Grade: 8/10

Much time has passed since these metal mammoths last dropped a disc in my mailbox and I have to admit that I have very little recollection of what Compos Mentis' previous album "Gehennesis" sounded like, other than that adjectives like theatrical and orchestral seemed most fitting to describe it. According to promotional hype, this new album is supposed to have a far more aggressive character and if not, then at the very least be this band's strongest album to date. Let's have a closer look to see if we agree, shall we?

Like its predecessor, "Our Kingdom of Decay" is something of a concept album, exploring, as its title suggests, some of the darker and more shameful instances in Danish history, such as the disfiguring of the Little Mermaid, the going insane of King Christian VII and the serial killer Dagmar Overbye. These themes have been encapsulated in a beautifully grandiose symphonic sound in the vein of Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and Dark Tranquillity (to name but a few noteworthy influences), but from within these theatrics grows an evil predilection for the obscure and hopeless. Above all this malevolence shines through in the lyrical content, but add Rune Klausen's subtle keyboard and piano melodies which remain the driving force of the band's music despite taking a rather background role for the most part. When they are given prominence in the mix, however, the songs reach a whole new level of epic.

That is not intended to slate the other band members in any way though, because instrumentation like most other things here is top notch. Guitarists Ryan Kristensen and Ken Holst unleash a varied repertoire of impressive, if somewhat run-of-the-mill melodic death metal riffs and while the drums and bass rarely depart from the expected, this kind of music, especially because of its speed, demands solid musicianship and as such there are no complaints in either department. Of course there are copious moments where these skills are aired and particularly "The Angel Maker" towards the end of the album earns high marks for original, interesting compositions in all channels. The occasional harrowing soundbytes in that song are an especially nice touch, as is the frightening, submerged outro (and intro to closer "Kingdom of Dania").

Jesper Heinsvig's vocals are best described as similar to Dani Filth's multi-layered growl/howl/shriek which spills into Raunchy-like half-clean territory during the more desperate moments. On his microphone he uses a number of effects here and there, most notably an echo effect in opener "Ghost Song" which serves to amplify the cavernous nature of the band's music, as well as evidently to sound as evil as possible. And so, with this album Compos Mentis make it clear that they are still not out to please the masses (although admittedly the music is less overwhelming than on the previous album), but to cater to a group of cultivated metalheads with an appreciation for progressive symphonic metal. In that respect my only real complaint is that there aren't any standout tracks as such, just a steady stream of solid, well-written and richly textured songs to immerse yourself in. Not to walk potential new fans off the plank though - there are hints of influence by bands like Amon Amarth, Insomnium and Children of Bodom in there too. And when a review mentions the kinds of bands that have been referenced here in a positive context, this should be a cue for any fan of melodic metal that here is a band worth checking out.

Written by: AP on 22/9-09