Opera IX 
Strix Maledictae In Aeternum 

Agonia Record 2012

Opera IX are a long lasting cult of Italian black metal and have been exporting their brand of atmospheric and mildly symphonic black metal for over two decades.  So where does Opera IX stand in 2012?  Strix finds these Italians with their craft honed and their weapons sharpened over many years of refinement.  1313 is the first real song on the album and creeps stealthily along at a deceptively slow pace.  The riffs serve as a backbone around which synth dances and acoustic guitar is woven.  The vocals are grim and snarl with contempt.  The pace quickens towards the song's latter half and the song is draped in upwards arcing majestic keyboards that hum with sinister intent.  The next track Dead Tree Ballad opens with a bouncing chug that shifts into atmospheric synth.  At this point the drum production really becomes a sore spot for me.  The bass drums really stick out in an awkward way.  Thrashy blasts of speed leap out as the song progresses.  Gregorian chants and a ritual beat announce Vox In Rama Part 1.  A classy lead and slowly paced vocals set the tone for the rest of the track.  Vox In Rama Part 2 thrusts forward with an imperial feel to the track.  A martial beat and robust synth accompany the imposing riffs.  However the drum production begins to rear its ugly head again.  And I am starting to feel like this album has a nondescript personality.  Nothing is really remaining in memory.  For all my positive feelings towards the early tracks there is not a lot in the way of catchy or memorable songwriting.  Also at an hour and nine minutes the album is overly long and tends to leave the later songs feeling flat.  This can be a real problem with some bands because with the extended length of an album the immediacy of the music becomes lost.  Strix is an album that fails to grab me.  Opera IX has been around for a long time and is obviously skilled at their craft, however I feel they just didn't do it for me this time around.