It is with a touch of excitement that I sit down to review The Calling, the new offering from ambitious musical project The Dark Horde.
After a couple of interviews with the brains trust behind the project and being privy to some inside information, The Calling quickly became a musical enigma to my active mind, and I have been craving the time to savour the album in its entirety.
To set the scene a touch, The Calling is somewhat of a theatrical metal opera, introducing listeners to the tale of The Dark Horde and its wonderful array of characters and musicians.
The only thing I really know is to expect a lot of narration punctuating the musical pieces, and that is exactly what greets me in the first track Introduction.
A voice – barely a whisper yet still commanding respect – sets The Calling in motion and eerily tells us in no uncertain manner that his life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected and that in darkness we can perhaps find salvation.
The music score in the background is subtle, yet engaging, and already it feels like The Calling is going to be epic beyond comprehension.
Mask soon takes over with an ambient intro both haunting and beautiful at the same time. It builds gradually before the instruments kick in and all of a sudden I feel my head begin to move in time with the music before vocalist Danny Cecati (Wicked Smile) roars into life, soaring above the chaos and uncertainty with a beautifully operatic yet still metal as fuck vocal delivery that is offset by sporadic words of knowledge from the narrator Kevin Powe that only serves as a temporary respite before Cecati again takes centre stage, and does so with style.
Childhood again begins with Powe dictating proceedings over an ominous score, the mostly monotone delivery somehow soothing yet still dripping menace.
This song feels like it has major importance in the overall scheme of things, talking about, of course, a child and his descent into The Calling.
I should point out here that Andrew ‘Brewin’ Drage, who orchestrated and masterminded the whole project, has also released The Calling in its entirety as visual lyrical video content on YouTube, with the images a haunting indictment of the story as it unfolds.
Victim quickly follows, with Cecati again return to dictating proceedings, but it would be remiss of me to not mention the assorted groups of musicians assembled from this country and abroad that are the true lifeblood of The Calling.
Shaun Farrugia from In Malice’s Wake also provides vocals throughout, while the important and well-rounded musical compositions are provided by Hanny Mohamed, Black Majesty and Logan Jacobs.
Therapy reveals more of the storyline, piecing together the components even more, while still not giving away enough of the mystery to allow you to jump to conclusions.
The Calling is definitely an album best served by repeat and attentive listens – particular the first couple of times – but is also atmospheric enough to warrant a casual listen. The songs themselves are beautifully crafted and not reliant on the narrative, although it may take a few listens to be able to disengage yourself from all aspects of the production.
Memory sees more of the vocal delivery punctuated by narrative, but this time it’s almost as if the narrator is joining in with the song rather than revealing the story behind it. It makes for a nice change and is testament to the attention to detail obviously pursued by Brewin.
Destiny is another spoken word piece to bring you up to date with happenings in The Calling, a subtle piano score underlying the growing urgency in Powe’s information.
You can almost feel the winds swirling around you as the atmospherics kick in, the foreboding beat of drums menacing in the background and almost alerting you to impending danger.
Puppet starts with what sounds like didgeridoo sounds in the background that soon give way to solo vocal delivery offset by swirling narration that although almost inaudible is still a menacing undertone.
About halfway through the song explodes to life amid a wall of drums and guitars, demonic vocals adding to the intensity and impact of the tune before once more regressing to the soft, yet commanding narrative and ensuring you are prepared for the final act of The Calling.
Xenogenesis continues the narrative over an imposing score, which rises and falls with the storyline and draws you even further into the tale, which is by now starting to take shape.
Rebirth shows a softer side to the vocals, building in tempo and intensity and taking you further into the world created by The Dark Horde before Slaughter roars to life amid dualling guitars and metal riffs that offer another dimension to the sonic structure.
Cecati soars above everything, the angst and suffering in his voice an obvious ode to the feelings of the titular character as his journey draws closer to its conclusion.
Album closer Awakening has a running time of just under ten minutes, and opens with Powe almost justifying his actions past and present while still remaining trapped by the unseen force of nature that permeates through the album.
The song musically is pretty much a summation of all of the best bits from the previous 11 tracks, allowing each of the contributing musicians their opportunity to leave their stamp on The Calling – not that they need to.
The Calling is an album that can be listened to and enjoyed on a number of levels, and working your way through each to find your preferred version is sure to be half the fun.
If I had to sum up The Calling in one word, it would be epic.
But one word couldn’t possibly do The Calling justice.
Listen at your own peril, for you may be enchanted beyond salvation.
Watch the entire album on lyric video here https://www.thebrewin.com/works/the-calling