Marco Grou, keyboardist for Derdian sees his power metal vision come to life in his project Magic Opera, releasing their first album The Golden Pentacle, a symphonic power metal concept work filled with strong performances and the epic overall feel one looks for in the genre.
For those not up on Italian power metal, Marco Grau and several members of Magic Opera hail from the Milan band Derdian, who have been around for at least 15 years from what I can tell. Others have said that Magic Opera sounds a bit like older Derdian, which is not surprising given the members involved, and if that is the case, I have yet another band I need to go and check out. The Golden Pentacle was mixed and mastered by Danilo Di Lorenzo at Moonhouse Recording Studio in Milan and while the overall mix is a bit too keyboard heavy for me, overall it is fitting for the genre, very clean with every instrument and layer of music easily heard and there is a lot musically to take in. Interestingly, the melodies take center stage in the mix with the keyboards and then the lead guitars and strings, and a bit in the background are the drums, rhythm guitar and bass which is a bit disappointing to me given the overall high quality musicianship, but this is more of a stylistic choice than anything.
The album starts out with the title track and some horses galloping accompanied by a tolling bell to set the overall tone and begin the story of the Kingdom of Amtork and the fate of King Leiber and his wizard Lord Kama. A lot of fantasy storytelling going on. For those completely new to this style/genre, think Trans-Siberian Orchestra but with a medieval fantasy story line. This of course, does a complete disservice to both bands but is the easiest comparison I can make. Most of the album is fairly fast tempo European power metal done very well with some great guitar solos, epic choruses and great vocals from Anton Darusso.
Many of the songs feature a great interplay between the keyboards and guitars that goes unnoticed at first but with more listens, becomes more and more impressive. When they are not in harmony, they support each other exceptionally well. Listening to the openings of “Keepers of the Night” and “Fight for the Victory” are great examples of this work and show the strengths of the band, not only musically, but also from an arrangement perspective. It is interesting to me that after the opening of “Fight for Victory” the guitars fade largely into the general mix allowing the keyboards and vocals to run much of the song. In this song, as in others on the album, I especially appreciate the guitar solos as they have that sense of restraint but near abandon so hard to convey. Many similar bands struggle to keep that tension in the guitar solos, either going too far or not far enough to meet the overall mood or tone of the song.
Songs like “Secret of the Sea” with the extensive chorus vocals in the beginning and lone piano interlude remind me a bit of Queen which makes the overall listening experience a bit interesting. Add in the almost gruff, whispered vocals, and the song definitely takes on that epic opera-like feel, which I’m not sure if I like or not. The album does feature a near ballad in “The Other Side”, which just doesn’t seem to work for me as it feels a bit dated, like a late 80’s metal ballad, even down to the guitar solo.
The next track, “The Other Side” brings back the faster tempos and the guitar and keyboard harmony in the opening and then it proceeds to gallop off at a fast pace from there. Fittingly, the closing track “Until the End of Time” also carries on that common thread but interestingly has a bit of a carnival feel in the vocal delivery at times. The rest of the song has some interesting musical interludes including one started by the keyboards where the guitars join in harmony setting up some rough, growled vocals, which if from Anton Darusso, demonstrate his range in tone and style as an almost Jekyll and Hyde transformation.
Marco Grou has succeeded on several fronts with Magic Opera The Golden Pentacle. First and foremost, he has assembled quite a cast of musicians to help produce his vision, secondly, he has crafted a solid symphonic power metal sound, and thirdly, he has created an interesting storyline and composed the soundtrack to that storyline that keeps the listener interested throughout the near hour long album.
Written by John Jackson
- Golden Pentacle
- Elixir of Life
- Keepers of the Night
- Never-Ending Pain
- Fight for Victory
- The Secret of the Sea
- The Sacred Legacy
- Free Again
- The Other Side
- Thief of Souls
- Until the End of Time
Release Date: 19 Februari 2021
Record Label: Independent
Lyric video for ‘Free Again’
Lyric video for ‘Thief of Souls’