Operus – Score of Nightmares Review

What do you get when you cross a cellist who has performed on stage alongside the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with the bassist of thrash metal band Annihilator? Theatrical power metal would not be my first guess, but after learning that vocalist David Michael Moote joined the fray and has a background steeped in musical theater, Operus’s genre tag is less baffling. On Score of Nightmares, Operus serve up an original blend of power metal and musical theatre quite unlike anything I’ve heard before. Does the thought of listening to Rhapsody of Fire’s over-the-top theatrical vocals tickle your fancy? Were you one of the first to start belting out the lyrics to Wicked on the bus on school field trips? If you answered yes to both of those questions, then go nowhere and read on.

Unexpectedly, Operus hails from Toronto, Canada rather than from the more well-known hot beds for metal operas, Italy and Germany. Score of Nightmares is the band’s second full-length album, following the release of Cenotaph in 2017. Score of Nightmares opens with a Danny Elfman inspired piano-laden intro which heavily reminds me of Kyle Gabler’s score for the physics-based puzzle video game, World of Goo. Moote’s vocals took a bit of getting used to, but I quickly became enchanted by the dynamism and playfulness with which he sings. Moote clearly took what he learned while filling leading roles in theatrical productions like Beauty & the Beast to help fashion a majestic yet quirky and enthralling sound with his Operus bandmates.

Demonstrated too many times to count, Operus’s most obvious strength is their versatility. Rather than suffocating under the weight of the same old power metal formula, Score of Nightmares is unique and refreshing. At times dark and dramatic (“Nightmares”), blazing fast and playful (“Lost”), and beautiful and plaintive (“Echoes”), Operus upend any claims that power metal as a genre has gone stale. Operus sneakily keep you on the edge of your seat for forty-five minutes. Don’t even get me started on the frequent cello injections. To me, the sound of a cello on its own is inherently haunting and mysterious so I was thrilled to hear it on this album — it’s been too long since I’ve taken a pass through Apocalyptica’s discography. Not only is Operus technically proficient, but they also know how to loosen the reigns a bit on their theatrically extravagant sound as demonstrated on the more accessible, mainstream sounding track “Dance with Fire,” featuring classical guitar. Operus quickly leave mainstream territory with the instrumental track “Echoes,” and I’m all for it since the gorgeous track would not sound out of place on a new age piano album by David Lans.

I’m grasping at straws trying to think of where the ‘but’ comes in for Score of Nightmares. The latter half of the album doesn’t quite draw me in like the first half does, but the bar Operus sets in the former half makes achieving the same level of spontaneity and exhilaration near impossible. From my first week of listens, I suspect Score of Nightmares will not have the same lasting effect or staying power as Symphony of Enchanted Lands II (The Dark Secret), but only time will tell. Score of Nightmares is an album with near perfect execution — the production is top-notch to match the technical skills of the musicians and vocalist.

In short, I cannot recommend Score of Nightmares enough if you both frequent the Angry Metal Guy blog and are also appreciative of the dramatic performance aspects of theater. Operus is working to break out of the typical metal dive bar scene and instead grace the stage of music halls and theaters. It’s a distinctive strategy metal bands don’t often proactively take. I couldn’t agree more that Operus’s dense, multi-layered compositions are begging to be performed in grandiose, jaw-dropping spaces, not your crowded and sweaty average joint serving mediocre beer.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Pride & Joy Music
Websites: operusmusic.com | facebook.com/epic.operus
Releases Worldwide: June 19th, 2020

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