Imagine, if you will, that it is night. A river flows nearby, tepid. Beyond it you see the gothic grandeur of a cathedral originally erected in the 12th century. Its lighting, as if intended, makes it appear gloomy and even mysterious. Of course, it's raining. The place exerts an almost preternatural pull on you; the cathedral's centuries of history have seen sights both vile and beautiful. However, you only recall the vile bits, you relish in the memories of death and the seepings of blood that no doubt instill the ancient structure's very stones.

As if on cue, lightning flashes. The flash is close by, but no thunder follows. People around you look up. You see the white of their eyes, briefly, before they huddle back in their cloaks and vacate the streets.

The cathedral is the Notre Dame, the city is Paris. The year is 1574.

Soon you are the only person still out on the streets. Music starts. There's an orchestra, and somewhere someone is playing an organ like he's a distant relative of The Hunchback. The wind strengthens, some leaves are swept up and away into the Seine's drowning embrace. The cathedral's pull strengthens likewise, the music now louder in your ears, filling your head, its fists gripping your guts. You can but obey whatever force it is that draws you inside. Over the bridge, across the square where gleaming eyes track your every move. You close your eyes, the music swells, the Notre Dame's vaulted doors absorb you. The border between consciousness and dream releases its hold on you as you traverse into a zone where ordinary things don't happen very often...

It seems as if the members in Ordo Draconis (the Dutch black metal hope in frightened days, as we tend to say over here, and that's positive :-) have been similarly entranced by the period in history now centuries behind us, taking place in a France ravaged by the epidemics and, as if mother nature's curses aren't enough, religious and otherwise zealous despots seeking to rid themselves of life around them.

Indeed, few other bands would seem more fit to perform tracks like "Paris 1574", "Wreckage" and "Necropolis", with vocalist Moloch sounding so nasty you'd expect someone to have savaged his throat with glowing needles and blunted razorblades. Keyboard player and co-lyricist Midhir plays like he might indeed be a distant relative of he who would play tunes of freaky horror accomopanying the above setting. The latter's synth sounds and the former's oral outbursts are what most characterize Ordo Draconis' blend of semi-progressive black metal. That, of course, and the amazing artwork done (wholly or partly) by drummer Arco.

"The Wing & the Burden" is an album that excites me. Most of the tracks are semi-longspun epics with enough musical and lyrical brilliance to satiate a demanding listener. The band make sparing use of female vocals, whereas the superlative "The Crimson Dawn" is likewise enriched by the use of a flute and other acoustic instruments. This track, by the way, was originally present on their first demo, and it's about time it became available for those, like me, who just don't play tapes much.

However, honesty compells me mercilessly - the bitch! - to place a few glosses here and there. "Four", a challenging track, at times gets a little too chaotic musically. Also, the sheer thought of a better production (most notably the drums) sends shivers of near-ejaculatory ecstasy up and down my spine. Maybe next time?



Written April 2001


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