Requiem Eternam – Medieval Times

15/12/2008 § Leave a comment

Artist: Requiem Eternam
Title: Medieval Times
Label: BloodDivine Records
Genre: Medieval/Neofolk

Track Listing:

01 Medieval Times
02 Heart of Knight
03 In the Name of God
04 Terrible Battle
05 The Great King
06 The Last Castle
07 Dreams for the Sky

Requiem Eternam [shouldn’t that be Requiem Aeternum?] is a two-person project focussed on creating medieval music with a religious theme. Phil X, the multifunction keyboardist and songwriter, has crafted this joyous septet “to serve his Lord Jesus-Christ through his art” so obviously Phil’s got an agenda that he needs to get across. Musically though, Requiem Eternam’s sound is very much in the vein of Dargaard with hints of neofolk such as you’d find in The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath the Cloud. It’s all dark, sinister, introspective stuff that we’ve heard before but with a highly Christian twist which supposedly lends it more weight and validity.

As good as the intentions are behind the music though, the shortcomings of Medieval Times become apparent from when the first note squeaks itself through your speakers. Before this, actually. Unsheathing this CD from the rest of the promo pack, I was greeted with artwork that looks like it’s been created using Clip Art in Windows 95. The low-res castles, armour and medieval imagery have been savagely thrust onto the CD panels with no finesse or imagination and may as well have been photocopied down a newsagents for 5p per sheet. And this is a microcosmic representation of the album in its entirety – the intention behind it is so clear and, to a point, enviable, but the execution is dreadful. I love medieval themes and music but they can tread a slender line between epic, elegant wonder and full-on naffness, and Medieval Times has set up camp firmly on the latter half of the divide.

The formula for songwriting here is pretty straightforward. You write one medieval-sounding folk passage and play it as often as the tempo will allow in a four and half minute song. You can also stick in samples from Hollywood films [such as Braveheart]; crows’ caws and battle sounds in order to perfect the medieval finish. If it sounds a bit hackneyed that’s because it is: the song elements have been chosen with such cliché and lack of thought that each of the seven numbers is devoid of heart and emotion as a result. They each come across as little more than fumbled musical mosaics which is surprising considering the author’s clear dedication to their theme, temporally and religiously.

If there’s one saving grace that the album possesses, it’s the female vocals which are done a beautiful service by the mysteriously named Claudia. The sleevenotes mention that she’s part of the Choir Santo Domingo and it’s easy to see why: each note is sung with a smooth, velvety grace in spite of being hammered with reverb, and it does lend an uplifting edge to the album. The reverb isn’t the only thing to note on the sound production though: the mastering is some of the shoddiest I’ve come across with loud sections ending up as inaudible fuzz, and some of the synth effects are so shamelessly cheesy that they would be quite happy in the soundtrack of a Nintendo game.

It’s very clear to see exactly what Medieval Times should have been – and what it wants to be – but it’s nowhere near the mark. It’s like the offcuts that bands such as Artesia and Dark Sanctuary would leave out of their music, and as a result it just ends up feeling like the runt of a very large litter that’s destined to be locked in a shed and fed scraps, huddling near any cracks of light for recognition. There is some potential here but it’s very minor and when there are other bands doing it with far more class and character, attempts like this just don’t cut it.

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