The Christmas tree mocks me with its plastic virility. Its time has come and gone yet it remains conspicuous by virtue of its lapsed relevancy, a gaudy reminder of a task long overdue. I try to ignore it but the tree barracks for attention like a famished runt, constantly in my periphery and taking up much needed space. Looking over its gilded branches and iridescent baubles a flood of memories dilates my senses, reminding me of the saccharine joy I and others experienced by the glow of the tree’s fairy lights. The lights glitter no more, however, and now as I strip the tinsel I behold a frame denuded of life. A Christmas tree shorn of spectacle is just a skeleton pining for its casket. Deathless Legacy are loud, boisterous and with their untrammeled Italian bombast are hoping to capture hearts and minds with Rituals of Black Magic, their second full-length album, but they’ll have to prove they harbor substance beyond their sparkling facade.
Actually, they have to do more than just show their mettle, Deathless Legacy have a sizable amount of ground to make up for their ill-received debut album, Dance with Devils, a record that was castigated by the ever-erudite Diabolus in Muzaka. Our man lamented the album’s tepid horror-rock shlock and with only twelve scant months between Dance with Devils and Rituals of Black Magic, those hoping that the band would take their music towards greener pastures will come away disappointed. I on the other hand can’t be counted among the jaded, my tolerance for symphonic histrionics stemming from my partial Italian ancestry and a high pain tolerance. Anguish is mercifully absent from the onset, as after a superfluous intro track, the album makes inroads into your subconsciousness with the infectious “Rituals of Black Magic,” an anthemic fist-pumper suitable for cheering on an undead army.
I’ll grant you the music lacks originality and overall composition is rote for the most part, but that is the calculus of a band that views itself more as performers putting on a spectacle than trying to be counted amongst history’s greatest. It is also a consequence of placing the vocals front-and-centre, but that is understandable considering the magnetic talents of singer Steva. Her lip-curling sneer on “The Abyss” matches those of Agnete from Djerv (what ever happened to those guys?) but can also stretch to emotional lamentations like those found on the doom-like “Dominus Inferni” and on “Vigor Mortis” where Steva does her best Bruce Dickinson impression. While the song writing is content to support but not supplant its laudable mistress, there are moments of genuine invention, specifically on “Bloodbath” that fuse a crescendoing guitar solo and keyboard arrangement that wouldn’t be out of place on a Dream Theater record, a deviation that comes as a welcome surprise.
Sadly, such invention is the exception rather than the norm as extolled earlier the music on Rituals of Black Magic has little ambition beyond serving as a passive framework to under-gird the vocals. Riffs are diffuse and bland, barely creasing the bedsheets, keys are ever-present but lacking in character and the percussion is so anodyne that you could remove the drummer from the equation and I doubt anyone would notice. The simplicity sometimes works in the band’s favor, the clipped riffing in “Haruspex” combined with the way Steva bites off every syllable in the chorus makes for a catchy cut. And catchiness is what Deathless Legacy is aiming for with every fiber of their being, but in doing so the music often lacks depth and fails to register with any meaningful impact. Worse still, there is an unnecessary number of filler tracks on the album, a third of which could be culled and in doing so would transform the record from a chore to a guilty pleasure.
These criticisms apply if your only medium in which to imbibe Deathless Legacy is via listening to their album, but considering how much emphasis they put around pageantry and aesthetics it’s likely that seeing the band live is the real measure of their mettle. Being Italians, the comparison can be made to opera. Yes, you can listen to Turandot or Madam Butterfly in the comfort of your own home, but it’s a pale imitation to seeing the real thing on stage, drinking in the costumes, set dressing and the raw power of the performers. Deathless Legacy, like the now packed away Christmas tree, offers little once you strip them of their twinkling lights and gaudy paraphernalia but take the time to see them in the flesh and maybe they’ll resemble more than a synthetic frame good for temporary cheer.