In 2008 the German outfit Dorian Opera released their debut album No Secrets. The album showed a band that was able to produce fantastic prog metal in the vein of Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery and Symphony X. In the interview I had with keyboardist Andrew Roussak (see interview) in 2010, he already told me about their second album Crusade 1212 that has now been released recently. Roussak explained that it would become a thematic album and not just a collection of songs like No Secrets. The new album deals with the so-called Children's Crusade, a medieval historical event or legend that is believed to have taken place in the year 1212. However, there's still no historical consensus about it, because the movement was neither supported by the church, nor by the nobility and the available historical sources are rather poor.
According to the traditional version, thousands of children from France and Germany, led by two self-proclaimed prophets, tried to reach the Holy Land in order to win back Jerusalem from the Muslims. They wanted to do this by peaceful means and without the use of weapons, but most of them had frozen to death while crossing the Alps. The others were sold to slavery by two merchants from Marseilles. The dramatic story is told from the perspective of two participants, a male and a female. So, for this huge concept they asked Steven The Axe (Solemmity) and Alexandra Goess to sing the story line.
The album opens with a fantastic instrumental piece. On Ouverture 1212 it's clear that all musicians master their instruments. Joe Eisenburger (bass), Harry Reischmann (drums), Oliver Weislogel (guitar) and Andrew Roussak create music that can best be labeled as very aggressive power metal. At the same time they provide for a delicate progressive rock sound. The overture turns into a fabulous prog hymn, especially when Roussak plays on the grand piano and Weislogel performs some melodic parts on the electric guitar. However, as soon as Steven The Axe takes the lead on Soldier Of Fortune I realized that his voice doesn't suit the music. His way of singing is too theatrical and made me think about the Italian lead singers that sing the same kind of Hollywood metal style. His German accent doesn't provide the music with bonus points either. Thank goodness, the song is saved by the fantastic playing of Roussak and Weislogel and luckily the female vocals by Alexandra Goess sound very professional lifting the music to a higher level.
Throughout the album the male vocals seem to be the weakest part, although the compositions are just marvellous containing excellent solos on the guitar and the keyboards. The classical background of Andrew Roussak can be heard on almost all tracks. It's just amazing to hear him playing the piano, organ and synthesizers. In addition Oliver Weislogel is not only a guitarist who plays nasty metal parts on his instrument, he also masters and enjoys playing the acoustic guitar, for example on Two Hearts. I think the second instrumental piece Crusade is the musical highlight on the album. Here, everything falls in place. The synthesizer and electric guitar solos are really outstanding. Especially in the second part when the drum machine joins in, the track gets very atmospheric. The entire musical concept of Crusade 1212 has been greatly created and this applies for the CD-package as well. The fantasy cover looks stunning, the booklet contains all the lyrics, the story line is excellently explained and all the band members are very well photographed.
In comparison to the debut, Dorian Opera made a major step forward with Crusade 1212. Without doubt the band equals the best international acts that perform the same kind of prog metal. It would be a good idea if bands as Dream Theater, Symphony X or Kamelot take them on tour as a support act, so more people will get familiar with the fabulous music of Dorian Opera. However, even albums containing strong compositions sometimes suffer from elements that could have been done better. In this case I refer to the male lead vocals. I didn't enjoy them on this disc, but even a band as Dream Theater has these problems. Quite often lead singer James LaBrie gets negative remarks while the other musicians are acclaimed for their outstanding musicianship. In a way the same applies for Crusade 1212 and it surely had some effect on my final judgment. It still gets a high rating, but it could have been higher, if only...
****- Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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