Diabolical Masquerade was a solo project of Anders Nyström (Katatonia – Bloodbath) that started in 1993 and ended in 2001 after 4 released albums. The project itself was black metal oriented with avant-garde, (Swedish) death and thrash metal influences, which was sort of a anger outlet for Anders when Katatonia changed their musical direction to mellower grounds, as he expressed in an interview with MetalTerus.com: “I’ve got this great hunger to perform twisted and aggressive music and the only way to still that hunger is to fool around with something like Diabolical Masquerade.”
Death’s Design || 20 movements
“Death’s Design” is Diabolical Masquerade’s final and most experimental album (featuring Dan Swanö and several other contributors): 20 movements, 61 songs and 40+ minutes of top-notch soundtrack material. This is without a doubt his most praised release and an essential peak in both metal and experimental music.
The release is rumored to be a soundtrack for a movie that never saw the light of day. As one would expect here, the songs are short and the album shouldn’t be listened to in shuffle mode.
A nice suggestion I picked up while circling through fans’ feedback on this release is to use a software to join all the songs into one big 43 minute song. I think that’s quite handy since some music players tend to “cut” the sound when moving from one song to another and an album like this wouldn’t sound as coherent as it’s supposed to.
Regarding the storyline of the album, one can definitely say that there’s a “stalker” mood going on, as if death itself is silently following you closely, waiting to jump you. Whenever “he” gets too close, the music goes into full aggression mode and when “he” seems to go back to “stealth mode”, out come the ambient keyboards led by Swanö with spinning clocks and vile haunting whispers.
There are numerous styles used in these 20 “extreme” movements, the major one being symphonic/melodic black/death metal with the downtuned riffs, dissonant chords, furious drumming and growled vocals. The best examples of such elements are found in the 3rd and 4th movements with songs such as “… And Don’t Ever Listen To What It Says”, “Revelation of The Puzzle”, “Panic in the Heart” and “Still Coming At You”.
Another frequently used musical style is folk. That is pretty evident from songs such as “Not of Flesh, Not of Blood”, “The River in Space” and “A Soulflight Back to Life” from the 9th and 19th movements.
What’s also noticeable is the use of percussion in songs like “Possession of the Voodoo Party”, “Returning to Haared El Chamon” and others from the 8th, 16th and 18th movements (the latter one being my favorite of all 20 movements). It really sounds brilliant with the epic orchestration and death metal riffs in songs like “Life Eater” and “The Pulze”, two of the most intense songs here.
In addition, I got to point out the impressive jazz guitar on “Overlooked Parts” from the 11th movement, a highly interesting movement with clean guitars, atmospheric ambiance and additional piano on “Fleeing from Town”.
I also liked this “alternating songs” trick which Anders used in a couple of movements (7th and 18th): it’s when 2 songs are divided into 2 parts each, parts 1 and 2 of the 1st song are respectively the 1st/3rd tracks of the movement and parts 1 and 2 of the 2nd song are respectively the 2nd/4th tracks. This enhances the whole soundtrack experience by stressing a recurring motif throughout the whole storyline.
Finally, “Death’s Design” is metal music experimenting without losing the metal touch itself. It’s quite disappointing that there was no movie to complement this release, but it definitely doesn’t need it anyway: a genuine standalone metal release.