Dark Moor_Projexct XDark Moor has been tilting at windmills a very long time. As one of Spain’s longest-running power metal bands, they’ve had successful early albums like The Hall of the Olden Dreams and The Gates of Oblivion which benefited from crisp writing and the raspy roar of Elisa Martin. When she was replaced by Alfred Romero on the band’s eponymous 2003 album, they lost a bit of what made them stand out. From there they toyed with a myriad of different styles, reinventing themselves in small and large ways as they dabbled in traditional power metal and the much more symphonic and fruity variety. This resulted in some hit or miss releases which I paid only cursory attention to (though Tarot and Autumnal were both pretty solid). Project X is yet another reinvention for these shape-shifting Spaniards, dialing back the symphonics in favor of a more prog-rock orientated sound. The goofy “aliens are out there” themed material is understated and much less neo-classical than prior works, arriving at what can best be described as a power prog-rock opera with Broadway-styled cheesiness. A power-prog-rock musical about E.T.? Can that even be?

Strangely enough, yes it can. As offbeat as this album is at times, it actually works more often than not. This is largely due to the strong 70s rock influences they graft onto what are essentially show tunes suitable for community and dinner theater. Songs like “Beyond the Stars” sound like segments of a musical co-written by Savatage and Styx with a strong Rocky Horror element tossed in for unknown reasons. It shouldn’t work and it annoys me how much the jazz handsy chorus entertains me. The same goes for “Bon Voyage” which is even more Rocky Horrible in design, including frequent callbacks from a peanut gallery choir. Damn it, planet!

“Conspiracy Revealed” sounds like a more rock-centric Sonata Arctica with off-kilter symphonics lurking in the background, and “The Existence” is like 80s pop rock with slight metal overtones and a chorus made for MTV circa 1984. Likewise, “Gabriel” walks a fine line between Euro-power, prog-rock and show tunery, escaping disaster via sharp writing and a chorus bigger than Mars. Even the sappy ballad “I Want to Believe” survives strict scrutiny by incorporating a 70s sensibility and going for the soft sell rather than overwrought hair metal silliness.

Dark Moor_2015

There isn’t a bad song here, but closer “There’s Something in the Skies” is too overblown and too Broadway for its own good and by crossing into full Phantom of the Opera territory it becomes too jarring to serve as the proper end cap on what is a fairly restrained, underplayed album. Other than that, this is a consistently enjoyable platter of odd, intergalactic cheese.

While I still miss the rougher vocal attack of Elisa, Alfred Romero has improved a lot over the years and grown into capable and charismatic frontman. He proves versatile here as well, adapting to this odd lot of different styles. To his credit, he doesn’t spend all his time straining for ball-shattering high notes and exists comfortably in a smooth mid-range. He’ll never be my first choice for the Power Metal Hall of Fame, but he’s enjoyable and easy to listen to. Enrik Garcia impresses as well with a laid back, restrained performance. In keeping with the tone of the material, he often resists the urge to go all Luca Turilli, but when he does indulge his inner wank, he makes up for lost time.

Perhaps in keeping with the 70s prog influences, the band opted for a decently full and open production. Though things do get layered at times, they never feel messy or compressed, with everything sitting in it’s own space able to be heard.

This is much more quirky than I expected and that’s partly why I’m enjoying it. There are hooks aplenty and an interesting approach that’s sure to divide fans. I wasn’t consciously aware of wanting a metal musical about Area 51, alien probes and Uranus, but I’m happy it finally arrived in my cornfield nonetheless. Watch the skies. Ayreon is out there.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 189 kbps mp3
Label: Scarlet Records
Websites: dark-moor.com | facebook.com/pages/DARK-MOOR
Release Dates: EU: 2015.11.06 | NA: 11.20.2015

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  • Iskandar

    We come in CHEESE…

  • Alexandre Barata

    I love metal musicals about Uranus! This makes me think, musically, of a tv show or anime soundtrack meets Queen (chorus are so Queen-like).

    • Ass rock fan, eh?

      • HippieOfDeath

        Butt Rock

        • PanzerFistDominatrix

          Rectal Rock

          • PanzerFistDominatrix

            Colon Core

          • Name’s Dalton

            Rectum? This damn near killed ’em.

            My ears, that is.

          • PanzerFistDominatrix

            They ought to get Lil’ Jon as a guest vocalist on a chorus – “Bounce dat ass, hoe! Bounce dat ass, hoe!” and Miley Cyrus could twerk the living daylight out of the video…

      • D2

        A visit to the Prog-tologist is in order.

  • Elton Chagas

    Okay. Going back to my Temple of Shadows.

