Gothic metal is, sad to say, a fairly niche market, so it’s unlikely that any artists hailing from this sub-section of the musical landscape will ever retire in untold splendour. Hailing from said niche sub-section, Tristania and Ardours are two bands worth noticing, if not for their loyal following, but for the force of nature voice fronting both: that of Italian chanteuse Mariangela Demurtas.
Since having taken over vocal duties in Tristania in 2007, Mariangela has charmed and entranced audiences and has, following that, continued growing as an artist with Ardours – an act that has been on pandemic hiatus since 2019. This has not stopped her creative development, however, and Dark Ability represents Mariangela’s first true solo outing.
“City” is a fairly straightforward narrative, visually and musically, but shaded with the potential pitfalls and obstacles contemporary urban life brings.
Now, viewed intrinsically, Dark Ability is quite lovely: a gentle, sensitive expression of female vocal stylings. At times, the presentation is reminiscent of the likes of St. Vincent’s “Los Ageless,” echoed in noir-chic tones here on “City.” There is also a nod to the likes of Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish) in the departure from gothic roots towards a more pop-styled sensibility on Dark Ability, best demonstrated on “Forgiverance” or “Crossing Time.” “Classic” is the winner of the EP, though, representing the widest range of both music and vocal ability from Mariangela Demurtas – making pop comparisons with Kate Bush or Grimes more appropriate than the previous suggestions. “Classic” is also the most narrative of the four offerings on the EP, with the greatest emotional and expressive range, musically and thematically speaking.
Despite the solid and favourable comparisons, though, I can’t help but feel a little letdown. What Dark Ability, despite its name, entirely lacks is darkness; none of the gloom or serious emotion of Mariangela Demurtas’ prior offerings is a present force on the record – just a hint, or veneer of shadow on an otherwise superficially inoffensive set of songs. If the primary objective of Dark Ability were to showcase her singing talents, I would call the record a failure. If it were to garner a wider, more populist audience, then it is probably a success. Personally, I am disappointed that the album is more pop than alternative, more Billie Eilish than Diamanda Galas, but I am neither Mariangela Demurtas nor her inner circle, merely a critical listener. To quote the singer herself, “Who am I to make a stand?” I can only hope a full-length follow-up does leave some space on the B-side for a more fitting demonstration of her darker abilities.
Dark Ability Track Listing:
3. Crossing Time
Run Time: 17:12
Release Date: February 11, 2022
Record Label: Self-Released