To Elysium
Dearest Vile

Here is a seven piece band from the Netherlands that is attempting to join Slovakia’s Thalarion and Seventh Moon as the top bands in the emotive doom/goth/death genre that uses female vocals to complement the male growl (the beauty and the beast effect). While this a decent album within that ever so cumbersome genre, Thalarion are still kings of the hill. The main downfall is simply To Elysium are too light and ear friendly, despite a very impressive early Nick Holmes type roar from Rien Doze; the rest of the music is an emotive flatline, and doesn’t convey the whole light versus dark atmosphere that a female/male combo should imbue.

Soprano beauty Esther de Vos does have a remarkable croon, but, in my opinion, it’s a couple of octaves too high, and rather than the duets coming across as a vocal conflict of emotions (as it should), they sound a little cheesy and overly operatic. Her voice reminded me of Visceral Evisceration’s early gothic hokey attempts; the voice is great but a little out of place. Add to the fact the actual songs very rarely reach the realms of aggressive or dynamic splendor, and the whole affair comes across as rather tame.

That’s not to say Dearest Vile is bad, ’cause the songs are decent – on the whole it’s entirely too light in structure. The only track that really opened up was “Seas of Starvation,” a track due to some rare aggressive blasting and sweeping keys, fully touches the atmospheric capabilities so important in this style. This song is what the genre is all about, and it shows that To Elysium are fully adept and getting this right. Unfortunately, the rest of the album remains steeped in a more bouncy and traditional gothic metal structures more akin to Dance Macabre and Alas. The guitars lack any real bite, but are hindered by songwriting that requires them to often meander and chug with riffs and solos that offer no real level of dark melody or ominous doom. The keys also rarely reach the majestic crescendos that are supposed to be the beautiful Ying to the guitar’s hostile Yang. They often tend to follow the guitar melodies with fairly predictable results, never really pulling the listener in with the necessary ambience required.

I guess my whole issue is with the lack of atmosphere. To Elysium are talented bunch, but I get the impression they are still trying to get the mix right. If you listen to the most obvious comparisons (Thalarion seem to be an easy choice), their songs ripple with a conflict between menacing and foreboding guitars and angelic innocence and beauty of female vocals and synths. The music has too much predictable gothic pop melodies, while the dual vocals (however good), simply seem to be vying for individual attention rather than complementing each other. “Bug,” “Chaossun,” “Than The Devil Herself” and others, while entertaining songs, are just to much like The Gathering’s Mandylion in appearance. And furthermore the songs sound awkward with Rein’s huge bellow.

I don’t mean to be harsh on these guys, but To Elysium is a doom/death/gothic metal act that is either intentionally or unintentionally lacking in the doom/death area. To Elysium need to either become more aggressive in their songwriting or allow Roze’s vocals to match the music. I think they have the talent to do either and be competent about it all, but focus is needed rather than this generic attempt to enter a genre of much higher standards.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
August 4th, 2002

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