  • JL

    I love the single. It’s fun, catchy, has a cool theme and fun lyrics. The rest of the album is such a bore, though. It’s essentially just a mid tempo, melodic hard rock album with too many “ballads” and very awkward song sequencing that keep the album from having any sense of cohesion at all. And did anyone notice they ripped off the Jurassic Park theme for the third song? :-)

    • Kronos

      Clever men.

  • Zadion

    Oh man, everything about me should positively hate that single yet it’s fantastic; gives me a strong modern Sonata Arctica vibe. I hadn’t paid attention to Dark Moor since circa 2005, but I was bored to death by their early albums (including those with Elisa) and found Alfred to be frustratingly incompetent. It sounds like both him and the band have tremendously improved if this song is a representation of the band as a whole.

  • Wilhelm

    This isn’t my style at all, it sounds like a broadway musical about an 80’s sitcom. quite cheesy.

  • Not much in the way of darkness and black metal here… and by not much I mean none.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      This Souffle could use a nice, hard crust. Speaking of Crust, I could use something in the line of Young and In the Way to clean out my ears now. Down Among the Dead Men didn’t quite cut it for me.

    • You wot m8?

      I believe that Power “Metal” may have been a bit of a stretch…

      • madhare

        Yeah, I was just thinking the same. My metal detector doesn’t beep here at all. Not much “power” either. Actually, not really much “cheese” either. Because cheese would be fun.

        This is actually just boring pop. Kind of Eurovision style.

        • It’s not a “heavy” album by any means but the embedded track is one of the semi-ballads. The remainder is a bit more aggressive.

          • madhare

            Thanks for clarifying that.

            Rereading your review, you did actually say this there too. But as I didn’t know these guys before, I just took the embedded track to be representative of the whole thing.

            But if it isn’t, then it’s a little odd of them to release this first to market the album.

          • But it’s so catchy!

          • madhare

            Is it? Should you get your head/ears checked? :D

          • Fiddlesticks!

          • madhare

            :D I’d actually much rather listen to the original Neverending Story song. Because it’s the kind of youth-adventure sound these guys seem to be after.

            Or if you want something really catchy, go for the Dragonland power metal version.

          • Jerome St-Charles

            It reminds me vaguely of Vision Divine, but even mellower. I think their neoclassical approach was way better than this. Bon voyage!

  • All this does is make me go “where’d I put Rush’s 2112?”

  • Grymm

    So much Velveeta.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    You purposely left the Oxford comma out of “a metal musical about Area 51, alien probes and Uranus” solely for the innuendo, right? I approve wholeheartedly.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    If there is any bit of prog in this it is akin to the pop-prog of bands like Asia.
    This embedded track sounds like someone cut and pasted together a few power metal and soft rock songs.

    • You wot m8?

      More like someone cut together the majority of some pop-rock and some random Sabaton solos. The cheese is real, the Metal is not.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Did you mean that as a jab to Sabaton?

        • You wot m8?

          No. However, you have to admit that Sabaton is the epitome of metallic cheese, while also having some major musical chops.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I have no problem with cheese in Metal. My concern was about that “The cheese is real, the Metal is not” because you mentioned the Metal as coming from Sabaton. One of my favorite quotes from myself is that “Sabaton kicks so much ass that they named themselves after an armored shoe”.

  • Brian Kelly

    probably a top 5 band of the last 20 years.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    So what happened to the GloryHammer background?
    I suspect some behind the scenes ‘gorilla’ warfare…

    • Alexandre Barata

      It’s a medical warfare, the colors on that cover might induce strokes.

  • Michael Matskevich

    Instrumental modern talking ; )

  • madhare

    The embedded video is like watching a crappy episode of X-Files but with much, much, much worse music than in the original.

    (It’s one of those god-awful UFO episodes you had to put up with to get to the next great monster-of-the-week thing.

  • Johan

    Wow that was… oh man… what, no. Please, let’s just do the timewarp out of here!

  • katya_monkseal

    When I first read the review, I thought this was a joke. Because who on Earth would think of “a musical co-written by Savatage and Styx with a strong Rocky Horror element tossed in for unknown reasons” as a good idea for an album in 2015? Then I listened to it… and it was not a joke. So not a joke. So… cheesy. So… weird. So… caricature. So… not supposed to happen. But what was the worst was that I was actually enjoying it. Way too much. And I still do. The thing is, this album is so not supposed to be taken seriously. It’s such a huge walking parody of all its elements you could possibly stage a school play based off this, using silver-coloured boxes for rockets and cardboard comets for background, and it would look perfectly fitting. So, if you’re looking for some actual metal, you can totally move on. But if one day you’re in a mood for catching a star, stuffing it into your dad’s old convertible, putting a fish tank onto your head and heading off to some sort of Transylvania, then… bon voyage!