Italian progressive Gothic Metal quartet Inner Shrine, formed in Florence, Italy in 1996, were one of the first symphonic bands to emerge from the European Metal scene.
Returning with 'Pulsar', their fifth full length album and follow up to 2010s 'Mediceo', considered by the band to be their "Ultimate musical statement - an intriguing concept about the end of the world and the creation of a new species, with a particular emphasis on the melodic death and Gothic influences."
Their sound mixes classic Heavy Metal, doom, classical music and opera for a bleakly reflective and atmospheric effect, with a deep lyrical approach and somewhat unique, softly tortuous and haunting vocals. The eight tracks which span fifty-three minutes do have a certain charm about them and successfully reflect, to the greater part, the album's concept.
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In places it's a little too fussy with the over use of atmospheric sounds, such as on 'Immortal Force' but in other places it works well, particularly the heartbeat that opens 'Between' and the flat line drone that ends it. The screams of terror and sirens that garnish 'The Last Day On Earth' certainly lend an atmosphere of terror, without in this case, detracting from the doom nature of the vocals and instrumentation.
Thankfully also, the overall sound, to my mind, leans more towards a progressive melodic death/doom and the Gothic aspect is well reigned in.
I like the pace and tone of opening track 'Black Universe', the best track of the ,album and also the most extreme track of the album. A simple but effective opener of guitars and a windblown sound-bite on 'The Rose In Wind', the whispering vocals work to good effect also, as if they were a part of the wind itself; another good track.
'Pulsar' opens well with a beautifully mournful quality, with an appealing guitar segment just before midway but then there were some bizarre aspects to the sound, briefly, about the a halfway mark that I couldn't fathom, other than that, not a bad track. 'Peace Denied' has a rich doomy quality to the opener which I hoped would be maintained across the track but started it to lose my interest in places, but it does close with a nice solo, so it's not all bad.
'Four Steps in Gray' was delightfully doomy and bleak and although I can see how the cyber vocals fitted I can't say that I was over keen on them, however the track does have an appealing intensity towards the end.
In some ways I think the over use of sound-bites is a compensation for the vocals in places. They did both start to wear on me a little at times but at the same time there are a lot of very good elements to this album.
If you like an album to chill to but with a bleak edge to it you may well find this an interesting listen.