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Opus Doria - Compass Rose
Written by Doctor T.   
Sunday, 22 January 2017

Opus Doria - CD Review
Compass Rose

Opus Doria - Compass Rose 

CD Info
Independent Release
2016, 13 tracks
English
Spanish lyrics
10/10

Opus Doria is a French group doing a slightly different brand of metal. We’re all familiar with the term operatic symphonic femme metal. Well, this one is heavy on the first three words, although there is a share of metal to be found. But, it’s there to provide context as much as anything else. Lead vocalist Christel Linstat is a voice, a big voice. And as beautiful a voice as you will ever hear in the genre. She’s a trained classical vocalist and she puts that vox on display here, over some seriously nice material. I know we all need our daily dose of hard metal; screaming death metal, crushing doom, Gothic from the darkest regions of hell. . . but, there are times when the beautiful metal is what’s needed by the soul. And Opus Doria has served that up in spades with Compass Rose.

Christel is, I believe, the second vocalist with Opus Doria. I didn’t think the first one could be topped. But, we live and learn. There’s a lot of folks on this release and they come with a variety of talents. The Nicogossian girls, Flavia and Laura provide classical components via the cello and keyboards / piano along with background choral elements. There are guitars and drums which are used to varying degrees depending on the material covered. And, there are more, some pictures depict as many as 8 or 9 so there’s a lot of French talent going on here. I know someone’s doing a bagpipe, or should I say, Uilleann Pipe (Irish pipes) and it’s enough to own this Scott / Irish heart.

There’s a total of 13 tracks here and they cover a variety of styles. Probably not time to cover them all although I’d be hard pressed to find a bad one to leave out while listening. Just start with 1 and go through to 13. You won’t be disappointed. The overall feel in classical, these folks all seem to come from a classical background but there’s enough of a beat to most of the material to make you comfortable. The real signature component, however, is that vox that flames into most of the tracks here, just as you’re getting comfortable with the music you’re hit with a vocal that rips your ears off. I’ve been close enough to Tarja on multiple occasions to appreciate that vox, this one easily compares to it.

The release begins with Intro - A Road to Infinity. This one begins with a pure classical element, starting with an oboe that leads to a full symphonic. . . and moving to a crunching bass. From here we go to horns that move back to the stings. You get the idea?

The next track, Enigma, begins with some honest ta god metal. And then we get. . . our vocalist. Only here, she’s doing something that resembles a Celtic sound. Classically trained vocalists can do that you know. There’s a fair amount of that Celtic on the release, the French like that stuff, so do I. But, somewhere in the track we get a solid guitar riff, not long, but enough to put the beat in the Celtic. Dancing Sun continues this direction, with a classic sound from the Middle Ages. But with this one, Christel takes us to a more classic contralto. The drums begin to pound and we get what appears to approach metal, complete with a screaming guitar. The sound is diversified, we get lots of stuff, background vocals, lots of classical influence, but all encased in some real fine metal.

Fire Horses is where we deviate from the norm. This one is largely instrumental, one of several, and that makes it no less interesting. Christel does some classical background vocal that sends chills up and down your spine. But, this is film score material, makes you think of Lawrence of Arabia, only with better music and FAR better vocal. There’s some fine violin towards the end that takes this one to a satisfying conclusion.

There are some tracks, however, that just have to be mentioned, maybe for personal reasons. Ghost Odyssey is first and foremost. This is a bit of a metal rocker, but, it’s the inclusion of certain musical components that make it stand out. First, we get what sure sounds to me like a bagpipe (the Irish version, as mentioned before), and it proves to be the signature sound to this track. Probably a similar instrument to the bagpipe but it sure puts the Celtic back in this track. Again, this is instrumental but, with the range of instruments featured, it is nothing short of classic. There’s a part, shortly after the midpoint, where the pipe and flute come back that damn near takes me to tears. Still, you get the pounding drums to make sure your metal needs are met, but this is just so much more.

With Scheol we return to the beautiful. Where was this in the hedonistic, drug filled days of my youth. We get ethereal music to lead us into some classical metal, a couple splifs full of Tallahassee Two Toke to be sure. And Christel takes us to new heights vocally. Those vocals are nothing short of devastating. Hard to get past music like this, especially when in an altered state of consciousness. . not that I visit those lands often these days. . . . But the thoughts expressed here certainly do take me to Gothic realms:

Is this here Hell? The sight of my own nothingness? / Where I flounder alone, in Limbo, in a desolation…
No emotion, only emptiness and silence; / No anguish, nor excitement or delight;
I’m numbed; I feel nothing any more; / It’s worse than Hell; I haven’t any memory any more…
I have to find heat again; red blood…

Ethereal Texture is just that, a soothing sound, mainly instrumental, that blends orchestral elements, and that lovely pipe, to take us to lovely places, and lovely thoughts:

Come with me, take my hand, follow me / Come with me, and you will see....you will see
Beyond the dark shines the light / Beyond the night, light is shinning

For many tracks, it’s the blending of the multiple instruments, (I counted about 13 in a quick count from the front page) that are the signature we will associate with this release. They are used throughout, in various combinations. Sometimes they are the entire focus, other times they are there to work with Christel’s vocals. Heavenly Crossroads is one of these. There’s more than enough instrumental work to cover the territory, but, with this one, Christel owns the day. Again, the message is as lovely as the vocal presenting it:

No longer must I suffer, no longer must I choose / Everything’s forgotten in the billows of the clouds!
Cut off from all the World, and with nothing left to loose
I will rest my soul at last; the silence will be loud

Tierra de Sangre is one of the more interesting tracks, it’s done entirely in Spanish. Laura, who writes the lyrics, informs me she speaks Spanish, and proved it in some messaging. This one not only uses the Spanish lyrics but takes a Spanish twist with the sound which begins with a trumpet ( I think) sounding like what we hear at the beginning of a bull fight. It’s a great addition to the release, and, again, Christel demonstrates that classical training with a solid Spanish pronunciation of the lyrics.

The final track is the title track, Compass Rose, and it does a masterful job of tying the release together, musically and lyrically. Lots of Laura’s keys, superb choral work and Christel sending us on our way with thoughts most profoundly Gothic:

Now I’m alone, from now on face to face with me
And staring I lose myself into this mirror / How have I arrived here?
Was this really my destiny? / I don’t know why it happened any more

Compass Rose takes us on a journey through lovely soundscapes, littered with thoughts as beautiful as the music. It’s hard to get past excellence at this level. A 10 / 10 is more than richly deserved. Bravo.

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