REVIEW: Dark Embrace – “Bitter End”

By Manda L. Earp

Chain Border

Bitter EndTo be honest, at first I had very low expectations for Dark Embrace’s second demo, Bitter End, before even listening to their music. Their demo came to me in a plain jewel case with no inside pamphlet and the CD itself is a blank gray Medianca 80 minute disc with the words “Dark Embrace: Bitter End” scrawled across the front in heavy black handwriting. I actually remember rolling my eyes as I fed the disc into my RealOne Player on my computer, hoping the packaging was NOT an indication of the type of music that I would get to hear.

And, as it turned out, I was wrong about everything. Bitter End is a wonderfully dark, heavy, and haunted 19-minute demo, and I loved every second of it.

Formed in Spain in June 2000, Dark Embrace started as a Black Metal band who eventually, with the release of their first demo in May 2001, incorporated Goth and Death Metal into their repertoire. Comprised of members Oscar Asunder (voice, cello), Anaea (bass), Alvaro (drums), Damien Stillborn (keyboards), and Caesar Dark Emperor (guitar), Dark Embrace have put together a strong, thrashing, Gothic pleasure in the unnamed tracks of Bitter End.

Track One is a minute-long, vocal-free introduction into what the group’s sound has to offer and is mysteriously woven together with keyboards and cello. The instrumentation is foreboding and haunting, giving the feeling of approaching the stairs of a haunted house with trepidation; that something evil is lurking around the corner, watching, as you shake and tremble your way into uncertain new territory.

The second song on the Bitter End demo opens with intense, Metallica-esque instrumentation and a very nice, throaty grunt. However, when lead singer Asunder began to sing, my heart dropped. His voice, though dark, just didn’t seem to fit the tone of the song. But I waited, and was pleasantly surprised – about thirty seconds later, his voice dropped in pitch, going back to the throaty grunting sound heard at the beginning of the piece and I was in awe once again. The deeper, raspy sounds of his voice compliment the Gothic keyboard and the steady, driving drumming. Even when Asunder begins to sing regularly again a few second later, it doesn’t seem as bad knowing that he will go back to the raspy and bitter screaming. And this man can scream! Close to three minutes into this song, Asunder lets out a long, death-metal, piercing shriek, so shrill and intense that I found myself rewinding the song a few seconds back so that I could hear it again. Best of all, the beat changes about five minutes into the song, showing the versatility of technique that Dark Embrace, well, embraces, within this track. The only downfall to this second song is that it is just over seven minutes long, which is a bit lengthy for the average ADD-enhanced listener.

Track three is just as long, but just as worth it. Opening with an intense and truly creepy scream, Asunder sounds like a man in pain who was just severely pissed off. And, luckily, this song is void of actual “singing.” Most of the lyrics are screamed over top of the amazing and eclectic drumming, swirling guitars and dark keyboarding. This track is the type of music that you want to listen to Halloween night at an underground Goth club – in fact, the thought that came to my mind when I first heard this song was that it is like Phantom of the Opera for an insane and brooding group of Goths. And once again, as featured in track two, the instrumentation changes tempo at varying points in the song, making this track sound like a few different songs rolled into a seven minute display of evil and intense musicianship.

Track four – which, for better or for worse, repeats the phrase “this is the end” over and over again – is a three-minute apocalyptic pleasure. The muffled vocals make it a bit hard to understand, but honestly, no one cares. The screaming well makes up for it and the instrumentation is too powerful and majestic to overlook. If The Trans-Siberian Orchestra were to play the Star Wars Imperial March, then this is what their song would sound like. The guitar and bass are driving and steady, enough so that I could not stop nodding my head (or, I should admit, strongly head banging) to the rhythm, and while Asunder isn’t the strongest singer, the man can sure as hell let out a terrifying scream. The song fades out at its end, which doesn’t seem the appropriate way to end such an intense demo, but the fact still remains – this music, this demo, is good shit. It is powerful perfection, leaving the listener craving more.

Personally, I am dying for my next fix of Dark Embrace, and hope they come out with some new material in the near future. But for now, the four-song demo of haunting screams, piercing instrumentation, Gothic darkness, and death-metal intensity will remain in my CD player for a long time to come. I urge you all to listen to Dark Embrace’s music and join the addiction alongside of me.

Contact Information:
Dark Embrace
Post: PO Box 1348, C.P: 15080, A Coruna, Spain

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