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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Nox Arcana

The Dark Tower

Review by Gary Hill

The latest musical adventure from Nox Arcana is The Dark Tower. It’s got all the dread and doom one expects from Nox Arcana, delivered with a sense of beauty that one might not anticipate. Sure, this is creepy music that’s best appreciated around the time of Halloween, but it’s also very beautiful and powerful.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at

Track by Track Review
Darkness Rising

Ominous and dramatic sounds bring this in with non-lyrical voices hanging overhead. There is a great dramatic spoken recitation with creepy words and sounds drawing the maximum chill from the music.

Darkness Rising

Ominous and dramatic sounds bring this in with non-lyrical voices hanging overhead. There is a great dramatic spoken recitation with creepy words and sounds drawing the maximum chill from the music.

Born of the Night
Mysterious and dark musical elements create the backdrop here. This grows up with an almost classical texture. Waves of non-lyrical vocals and symphonic sounding organ weave a powerful and intense musical tapestry as this continues.
Crimson Thirst
Deep, dark, slow moving and yet pretty, this rises up like some sort of fog coming up from a graveyard. After continuing in a straightforward pattern, it drops way down for a mellower interlude that’s pretty and still a bit unsettling.
There is definitely a symphonic air to this number. It has a lot of dark and powerfully mysterious tones.
Vesper Tolls
In keeping with the title, a tolling bell opens this up. It continues from there in a rather subdued musical tone. Familiar elements are in place and in some ways this almost resembles a twisted “Carol of the Bells.” No one would mistake this as Christmas music, but the pronounced dominance by the bells gives that sort of impression in some ways.
Path of Shadows
The sounds that start this are even more ominous. It grows out in a rather classical motif that calls to mind “Mars The Bringer of War” by Holst, quite a bit. It’s got a killer slow building melody and lots of mystery.
Spooky raven sounds and atmospheric layers of sound are combined with non-lyrical vocals that call to mind a theremin. This sets the scene for a short spoken narration that adds to the feeling of dread.
Ghost at the Gate
Mellow and quite pretty, there is a dark otherworldly sadness to this piece.
Classical in nature, this is pretty and dark with swirling lines of sound creating the melody and the tension of the piece.
The Dark Tower
A spoken voice recites the “abandon all hope” quote from Dante’s “Inferno.” From there we get a driving composition that again calls to mind Holst a bit. This is very symphonic and very powerful. It’s also quite ominous. There are chorale vocals bringing a really demonic texture. This is one of the most dramatic and powerful pieces of the whole set.
Intricate, pretty and spooky, this one fits its title well. It’s rather sedate, but not really boring and includes sound effects of a storm here and there.
Vampire's Kiss
We get more symphonic musical elements here. There is an ominous electronic tone, but a lot of the arrangement feels like classically oriented soundtrack music. The arrangement gets more powerful as it continues.
Undying Love
Mellower, this is pretty and intricate. It’s perhaps less ominous than some of the other music here.
Masque of Sorrow
Classical elements merge with a surging rhythmic section as this weaves a tapestry of beautiful Gothic tones. There is a lot of energy here, but all encased in a velvet pillow of fear and dread, but also majesty.
King of Fools
“King of Fools” is much mellower. There are a lot of intricate movements and the track is dark, but very pretty.
Something Wicked
We get another spoken recitation here, set amongst the sounds of a pounding storm. This short piece is less than a minute in length.
Sinister Forces
Dark and sinister sounds lead this off, appropriately. A pounding sort of building sounds with mysterious world music appearing in the mix.
Immortal Fire
Dramatic, powerful and quite classically oriented, this is another pretty and dark number.
Sorrow's End
More intricate keyboard sounds make up the melody to this pretty and dark tune.
Dark Desire
In some ways this reminds me a bit of the music from John Carpenter’s Halloween. It’s definitely got that same dark and ominous tone, but this does get more layers of sound built into it. It rises pretty far beyond the level that theme song did. There are beautiful, but quite dark, symphonic tones built into this.
Noctem Aeternus
Lots of keyboards swirl around the arrangement on this. Overall the musical element is a classically tinged soundtrack type sound.
Hidden Track 1
After some silence we get sound effects and some whispered voices.
Hidden Track 2
More silence comes and then a symphonic and ominous tone is heard. That leads to a very classically oriented musical endeavor that’s quite powerful. It is the final music of the album.
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