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Italian bloodsuckers Theatres des Vampires are back and biting with their latest album, Candyland - set to be unleashed October 14th on Scarlet Records. This time it seems the vampire themes have been left behind, with the album being based on the concept of the eponymous children’s ward at the infamous Pennhurst Asylum. This release sees the departure of two members, the band’s main composer and keyboardist, Fabio Varesi as well as guitarist Stefan Benfanto. Only the latter has been replaced by guitarist Giorgio Ferrante, which is surprising as this is possibly the group’s most keyboard heavy release to-date.

The last studio material we heard from the vampire theatre came in the form of their ‘Cult of Lamia’ EP, which saw the band take a step back to their roots and embrace the atmospheric, extreme-metal influenced sound that made them famous. Many fans had hoped that their next full length instalment would be in a similar vein – however that’s not the case. Candyland is the most synth-heavy and modern-sounding record the band has ever released.

The first track ‘Morgana Effect’ opens with synth sounds and an electronic beat, before erupting into industrial metal style riffing – with slightly nu-metal leanings in the vein of Lacuna Coil. Scarlet’s voice is harsher than usual at first and it strikes immediately as one of the heaviest tracks the band has recorded in years. There’s a great guitar solo near the beginning of the song, and from then on the riffing can only be described as thunderous, showing off Ferrante’s skills straight away. It seems he may have injected the energy back into the band that had faded on the last couple of releases.

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‘Resurrection Mary’ follows, and again this track is brimming with energy. The riffing is strong, the drumming is powerful. The structure is laid out infectiously, yet it’s not too repetitive. Scarlet’s chorus “run mary run” combined with the male shouting “run” is a recipe that’s sure to get a lot of people pressing their repeat button for this song. The synth sounds compliment this sound nicely.

Third track ‘Delusional Denial’ is again very heavy. The chord progression here is stomping and uneasy, creating a sense of torment and distress which fits in with the perfectly with the album’s theme. At the same time as creating a dark atmosphere, they also manage to make it catchy. Even back in their black metal days, one of their strengths was hooking people and that’s something that remains true today.

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Up next is ‘Parasomnia’ which opens sounding like one of those “metal” bands the kids listen to these days. OK, I wouldn’t go that far, but it does lean in that direction. It’s not as strong as the first three tracks, and I’d say it’s the equivalent to ‘Le Grand Guignol’ from Moonlight Waltz, with a similar rhythm and structure.

The title track comes next. This one opens with eerie atmospheric sounds and a creepy child trying to sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. A twisted nursery rhyme through the eyes of a tormented child. The riffing is again very powerful and at times has some classic heavy metal vibes, while the piano melodies – although simple, prove very effective and remind me of the instrument’s use on ‘More’ by Sisters of Mercy.

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‘Your Ragdoll’ has to be the most infectious song on the album. Opening with a monster synth sound which intertwines with an equally powerful guitar. Again, it leans towards that “modern” metal sound, but this time it’s done right and it suits Scarlet’s unconventional voice surprisingly well.

If you’re more into symphonic sounds than electronic, fear not. Named after the operatic melodrama, ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ leans a lot more towards a classic gothic metal sound with it’s combination of wailing melancholy and emotional guitar solos.

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Theatres des Vampires. Eurodance. Yes, they went there. It happened. There’s no going back. If you don’t like synths, tough. What we have with ‘Photographic’ is a combination of the aforementioned 90s dance genre and gothic metal. It opens with a similar sound to ‘No Limits’ by 2 Unlimited. Add in some TDV style gothic metal riffing, Scarlet’s vocals and some classic hyperactive euro-melodies and the ultimate fusion of sound is created. This one is going to be stuck in my head a lot.

I’m also picking up some 90s dance vibes on the next track ‘Opium Shades’. I’m getting the impression that most of the band’s energy went into the first half of the album. What stands out on this track is the interaction between the drums and guitars, the rhythm is more impressive than anything they’ve done in years. Following that is ‘Seventh Room’ which stars guest vocals from Moonspell’s Fernando Ribeiro. It opens with melodic pianos before bursting into a full on metal sound.

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The final track ‘Autumn Leaves’ comes the closest to the outfit’s old sound, starting off with some gentle, emotive moonlight sonata style piano sounds. This is definitely a lot more gothic than the rest of the album. It gradually builds up to a dramatic film-score style climax. This is definitely one that fans of older material will enjoy more.

In summary. Hard to summarise. Not what I was expecting. Somewhat quirky, but I have quickly warmed to it. Some tracks are ultra-modern, while others lean towards a more traditional gothic metal sound. However, as a whole the album flows well as one cohesive piece. Although it is synth heavy, the guitar work is top notch, and not at all neglected, in fact, better than it’s been in years. The new guitarist is definitely a welcome addition to the band, as it is his work that gives Candyland its strength, flavouring the band a new edge and taking them a step forward in their continuing evolution. Let’s face it, the old Theatres des Vampires is never coming back and it’s not fair to compare them to a time when they were a completely different genre. What they’re doing now is hook-laden electro-gothic metal, and they’re extremely good at it – so judging on those terms this is an excellent album.

An emotive, high-energy electro-gothic opus. 9/10

About Jacob Ovington (9 Articles)
Dark music connoisseur and expert on all things gothic.

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