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Black Vanity

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Album Review

Fresh off the band's critically and fan-acclaimed second album, Godless Beauty, Sweden's Cemetary was determined to carry on experimenting with different musical styles and incorporating new sonic elements into its ever-evolving post-death metal sound. Yet, unlike the group's compatriots Tiamat and Opeth, who sought to expand heavy metal's boundaries by clashing together harsh dynamic contrasts (often quite successfully, it must be said), Cemetary, and particularly main man Mathias Lodmalm, seemed bent on pursuing a more restrained, organic path of development. True to this credo, 1994's Black Vanity remained true to the slower-paced, doom metal trajectory initiated so successfully a year earlier (see the creeping "Ebony Rain"), while simultaneously taking greater chances to incorporate dark, melancholy melodies into the mix (with the acoustic guitar-led "Hunger of the Innocent"). Also, Lodmalm wisely decided to retire his death growl for good, and his lyrics clearly eschewed the obvious demonic subject matter for no less morose but better-informed subjects of depression. Conversely, the singer/guitarist sounded somewhat tentative, even bored with his work at times, and the album fails to truly ignite into action until the energetic highlight "Scarecrow," which boasts a pounding drumbeat and a surprisingly straightforward arrangement of the traditional rock & roll variety. This song provided the key to Cemetary's future endeavors, and in the oscillating figure and gothic accents of the superlative "Sweet Tragedy," which arrives a few songs later, Black Vanity scored its first bona fide classic for the ages. Buoyed by this momentum, the album closes strongly with the beautifully arranged "Out in Sand" and the driving power of "Rosemary Taste the Sky." Taken as a whole, Black Vanity may fall somewhat short of its predecessor in terms of absolutely cohesive songwriting (no thanks to the unbearably dull plodding of "Last Departure/Serpentine Parade"), but it nevertheless served as a bridge to what was to come next, 1996's very impressive Sundown.


Formed: 1991

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s

After bowing in 1992 with the straightforward death metal album An Evil Shade of Grey, the Swedish band Cemetary began tinkering with the genre on 1993's Goddess Beauty, incorporating both '70s rock and goth rock into the mix. Before recording 1994's Black Vanity, vocalist and guitarist Mathias Lodmalm dismissed the rest of the band, opting to produce the album on his own; the result pushed Cemetary further into the gothic realm. The transformation into a gothic metal band was complete with the 1996...
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Black Vanity, Cemetary
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