There aren’t all too many famous metal bands coming out of Bulgaria. The only one I could think of, however, is one of the most underrated progressive metal bands ever – Pantommind, which split up earlier this year (but has one more album to release posthumously). Recently, however, I’ve discovered another excellent Bulgarian band. Ivory Twilight is a symphonic power metal band hailing from Plovdiv that has been around since 2003, and has finally released its first full length release, Седем, (which means “Seven” in Bulgarian) ten years later.
The three worst things about this release are quite evident. First of all, we have truly awful cover artwork: a gothic prostitute disguised as Little Red Riding Hood holding a mask reminding me of my old Latin teacher at high school, and standing in a landscape inspired by the works of Salvador Dali. Next: we have rather bad production that doesn’t fit the elaborate music. The record also includes many out-of-tune vocals. I’m not sure if this is due to the cheap production or the lack of talent of the three vocalists, but the first two songs sound especially unclean. The song writing is very good, but these two tracks are hard to sit through due to the sub-mediocre vocals. I have to forgive this otherwise promising band, because this is a self-released effort. Once you have been through the first couple of songs, you will discover a passionate and sophisticated symphonic metal record with incredibly high potential.
“Безсмъртни” is the first song to feature two audibly distinctive female vocalists. One delivers a grounded and powerful performance, while the other impresses with well done operatic vocals. The calm male singer gives the song a more alternative rock or goth-rock touch. For the very first time, the vocals fit very well and don’t sound out of place. The dreamy guitar play and the appeasing keyboards create a very unique atmosphere on this track.
From this point on, Ivory Twilight delivers one great song after the other. “Вятър” offers another great combination of powerful singing. The highlights of this song are a few audible bass guitar passages, the enchanting piano melodies (reminding me slightly of Helloween’s “If I Could Fly”), and the strong chorus. “Прощално” is a powerful ballad with an emotional outburst towards the end where soaring violin samples meet gripping narrative passages and gracious female vocals. Fans of early Nightwish can’t get around a song like this.
If I had to describe the record in one word, it would be “diversity”. Three vocalists, two guitar players, a bassist, and a keyboard player deliver a dynamic firework of creativity. From acoustic guitar driven fairy ballads such as “Самодива” to potential single candidates in the form of mid-tempo anthems performed in English (like the diversified “Angel Master”), and the dark and catchy gothic rock closer “Killing Me After” the band never fails to at least surprise, and delivers at the highest song writing level.
The hidden masterpiece on the album is the apocalyptic “Simphonious Orgasmus”, with its outstanding atmospheric keyboard work varying from cinematic sounds to electronic elements, the engaging guitar riffs, and the dramatic female vocals that don’t require any male backup. The song is a little bit over the top and theatrical, but this touch of madness adds an unpredictable progressive note to the song that I like a lot. As the title suggests, you also end up hearing a few orgasmic sounds, but in a more subtle way than Turisas recently provided. This song might sound odd at first try, but I’m sure it will grow on you even though I appreciated it at first listen.
I’m sure this kind of record won’t appeal to everybody. Some people might have some problems with the weak production. Others might argue that three vocalists are muddying the waters. Purists might complain about the massive use of keyboards, though I feel they have been organically integrated into the sound. Other people might not appreciate the high degree of diversity and think this album overwhelming. To my ears, the mixture sounds excellent, and never gets boring. This is a record to discover over and over again. It’s filled with rich details and it’s experimental, but the songs are very catchy no matter if you listen to those in English or Bulgarian ones. This album is intriguing enough to make you forget its technical flaws. Ivory Twilight are not just another Nightwish clone, but a unique, sophisticated, and quite hard to categorize after all. I hope this band will get an international record deal and some credit for their great debut that they have been working on for so long. Try to get in touch with the band and get your hands on this album.