A haunting thrill
Ava Inferi are an intriguing female led gothic doom metal band that stay within the gloomy boundaries of the genre, but try to do things a little differently compared to so many other bands. Rather than try to be overly symphonic and operatic, Ava Inferi have been known to create a nightmarish atmosphere through haunting layered vocals, mournful guitar chords and thick drumming, occasional piano and sample voice clips, at a slow, dragging pace that doesn't get boring. Usually an epic is thrown in for good measure, but most of the music throughout their career is pretty well balanced time-wise. And 'Onyx’, the simply titled album that carries more in weight of the music than the title (they haven't put down such simplicity since their debut when it came to words), continues that tradition that gravitates fans so easily to the music.
The opening track is thick, heavy and distorted in the vein of Paradise Lost, but Ava make use amongst the angry chords and plodding drums for a symphonic backdrop that is equally depressing and more haunting while not being overdone. The lead vocalist has a low, crooning voice that can be raised a few pitches higher, but overall she is a unique gem that only enhances the music, if not making the music. Without her voice this would probably be just another doom metal band (although the instrumental aspects would be a whole new unique story). The only downside to "Onxy" is that the chorus/opening verse tends to repeat itself a lot, but there is plenty going on in this track regarding the cackling witch samples and just the sheer, emotional weight of the guitars altogether. Other tracks like "The Portal" tend to just burn right through without much in the way of pauses and going from heavy to soft, but the guitar work is excellent, especially in the melody department where the lead guitar just puts down some fantastic notes/riffs.
"Ghostlights" is when a heavy use of spoken word clips/samples begin to get used. Sometimes they are random and sometimes very effective. But, as a whole, the album seems to suddenly just be saturated with them song after song and it kind of takes away from the variety of the music. The track "Ghostlights" itself is very haunting to start out with, with the whistling in the background before the chords start up, but then slowly fades for the better, melodic notes that were prevalent through earlier tracks during the quieter moments. "Majesty" is heavily loaded with guitar moments, but at the same time it is so thick that the vocals seem to be faded (perhaps on purpose to make them more mysterious?). "The Heathen Island" is the monster epic for the album and does not disappoint in keeping audiences interested in the way it goes from soft tapping drums matched with the vocals to the more depressing, typical guitar passages that resemble My Dying Bride. At some point though, the spoken word sample appears halfway though and it just seems to ruin the music/ mood entirely.
"By Candlelight and Mirrors" has a bit of a different taste to it as the guitars are more energetic and almost delightful, which betrays the whole sense of depression that the album conveys so far. Of course, all hope flees with the closer "Venice in Fog" appears, which is a strong track, but at the same time possibly the most generic one as it follows the traditions of doom metal far too closely along the lines of music structure with Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, or even Virgin Black. Still, 'Onyx' is one fantastic album that will continue to make Ava Inferi a standout band in the doom/gothic metal genre simply because of the great atmosphere that the band puts on through how the instruments and vocals work together. It stays away from the typical 'beauty and beast' style, or the over-use of keyboards/ violins/ piano, and focuses more on great melodic sections of guitars, and even excited sections that may seem contrary, but fans won't be able to help themselves but enjoy it anyway, doomers or not.
(Season of Mist/Riot! Entertainment)