(Nuclear Blast)

01. I - The Machine
02. (N)utopia
03. Hateful Design
04. Never Enough
05. Timeless
06. Which Way
07. Deep Inside
08. Outside Down

RATING: 6.5/10

While melodic black metal may have been an accurate description for Italy's GRAVEWORM across several albums since 1997, on "(N)utopia" the black metal parts fit only in bits and pieces. A machine-like delivery that consists of industrial-tinged chugging riffs, a marginally pensive rhythm section, and lush/gothy melodic keyboard washes that border on symphonic would seem to make the "melodic dark metal" descriptor that's been tossed around seem slightly more accurate. Take away the standard shriek vocals of Stefano Fiori, leaving only the growly stuff, and the black metal vibe is lessened significantly. The somewhat stiff approach lies opposite the tension-filled menace of more traditional symphonic black metal acts. All the genre babble should mean little to whether or not "(N)utopia" is a good metal album and it certainly makes no difference to me, although the black metal purists are sure to froth at the moth over the descriptions.

On the whole, the nine tracks here are agreeable to the ears. The aforementioned stiffness of the delivery aside, the tunes are mostly solid, though by no means earth shaking, even with the speedy double-bass parts. The tough up-tempo chugging material like "Hateful Design", "Never Enough", and "Outside Down" works a great deal better than the slower, melancholic fare of "Timeless" and "Which Way". Keyboard interlude "Deep Inside" does nothing more than disrupt the flow of the album. The semi-orchestral keyboard wash that is a staple of every track will please those with an addiction to despair and a preference for the doom-laden. Fiori's vocal mix is performed admirably, his growled delivery not all that dissimilar to a Johan Hegg (AMON AMARTH) or a Henri Sattler (GOD DETHRONED) — just listen to the mid-tempo title track (one of the album's best). His octave jump often coincides effectively with arrangement breaks and choruses. The opulent keyboard sallies also tend to hit during these same sections.

For the most part, "(N)utopia" is a decent effort. The vague feeling of restraint that permeates the album and a few so-so tracks keep it from being as memorable as it should be though.


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