Diabolical Raw – Elegy of Fire Dusk Review

Remember when Dimmu Borgir was one of the biggest bands in metal? For a while in the mid-aughts they shared the ‘sort of black metal but palatable to a wider audience’ throne with Cradle of Filth, and no gig could be found that wasn’t saturated with Dimmu and Cradle shirts. Whereas Cradle filed down the black metal barbs with gothic theatricality, though, Dimmu blunted them with bludgeoning symphonics and death-adjacent melodicism. Plenty of Dimmu-like acts have sprung up over the years, following in its footsteps to greater or lesser extent, drawing inspiration from the titan even as its own status diminished. Diabolical Raw, hailing from Türkiye, is one of these adherents. Can they measure up to the original?

From the get-go it’s obvious just how much these guys enjoy their Dimmu. The chunky, semi-melodic black-death elevated by effective spikes of canned orchestra is familiar enough on its own, but even the vocals have a similar raspy quality that completes the picture. It’s not merely a straight copy, though. Elegy of Fire Dusk ups the scale from brutal ritual to demonic warfare with its Samael-like militaristic rhythms and bombastic, Fleshgod-in-a-can orchestral arrangements. The latter is the primary source of hooks for the album, the keys emulating strings and brass and mixing them into sweeping soundtracks to infernal annihilation, carefully balancing multi-layered depth against the danger of overindulgence. The drums hammer with high energy and precision, increasing the ominous marching sensation tenfold.

It’s not nearly enough to justify the nigh on 80 minutes running time, though. There are not a lot of bands that can make such a duration feel appropriate. A great band is able to zoom out and craft the flow of the album as a whole, balancing tracks that sweep with grandeur and batter with untold violence against tracks more subdued and mysterious, to sketch an experience beyond that of the individual songs. Diabolical Raw is not such a band. In fact, Diabolical Raw is hardly able to make their tracks individual in the first place. Since the melody is largely carried by the symphonic elements, there are hardly any real riffs; the guitars are confined to the rhythm section and don’t supply much beyond texture. What hooks the album has to offer come from the vocals and the symphonic elements, and the latter rarely varies much in texture or delivery.

In and of itself that’s not necessarily a major issue. Bands like Septicflesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse make some kickass music using the same ingredients. The issue with Diabolical Raw is dynamics. Aside from the atmofolk intro, interlude and outro, the intensity and speed barely changes across the album. The drums and guitars seem copied and pasted from track to track, minor changes barely obfuscating the cloning process. After more than half a dozen spins I’ll recognize individual hooks but I can’t place them in the context of an actual song, because there are so few defining features. Performance-wise the band is fine, this really is a songwriting problem, exacerbated by a separate but related mixing and mastering problem. Because we won’t find any dynamics in the production either. The master is loud and abrasive, the guitars underserved, the vocals coming on too strong. This is taxing for albums of moderate lengths, let alone one that would have been far more tolerable at half the running time.

I’d apologize for the lateness of this review, but the release schedule for Elegy of Fire Dusk has been far more dynamic than the album itself. The bigger reason for the delayed response is simpler, though. I quite enjoyed most of Elegy of Fire Dusk’s tracks individually. They have atmosphere, the performances are tight, the layers of orchestration are done quite well, especially for a small band. So I wanted to give them a better review than this. But there is no denying that Diabolical Raw’s new album as a whole is simply an exhausting, overlong ordeal that inevitably sinks into the background and is forgotten by the halfway mark.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Base Record Production
Websites: diabolicalraw.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/diabolicalraw
Releases Worldwide: October 17th, 2022

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