The Dark Embrace

Walls of Babylon

WALLS OF BABYLON are an Italian Power Metal band with Progressive and Modern Metal influences, […]
By Santiago Puyol
May 21, 2019
Walls of Babylon - The Dark Embrace album cover

WALLS OF BABYLON are an Italian Power Metal band with Progressive and Modern Metal influences, formed in 2012. They released their debut album on 2017, and "The Dark Embrace" is their sophomore effort. The band is influenced by the work of bands like BLIND GUARDIAN, STRATOVARIUS, SYMPHONY X, EVERGRAY or HELLOWEEN. After a soft, electronic intro, opener "Puppet of Lie" sets the mood, tone and sound of the record, making it clear it's no coincidence this band was named after a SYMPHONY X song. "The Dark Embrace" is mostly a Power Metal album, in spite of Prog-tingled meandering and song structures. In fact, "Puppet of Lie" as well as many of the songs in the record feel stronger when they stick to the Power Metal formula rather than introducing foreign elements.

The shifting song structures, with tempo and time signature changes, present in songs like the aforementioned opener, the title track or second-to-last track, "A Warm Embrace", feel forced and baffling at worst, and unnecessary at best. All songs have great, anthemic choruses, anchored in strong melodies. The musicianship is actually skilful and notable; execution is certainly not the problem. Guitars soar, drums pound, vocals lines get to be memorable even if a little too run-of-the-mill. The songwriting is the issue here. Especially because there are great ideas that get lost by putting them all together, like mixing different flavours on a blender. "A Warm Embrace" has a beautiful electric piano section that feels right out of an 80's ballad and happens to be a reprise of a lovely coda the title track has, but it gets abruptly introduced in the middle of the song, after hyperactive tempo changes in between verses and choruses. The song ends up feeling overcrowded.

The title track has a borderline Metalcore-ish breakdown that comes out of nowhere, and never really gets to justify its presence on the song, while the effects used on the drums here and there help build a frantic vibe, but never get to resolve into something in particular. When the band sticks to the formula, such as in the melodramatic and layered "The Defeat", the Speed Metal influenced "The Emperor" (the rhythm section truly shines in this song, the drumming is impeccable), or the power ballad "Honor and Sorrow" (the most emotional song on the record), it shows how talented they are. It also shows they truly know how to write a damned chorus, catchy melodies and simply fun stuff. "Honor and Sorrow" captivates you and it is easy to imagine it being redone as an unplugged track, carrying a grungy vibe with it, especially when listening to its wonderful acoustic outro. It even has a gorgeous New Wave-inspired middle section, with reverb-laden guitars, that led into a shredding solo.

The closest the record gets to adeptly fusing the Prog Metal elements with its Power Metal style, is on "Revenge of Morpheus". It's one of the heaviest songs on "The Dark Embrace", having an ominous presence with spoken word sections. Being very anthemic and theatrical in nature, it has a couple of tempo changes that never feel clunky. The brief acoustic-led passage around the three-minute mark aptly bridges both halves of the song. "A New Beginning" is little more than filler, in the form of an electronic interlude that still sounds vaguely interesting. It could be a minute shorter, probably. The STRATOVARIUS cover of "Hunting High and Low" that closes the album adds little to the original besides its more modern production, but still displays the band's strengths and makes for an interesting end to an uneven record.

"The Dark Embrace" is a frustrating album. There is a lot to like here, and even when the band isn't making any ground-breaking music here, when they focus into playing to their strengths, the results are simply entertaining. A more dynamic and less muddied mix, especially on the bass end of things, could breathe more life into the record. The basslines get hard to distinguish at various points, hurting the depth of the music.

6 / 10

Had Potential








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"The Dark Embrace" Track-listing:

1. Puppet of Lie
2. The Defeat
3. Alone
4. The Dark Embrace
5. Honor and Sorrow
6. The Emperor
7. A New Beginning
8. Revenge of Morpheus
9. A Warm Embrace
10. Hunting High and Low

Walls of Babylon Lineup:

Valerio Gaoni - Vox
Fabiano Pietrini - Guitar
Francesco Pellegrini - Lead guitar
Matteo Carovana - Bass
Marco Barbarossa - Drums

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