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Nox Arcana

Season of the Witch

Review by Gary Hill

Nox Arcana always delivers. The brain-child of Joseph Vargo, this outfit produces a gothic, electronic sound that is creepy enough for Halloween events. Yet, it's musical enough to enjoy year round. The latest entry in the Nox Arcana catalog, this disc continues the fine traditions, while creating an original and fresh soundscape. As with the other sets by Nox Arcana, I am landing this under progressive rock because it really has a progressive concept and sound, even if it's short on the rock end of that equation.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Witching Hour
Coming in atmospheric, the creepy elements quickly emerge. There are cawing crows in the mix. An eerie voice laughs before a bell chimes. Then a spoken creepy voice recites a poem. This is spooky and cool at the same time. Creepy laughter returns at the end.
Autumn Dusk
Coming in mellow and somber, this grows with beautiful, intricate melodies. It's dark and ominous, but also quite pretty. This is classy stuff.
Bell, Book and Candle
There is more of a rhythmic element to this one as it enters. The cut builds outward with intriguing melodies. This is perhaps a little less dark than the two previous numbers. I love the classical lines at play here.  This is perhaps more forlorn than it is creepy. There is definitely an air of antiquity to it.
Shadow Dance
Dramatic and powerful, this has a lot more of a progressive rock vibe to it. Mind you, it is still dark and gothic. There are also plenty of classical music elements at play. It's another potent piece of music - perhaps one of the strongest here.
The Path of No Return
This has some chorale styled vocals in the mix. Those are present on a lot of the set, but more prominently here. This is a slower moving track that feels rather melancholy. It's also quite pretty.
Gypsy Spell
There is a world folk music vibe to this, as you might expect given the title. I love the melodies on the piece. It has an exotic vibe to it that works really well.
Spirits in the Mist
Those chorale style vocals take a prominent place in the arrangement on this piece. They are joined by some operatic ones. The musical progression here has some great melodies and directions. This is not a huge change, but rather another great gothic styled piece of electronic music.
Dark Powers

Energized and powerful, there are a lot of classical music elements here. This is a driving type of piece that really builds tension quite well. It gets very involved and dramatic before it's over.

Warlock's Wake
Starting with a mellower motif based heavily on voices, this builds out gradually. The piece is another solid gothic based electronic number.
Malleus Maleficarum
A spoken spell opens this. There is a prominent percussive element as this makes its way forward from there. While not a big change, this is another powerful piece of music.
Witch Hunters
This cut has a driving, adventurous air to it.  There is definitely a classically tinged progressive rock angle to this piece. It's another winner for certain.
From the Ashes
Mellower and based more fully around piano, there is a melancholy, desolate vibe here. This is such a pretty song.
The Haunted Forest

This feels like it could be directly connected to the opening track because it has many of the same sound effects. This is one of the most blatantly creepy and foreboding pieces.

Raven's Hollow

There is more energy and drama to this piece. It's a powerful number. The sounds of ravens end it.

Black Cauldron

The sounds of a bubbling cauldron serve as the backdrop for a creepy spell recitation. Electronic sounds that are quite classical in nature move it outward from there. This works through a build-up before dropping back down to just the cauldron at the end.

Unpleasant Dreams
Tuned percussion sounds make up the basis for the early parts of this. The piece grows outward from there after a time. Bells are a big part of the arrangement on this cut.
Book of Shadows
Starting tentatively, this grows out into more dramatic sounds. There are some intricate melody lines working in this number. Classical textures are a big part of the arrangement, too. This another potent piece. It is one of the most dynamic and contains some of the most prominent vocals.
Mystic Circle
Percussion starts this. The piece works forward from there in rather subtle ways. It begins to grow as more energy and drive possess it.
Sabbat Night
Powerful and driving, this is another strong cut from somewhat familiar cloth.
Ritual of Fire
There is much more of an active percussive element to this, feeling like tambourines mostly. Overall this is another powerhouse dark gothic prog piece of music.
Season of the Witch
This comes in with powerful electronic symphonic textures. It grows outward in style from there. The symphonic elements really steer this in a lot of ways. This ends a bit past the three and a half minute mark in a classy crescendo. Then silence ensues from there. A little after the four minute mark more dark sounds, organ based with crows over the top, are heard. A creepy voice comes in for another poetry recitation. That ends around the five and a half minute mark. The track continues for a couple minutes more, but it's just silence.
 
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