The beauty and the beast dynamic is at work here. This is heavier than I thought it would be going into it. Death metal vocals clash with the operatic female vocals . The symphonic metal waltzes around with tight chugs. There is some interesting bass playing taking place in the murk of the song. Very progressive in the arrangements, the song is written in movements more than the traditional verse chorus model. They really milk a lot out of the six and a half minutes. With a title like "Brains in a Vat" we can't be too shocked that the second song is more death metal than the first. This Italian band is a little darker than most takes on symphonic metal. "Inside the Golden Cage" finds them conforming a little more closely to the balance of opera and metal that early Nightwish struck. These guys are just willing to take it a little further and dip harder into the metal. There are a few sections here and there that get as theatric as King Diamond or Cradle of Filth.
The melodrama thickens with the piano intro and the more balladic vocal that starts off "Lady Loneliness". She is a talented singer, but her choice of melodies often leans to what dances around the song rather than fits tightest in it like a rock singer would. It builds more gracefully than you might think and flows as well as any other band in their pirate boots. "The Prey" hammers in much harder with the tight double bass of modern death metal. The two styles are not blended as gracefully as they are on the previous song. Their singer hits some impressive notes in her soprano register, she is by and large a Sarah Brightman worshipper. It's not until the song breaks down in the middle that it really hits it's stride. The guitarists and the drummer are all very skilled at their trade and these guys nail the execution. I think some of the pretense could be slightly shed to appeal to my tastes, but for the typical crowd who is into this stuff in Europe it will go over well.
"Destroy Your Past" focuses more on a modern metal groove until the soprano vocals come in. The good cop/ bad cop trade off with the growled male vocals is not overly formulaic, when the growls reach above the guttural death metal style they sound a little like a less annoying Dani Filth.This song is pretty tightly written with only winding drum fills sometimes slowing it's momentum, until the really elegant acoustic passage comes in.It's pretty unexpected, so if you can surprise me you are doing something right."The Demon of Fear" is heavier and has some impressive piano soloing but doesn't draw me in like some of the earlier songs. The Phantom of the Opera homage "A Fragile " feels more like an interlude rather than a song that is cohesive with this album despite the fact this is a part of who they are as a band. It's a fast forward classic to my ears. Of course "Chaos(Awaken the Beast)" is going to be heavier. They play it pretty safe and leave the symphonic elements in the closet for this one. They blend heavy with their symphonic bag of tricks, which you don't realize how much you appreciate them until they set the cello section aside for a song. I think one of this band's strengths is the fact they can dazzle you without taking you on long sprawling prog epics that don't seem like metal songs. "Decapitated Rose" might not be the album's strongest song, but it does high light a good balance of dynamics. the clean vocals are kinda weird as it sounds like the backing vocals from a Frank Zappa song.
They close with the eight minute "Winter's Judgement". For these guys an eight minute song is really letting themselves thicken the melodrama. When it does begin to build into metal, the vocals have the kinda of rasp that band's like Emperor and Cradle of Filth took away from "Them" era King Diamond. This darkens things up which in turn makes it a easier sale on me. At the strongest moments it sounds like more straightforward Dimmu, but the Night Wish like fringes at a lacey undercoating. Overall this album is surprising and fans of symphonic metal will find a fresh and heavier approach to the genre. I'll give it an 8.