that the album was a concept album that was heavily inspired by Tim Burton's work. And it was released in 2004. And it was gothic metal. Everything was set up for me. I think I listened to it pretty quick. So yeah, I found it from browzin da web!!! Basically.
It was one of those albums for me that before I was even done with listening to it, I knew it would be one of my favorites. One of those where I'm like. Wow, this was made specifically for me.
The album is a story. A journey through the dark, magical world of Macabria. You/someone has somehow stumbled upon this land. (I like to think I'm the one that has discovered it.) Along the way, you meet several different characters, learn about them, what they do, and about the world itself, with all its ancient places and rituals.
What I really love about this album is the care they put into making it a cohesive experience. It has a very clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. It adds a whole other layer to the music. In fact, it's more like it's a story in music form, rather than songs trying to tell a story! It might be melodramatic, but in this case, I like it that way. For me, this album is more about the lyrics than the music itself. Am VERY glad I was able to find them online, because I will tell you that I absolutely would not have been able to understand what they were saying otherwise. Theatres des Vampires is an Italian band, and their English here was... shaky. Nothing against them, because it's not their native language, and I appreciate that it's in the only language I understand, being a clueless American. It's way better than my Italian!
Anyway, the lyrics are so, like. Shameless? They are not singing about love, or personal experience, or anything like that. And there is nothing wrong with that. This is about Macabria. It's about darkness, the night, skulls, witches, blood, curses, blackness, magic, cemeteries, ancient beings, mystery, sex, and death. All my favorite things. It is poetic in its creepiness, in its macabre beauty. It does not treat Macabria as a place you would want to escape from out of fear and terror. Well, it is fearful and terrifying, but that's what we like about it. The detail they managed to express in the world that they forged is impressive, and as for the music, the gothic atmosphere lasts for the entire hour. Simply put, if I could live anywhere, it would be in Macabria.
The music itself is good, and I definitely like it, but I am aware that the reason I do love this album as much as I do is because of the concept behind it, and the tapestries painted by the poetry. I must give the music credit too, though!! I remember being similarly impressed by the detail in the music, with the amount of different instruments used. There is absolutely a "symphonic" element here, which usually means there are strings. Yeah. But I love the strings! And there are different instruments here too, I'm just not good at picking them out or naming them. I know there's piano. And horns.
The standouts for me are the guitar and the drums, because they are more at the forefront. I think I'm a riff gal.... okay what the fuck does that mean AHAHAHHAAAA. Whatever. I love a good guitar riff. And this album is full of them. I also like drums that aren't just simply keeping a beat, but have their own little details to memorize as well. I also love great harmonies, and I can think of multiple moments in the album in which those are present as well! Am also a sucker for interludes, especially in longer albums or ones with many tracks. Give me a short little strange piece in the middle to help break up the sections and give it variety. The album has two of those, as well as an intro. Great stuff.
So I guess let's talk about the tracks themselves. And by that I mean I will, alone.
1. Welcome to Macabria - A short intro containing what is practically a spoken poem. I don't really know if "poetry" and "lyrics" are necessarily always separate things?? Whatever. I love every word of it, introducing the strange, dark, and nonsensical world that we are entering.
2. A Macabre Banquet - The first song, which is still mostly an introduction, which I like. This is when you actually enter the world, and are welcomed in, encouraged to stay and eat the flesh of children with them around the table. The soaring vocals with the metal guitar work combine to give it a really grand and dramatic feel. There is also a quiet section with slow, echoey vocals, and whispers.... before it primes you for all the odd characters that you will meet along the way. This establishes that you are being guided through the realm by its inhabitants. The first track is like a prelude, while this one is the prologue.
3. Lady in Black - I don't think I've ever been able to say I identify strongly with a fictional character from a music album before, but now I can. This introduces the first character, the Lady in Black~ She is described as a witch who lives in an ancient forest, in the house of the crying eyes. She wears a dark veil over her pale skin, has long, sharp nails, and obviously wears black. Wherever she goes, she brings suffering and death while the earth bleeds underneath her. Damn. I wanna be just like her when I grow up.
This is a fairly simple song. I love the main riff. The song is in a minor key, of course, but uses a lot of major chords with strings that really help to characterize the lady in black as a very darkly beautiful woman. The bridge of this song might just be my favorite one ever? I am probably just saying that because I can't think of other bridges I like off the top of my head but those two guitars harmonizing together like that is SO GOOD.
