From time to time, "incognito projects" appear on the scene, that is, bands whose members hide their real names and appearance. In this regard, we can recall such bands as Gorillaz, Ghost and Batushka. The list can be endless. Usually, after some time, the identities of band members become somehow known to the audience if the project manages to exist long enough and acquire its own fan base. The newly minted quintet called Division:Dark became one of such bands. We will not try to guess who can be hiding under the "monks` habits" of musicians who have taken biblical names as pseudonyms: Ezekiel, Abel, Judas, Aaron and Nathan, but we can still say a few things with a fairly high degree of probability. Firstly, the musicians are clearly not newbies and, most likely, they are well-known by the audience thanks to their participation in other bands. Secondly, taking into account the list of the guest vocalists (and there are 17 people – just think of it!), it can be assumed that the band comes from the German-speaking zone of Europe. Of course, the names of the guest vocalists themselves can arouse increased interest among a pretty wide circle of fans of completely different genres - from Melodic Death Metal to the Synth Gothic scene, and I will definitely tell a little about each "voice" on the album, but we will try to focus on the music and understand , whether Division:Dark offers some new music concept or uses some familiar stylistic clichés.
The album opens with the composition called "Eve", performed together with the vocalist (and since 2019 the only member) of the Spanish power metal band Amadeus. I don’t know Spanish, so I can’t evaluate and convey the lyrical part and the message, but I really liked the composition of the song. By the way, as for the lyrics: you can hear songs in 5 languages on "Prophecy"! I won't be surprised if the band's next album is called "Babylonian Pandemonium". But let's come back to the material of the album. If "Eve" is close to the canons of Power Metal, then the next track - "Stärker als Gott" ("Stronger than God'') - can be attributed more to Modern/Industrial Metal. The vocal part here was brilliantly performed by Eric Fish (Subway to Sally) and not so brilliantly by Anna Lux. But don`t go apeshit! Conceptually, of course, the duet of male and female vocals is absolutely justified here, but Anna Lux is simply not on the list of my favorite vocalists. As for the message of the song, its title reminds me of a kind of clickbait, because there is nothing said of any "challenge to God' here. And the meaning of the lyrics is perfectly revealed by the chorus, which sings: "Deine Liebe, sie macht mich stärker als Gott" ("Your love makes me stronger than God") and boils down to the thesis of "all-conquering love". By the way this track was released by the band as the first single and, in my opinion, did not fail. In general, Eric Fish is a win-win option, I must say.
The next track on the album called "Twisted Game" was its another single, where the extreme vocals and clean parts were performed by Vicky Psarakis from the Canadian band called The Agonist. And here we have the purest European-school Modern Metal. Thus, with the first three songs, Division:Dark covered quite a large layer of fans of different styles of metal scene. But, of course, this is only the beginning, because further a duet with Lex from Megaherz, who, with his recognizable raspy baritone, will inspire faith in the band and NDH fans, is waiting for a listener. In addition to that, the composition "Bevor wir wieder Asche sind" ("Until we turn to dust again") can hardly be attributed to NDH stylistically, but the song does not get worse from that. Moreover, I find it one of the best on the record along with "Stärker als Gott" and the song "(They're All) Hypocrites". And perhaps, the latter one is the closest to what can be described as Industrial Metal on the album. It was especially nice to hear the vocals of Chris Pohl (Blutengel) in such an arrangement. If my memory doesn't fail me, the last time we heard Chris on the previous Erdling album accompanied by heavy guitars. But personally, "(They're All) Hypocrites" seems to me more bright and interesting than the duet with Erdling, but this, of course, is a matter of taste. Then the guys from Division:Dark bring us back to the "power metal vibe" again with the self-titled track, performed together with the vocalist of the German Power Metal band Orden Ogan. And again, I have to praise the guys for their excellent mimicking of the vocalist's singing style and excellent melody, quite typical for the genre, but memorable nonetheless.
Well, by the middle of the record, the band decided to give a listener a break and offer him to listen to the ballad "Der Letzte Tanz" ("The Last Dance"), performed by the duet of Dino Serci and Michael Drau (Otto Dix). Dino may be known to the audience by the synth-gothic project Schwarzschild, and more recently also by Scheinheilig, a cover band of Unheilig. And Michael Drau is well known to all Russian-speaking lovers of the dark scene. Remarkably, Drau performs his part in Russian and, by the way, performs it very well. I have another interesting observation regarding this song. Melodically, "Der Letzte Tanz" stubbornly reminds me of the song by Knorkator – "Ein Liebeslied"… Listen to it; you might also get the analogy.
