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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Nox Arcana

Blackthorn Asylum

Review by Gary Hill

Nox Arcana’s particular musical niche could be termed “scary music.” It’s more classy than that, though. They combine classical elements and goth stylings into a sound that is both creepy and beautiful. This time around, Nox Arcana create music for some deranged insane asylum. As always, the music borders progressive rock, so it’s been included in that category at Music Street Journal.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Legacy of Darkness

The sounds of a storm open this. Then music rises up in an atmospheric, but very creepy, fashion as sound effects continue over the top. A spoken section is delivered over the top, like a scratched record playing a recording of a person explaining the purpose of the asylum.

Blackthorn Asylum
This reminds me a lot of horror movie music. It is pretty and powerful, but also a bit frightening. I’d say it’s got some shared characteristics with the music from the movie “Halloween” without being any kind of copy of that. This gets quite involved and powerful as it continues.
Sanitarium Gates
Dramatic and powerful, this is still fairly sedate. It’s definitely dark, but also beautiful. 
Abandoned
This feels desolate and very sad. It’s also somehow got an alien kind of beauty to it. 
Threshold of Madness
There is a more powered up and dramatic arrangement on this piece. 
Tapestry of Decay
Lushly arranged, this is dark, but not really menacing. It’s quite intricate and pretty, really. 
Hidden Horrors
Now, this one feels menacing. There are bits of laughter at times. Vocal elements (non-lyrical) lend a type of power and majesty to this, but it’s quite frightening. 
When Darkness Falls
This is less menacing and more classical in nature. It’s pretty, but still dark and unsettling. 
Shock Treatment
Aptly named, this short track is all about the electric shock sounds, along with some oddly echoed screams. 
Fractured Memories
Intricate and quite pretty, this is a nice respite. It’s restful, but not without its feelings of menace. 
Phantasmagoria
Operatic vocals and a more powerful arrangement put this into a realm that’s not far removed from epic metal music. It’s another powerful cut. Actually, I’d put this one up around the top of the heap. It’s less frightening, but more loaded with mystery and drama. 
Creeper
This is, without question, the weirdest thing we’ve heard. Female operatic style vocals and the occasional moaning sound are laced over the top of a nearly classical backdrop.
Sanity Slipping
Intricate and pretty, this is also quite dark and depressing. 
Dementia 13
This feels somehow related to the previous track. There’s a pounding sense of anxiety to this number. 
Solitary Confinement
This doesn’t feel nearly as lonely as one would think. That said, the intricate arrangement is sparser than some of the others here. 
Frenzy
Tolling bells make up a large part of the arrangement here. This one is quite powerful and developed. It might not be as energized as the title would make you think, but it has more frenetic movement than a lot of the music here.
The Condemned
There is a definite symphonic presence to this cut. It has a feeling of doom, but also a lot of movie soundtrack styled drama and power. It really gets very involved and rises closer to rock music than anything else here. 
Spiders in the Attic
We’re back into the mellower territory. This one is also intricate, but also dramatic and potent. 
From Beyond
If I had to guess, I’d say this song was based on the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name. It’s just distorted voices and sound effects. 
Essence of Evil
Feeling like it would have fit nicely into the soundtrack for “The Omen,” (the original, of course), I like this a lot. Operatic vocals and nearly symphonic elements make up the slow moving melodic line.
Fade to Black
Piano drives this track, but all the usual suspects are on show here, too. It’s another potent piece that manages to put beauty and darkness together. 
Hidden Track
After some silence, the spookiest thing of the set rises up. It combines sound effects and dark atmosphere that serves as the backdrop for a continuation of the monologue that began the disc.
Second Hidden Track
After more silence we get some echoes of “Shock Therapy.” Then a spoken bit is introduced that has some echoey effects on it.
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