Diabolical Masquerade - _Death's Design_
(Avantgarde, 2001)
by: Pedro Azevedo (9 out of 10)
Whether or not this is -really- an "original motion picture soundtrack" like the front cover boasts I won't be the one to tell you. What I -can- tell you is that _Death's Design_ is more than likely to be worth your time, regardless. Blakkheim (Katatonia), aided by Dan Swano (ex-Edge of Sanity), allegedly created this as the soundtrack to a movie that ended up never being made, for various reasons. Therefore, _Death's Design_ is divided into 20 movements and a total of 61 mostly contiguous tracks, designed to move along with the flow of a movie. So is it useless as a stand-alone record? No, not at all, unless you can't handle anything but verse/chorus repetition. You won't exactly find choruses here, but there's enough structure to the movements to avoid losing the listener. Equally important, the album as a whole somehow makes sense and provides a very rewarding listen despite the sometimes breakneck speed at which it all changes. The movements are quite a rollercoaster ride of styles and ambiance -- when you listen to _Death's Design_ for the first time, you literally cannot guess what's lurking behind the next corner, and this thing is packed full of corners. This can be a great recipe for disaster, of course, but Blakkheim and Swano are amongst the finest musicians in extreme metal and have succeeded in creating an outstanding album. The influences and styles used on _Death's Design_ defy description: think some Devil Doll (minus the peculiar vocals) mixed with Edge of Sanity's _Crimson_ and the quality blackened metal Diabolical Masquerade is known for... and that's far from covering all of it. Jazzy bits and other miscellaneous oddities are sure to keep you guessing throughout the album. Featuring Sean Bates on drums and Ingmar Dohn on bass guitar and string quartet direction (yes, they have also used a string quartet), artwork direction by Travis Smith and, of course, Swano's production talents, _Death's Design_ is an unusually complex, atmospheric, adventurous extreme metal record that demands close attention.

[Chris Flaaten: "This album blew me away! I would never have imagined such a level of variation, original arrangements and sheer quality coming from what really is a side project of a Katatonia member! The fifth movement is pure genius, as is the ninth, even though some melodies are stolen from the Conan soundtrack. The first tracks of the tenth movement have the most amazing black vocals ever... There's nothing this album doesn't have. Just buy it, dangit!"]

(article published 12/8/2001)

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