Anyway, after a lyrical digression, it would be logical to put another smash-hit track, and it would be in its place. Of course, this is about "Still meinen Durst" ("Quench My Thirst"), for which the band recently released a clip, from which it became clear that Frank Herzig (Schattenmann) and Mikki Chixx (Stoneman) should drink less beer and eat fewer sausages... And the song is very corky, quite in the spirit of the "new wave of NDH", although I probably would not call it one the main hits of the album. But Mickey's "growling" delivers, whatever you say. On the next track – "The Art in Artificial" - two "solid" men are replaced by Scarlet Dorn, which I would call one of the main discoveries of Chris Harms. The girl has a very pleasant, recognizable, beautiful, deep vocal, which adorns absolutely any composition. By the way, in a duet with Fish, she would have looked much more interesting than Anna Lux (in my humble opinion). In general, the entire ending of the album is completely "occupied" by female vocalists. For example, we can hear the extreme and clean vocals of Steffi Stuber in the track called "Destination". To be honest, this name didn’t mean anything to me, so I had to do a little research, and now I know that Steffi is one of the "alternative" participants in the Voice of Germany TV project. There Steffi performed a song by Lamb of God. In addition to that, the girl uploads vocal covers of other famous extreme metal bands on her Youtube channel. I don't know if she is currently in any band as a permanent vocalist, but if not, the musicians should definitely pay attention to her. Again, I would not mark the song itself as something special. This is a high-quality Modern Metal track, but you can say that about any track on the album.
The next track which is called "Promise" offers us another duet, this time it's a female one, and the song is performed in Japanese and ENG. Compositionally, "Promise" does not represent anything interesting, but Saeko (vocalist of the international power metal band of the same name) and Seraina Telli (ex-vocalist of Burning Witches) complement each other perfectly, and the Japanese melody adds a certain charm to the song, so the overall vibe is very nice. The album continues with the song called "Bound Together", featuring Anna Murphy, former Eluveitie vocalist, who currently sings in Cellar Darling. Stylistically, "Bound Together" is very similar to the later works of Within Temptation, which is cool. That is, it is not the fact of stylistic proximity that is cool, but the way it is implemented within the song itself. Undoubtedly, this track is one of the brightest "female" compositions of the album with a powerful riff, explosive chorus, almost dance percussion and suitable electronic sounds. Well, for last, the band left a collaboration with Anneke van Giersbergen, which, I hope, does not need a separate introduction. Although I have never been a fan of The Gathering and Anneke's solo work, I have great respect for her work. And the way her vocals fit into the music of Division:Dark did not leave me indifferent and even caused some associations with Akira Yamaoka's soundtracks. For me, "Wrong" was the icing on the cake for this album.
And now it's time to draw some conclusions.
First of all, I would like to say that Division:Dark, whoever they are, gave us an amazing collaboration project of a very high quality. I think many will agree with me that the band has become one of the main discoveries in the genre this year. It remains to be understood what genre. The band members themselves attribute their band to Industrial Metal, but in fact, Division:Dark are typical representatives of Modern Metal. I do not think that this will somehow affect the perception of their music by the audience, but, as they say, "just to make it clear". The guys didn’t bring anything fundamentally new to the genre, but they united many interesting names "under one roof". And in this regard, I remembered a recent experiment made by Lord of the Lost with the track "Viva Vendetta", where different vocalists performed their lyrics to the same track, and simply because of the specific features of the vocals and the melodic patterns used by each vocalist, it sometimes seemed that those were really different songs. Same with "Prophecy". The album seems to be much more diverse due to the many bright, unlike voices, while the expressive means and musical patterns do not change much from track to track. This is a very interesting effect, which has a downside. Due to such saturation with various melodies, timbres and languages, the album starts to look like a compilation, rather than a holistic work. Anyway, I will say that again – this is potentially the brightest debut of the year in Modern Metal, and I give this release a confident 8 out of 10.