4. Angel of Lust - Pretty clearly just about the devil. I'm not too good with Christian mythology, never read the bible, who has time for that shit? I'm already an atheist, I'll read that if I somehow ever feel like magic is actually real down the line, and it will snap me back to my senses instantly. Anyway. It talks about Lucifer, the fallen angel... as far as I know, that's Satan, bitch! It describes him in sorrowful agony, searching for his next soul to take, which ends up being yours~ and lucky you, you get to drown in sweet hellfire.
Once again, the main melody here is instantly a great hook. It is echoed in the chorus with the unheavenly vocals. I really like the composition of this song, as it's a bit more interesting than the standard template. Each part is great in its own way, and I love all of them. Love the guitar in between the first chorus and second, and especially the ending section. "You're the virgin of Lucifer... You will burn in the lake of flames... You will enter the infernal world~" Scarlet sings it so beautifully, like, yes, please take me...
5. Luciferia - Another important character, and another witch. This one is constantly in my head. The riff that starts this song is just so good. Actually, I adore all of the guitar in this song, fucking hell. This is one of my favorite songs on the album. Especially because of that chorus. I don't know to explain it clearly, but it's so hauntingly beautiful.
This is the song in which the ceremony of death and blood is introduced, along with the red book of Macabria.... it comes into play later, but Luciferia is a character that has died. After her son died, all the joy was drained from her life until she was no more. But there still exists a dark power with her, underground.
6. Incubo #1 - The first interlude out of two, and I really like what they do with this one. Like the intro, it has a spoken section. This track is more about ambience and weird noises, which I enjoy. Some cool reversy noise effects and stuff. "The sin flows into my veins~"
7. Macabria - They do have multiple tracks on the album named after the place that it takes place within, but notably, there is no straight up title track, which I appreciate. You have now been introduced to the most important characters, and taken a breather, so this song is sort of just about Macabria itself, and many of the strange things that go on there. It's more varied in that way. Not one of my favorite songs from the album, but! I really like how it expands the atmosphere and imagery. Raising a chalice of blood to the dark moon, dismal smiles, strange figures from the fog, children playing with skulls... the lyrics are so dark and eerie. I love them. And the chorus is very simple but just great stuff. The death has arrived!!!
8. The Jester's Shadow - This character is a harbinger of death. He is eternally dancing and generally just having a grand old time in the moonlight, and when the bells on his hat ring, it means someone has died. Which I guess, if he's eternally dancing, it really means eternal death. This song has mostly growled male vocals, and I think I personally prefer the more light female vocals, Idk. But variety is good!
9. The Golden Sin - This one is a favorite of mine. The man with the golden mask is a creature with no expression. He has no face, only a mask with the rest of his body being covered by a dark cloak. He is the sadistic judge, and he calls down rain to encase greedy humans in golden statues, from which they will never emerge.
They treat this with such reverence. "Oh, spirit of justice, kill this futile humanity. Their sin's our wealth, their costly suffering we can breathe." I love how it's praised so highly and seen as so beautiful... unmoving for all time, kept in a collection, showcasing the fall and evil of all humans. It's not just something they enjoy doing, it's what keeps them alive, they breathe the suffering <3
The chord structure in this song is very simple but it really does it for me. Along with the guitar in the verses that dissonates, repeating its melody through each different chord, giving it a different feeling every time. This is the same technique that's used in the chorus, and there's something about it that I really like.
10. Carnival Day - Another song that shows all the wacky ways in which the creatures of Macabria like to have fun. There are many images that I love here, including mouthless dolls singing a symphony of death, witches laughing in blood, a woman licking blood off of her weapon after killing her victims, and my favorite, the cart of sex where the dead fuck the living. I like the tempo change between the verses and chorus, and I really like the second section of the song, which is much slower, and reveling in the day of flesh~
11. Incubo #2 - This one is nothing special. I like that there is an interlude here more than liking the interlude a whole lot itself. Although I do like the words: "Symphony of death that wakes up the most hidden of senses, flatters and inebriates the soul driving... it... to.... SIN~" mmmmm the way they say it, with such lust... how lovely.
12. The Curse of Headless Christ - A slower and longer song about Christ, and how his head was chopped off, and now he wants revenge. He stalks the night, looking for his head, always carrying a weapon with him. But it's his curse, and no matter how much he searches, it seems like he will never escape from this cruelty, this black... There's actually a pretty sweet guitar solo in this one that I enjoy. I will say, the main lyric of the song is just not pronounced correctly- they say "the curse of headler christ", I swear. It takes away a bit from it ahahaaa. But I enjoy the duality of the quiet of the verses that ramps up to the relative intensity of the pre-chorus and chorus.
13. Mourning Day - In Macabria, instead of shitty fucking stupid holidays like Christmas or fucking PRESIDENTS DAY that we have here in the bad new United States, they have the yearly holiday of the Mourning Day, in which they celebrate and cry for the dead. This is a day for letting out all of your hatred and agony. Instead of keeping it inside and letting it grow while pretending to be happy around others, let's be honest, and let out all of those negative emotions, while celebrating the death.
This song contains the last two characters that were mentioned in A Macabre Banquet that haven't been shown yet, which are the minstrel and the dancer. They generally are just having a good time during the festivities. Good for them. I like how they say we will know all these characters later on, and then we do, and they are spread out over the whole album. It's good writing!
I actually enjoy the composition of this song, because it goes in many directions. It starts out soft and contemplative, but quickly turns aggressive, especially with the shouting of the chorus. Then after that, there is a sudden tempo change and it's headbangin time!!! I like how the drums aren't there at first, and then come in with a beat, and then change the beat afterward. And then there is a whole other end section, which is slower again, and is totally different, and has these foggy, layered voices with thick instrumentation. Interesting stuff.
14. The Undertaker and the Crow - Oh this one has got to be my favorite. When I listen to this album, this is the moment that I am looking forward to getting to the most. The undertaker is a character that was mentioned in a song previously- Lady in Black! And that's for a reason. In this song, we travel to the silent cemetery, with the smell of death and rotting bodies... we are here to start the ceremony.
They open the coffin of Luciferia, and the lady in black reads the unholy words from the red book of Macabria, to start the ceremony of blood.... for me, everything leads up to this moment:
Come to us, ancient spirit of Macabria~
We are waiting for you
Give me the dark power of life and death
We want the foreigner
It is such a release of tension to have these beautiful major chords played with the gentle piano, along with the ghostly voice of Sonya Scarlet, bringing together all these elements that were foreshadowed earlier to one point. Many of the songs of this album can be pretty self-contained, but this one really ties a lot of them together, and is what truly makes Nightbreed of Macabria an experience.
I adore everything about the song. And at the end of it, what I interpret to be the undertaker talks to the foreigner themself, which is like, you know, YOU. "There's no return for you, foreigner...." *creepy weird laugh* "Macabria wants you... AND YOUR SOUL~"
15. The Beginning of the End - In this song, it's the newcomer, or foreigner, that's singing. It is the absolute perfect conclusion for me. They come to accept that their life had been a lie up until this point, and that Macabria is where they truly belong. This track has multiple string sections that are reused from earlier tracks, which I think is REALLY cool. It gives it more of that cohesion I was talking about, while not at all feeling like they are doing it just because they ran out of ideas. Specifically, they are from Angel of Lust and The Golden Sin.
The song contains a lengthy instrumental intro section, which builds up a lot of tension. Then the lyrics come in with the electric guitar that builds up even more..... until we get to the final section of the album. It becomes quiet, and sounds of rain and thunder enter, while with the piano the classic two chords are played- I don't know what they're called, but they're common, and I hear them in goth a lot, and I love them!!
"Now I will make a choice. A choice of life and death..." He says this so faintly, it's beautiful. And the choice the foreigner makes is death. "Now I want to be free. The soul leaves my body... Macabria will be my new home." And with groans and whispers, and the music fading away, the last words of the album are spoken deep: "I'm..... dead...... <333" It's just perfect. No better way to close out the album!!! Gosh!!!!!!
So, that's why I'm in love with this! It's an hour long album and there are some songs I don't like as much as others, and I'm still really trying to memorize aaalllll these lyrics, but there is nothing I would subtract. For my personal taste, I would enjoy if the parts that were supposed to be sung by the foreigner were all female vocals instead of any male ones, because that way I would be even more able to put myself in the place of that character, but that is just a me thing, and not a true criticism. Like I said, the English could be much better, but I have a feeling that if this were sung by people with native American accents, it would lose a lot of the, like. Effect, to me. Cause them singing in clearly non-native English adds to the feeling of like, they're from a different place. Again, this is because I'm not Italian XD so also not something that applies to everyone.
I may edit this to talk about smaller details that I really like or something I don't know. But yeah I listened to this album three weeks ago and have been pretty much obsessed with it since then. Thank you Theatres des Vampires for making such an amazing piece of work! This has already inspired my own art in multiple ways, and I think it will continue to do that much more in the future.
See y'all later, I'll be in the house of the crying eyes~ Macabria is my new home <3