Ever encountered a record that was brilliant, in theory, but in practise, it turned out to be a complete mess, riddled with mistakes and miscalculations? Well, this is a feeling I ran into when I heard Diadema Tristis’ ‘Ways of Relief’. As most people seem to accept, this record has a number of glorious moments, filled with a joyous style of folk inspired metal but, on the other hand, it also has a number of elements that really does the folk side a complete injustice. These warring factions are complete opposites and one side really does deter from the other, particularly when the awful production is taken into hand, which gives the instrumentation a synthetic, raw feel, which also contrasts the beauty of the cleaner aspects of the instrumentation. Unfortunately, there is no forgiving some of the mistakes encountered on this potentially excellent record. The biggest compliment one could possibly pay to this record is that it is, in theory, an outstanding record, with numerous highlights. Once again, in practise however, the results are a lot more misleading than the theory would have us believe. I believe the bands two members are brothers, and therefore, they have an understanding that most musicians wouldn’t have. A lot of shared passion, as well as loss, has gone into making this record and it shows it a lot of the instrumentation.
However, despite the fact that the band state that this side project is meant to “strongly relate to sadness and melancholy”, there are a number of upbeat factors about this record. More so often than not, folk inspired metal is considered upbeat, so this doesn’t come as a huge surprise and, in reality, there is a lot of upbeat feeling about the some of the songs (not all, by any means). There isn’t a feeling that this new sub-genre, tagged “depressive folk metal”, will become anywhere near as frequently used as, lets say, depressive black metal, which is a concept that goes hand-in-hand, side-by-side. The folk side of metal, as stated, is normally jovial, exhibiting a upbeat style that seems to contradict the idea of a depressive folk style. However, there are occasions when the Medina brothers pull this strange conception off with their “exotic” instruments, which consists of mainly wind instruments, and emotive acoustics that inspire a true sense of the sadness that made this record possible. I would call this an eclectic record, one which has a tendency to confuse and elate almost simultaneously. Take songs like ‘Hollow Ground’, for instance. Reminding me of the slower, acoustic based Agalloch style, this song is fantastic when it breaks out into a folk inspired theme - with emotional clean vocals, sung in English, and steadily moving acoustics that compliment the harrowing vocals well.
However, when the band draws in the metal elements, the distorted guitars and the harsh semi-growled vocals, the band loses its appeal drastically and almost as quickly as they won it. The overall feeling, based on the harsher sections in comparison to the cleaner sections, is that Diadema Tristis need to drop those elements that make them more metal than folk - this being the distortion, which sounds awful over the production which, oddly, changes in its capacity to be able to convincingly portray the themes of melancholy as it becomes thinner and weaker, like an anorexic model. Songs like the wonderfully crafted ‘Dea Tristitia’ are divine examples of what the band is capable of with little bits of metal - given that the band uses a thudding double bass and snare section that snaps at our toes, keeping us on our feet for the next surprising elements to spring a shock on us - though these MUST be fused with more folk. The sooner the Medina brothers realise that they need to drop the metal, and increase the folk, the better. Given songs like ‘Dea Tristitia’, with its beautiful combination of string instruments like the acoustic guitar and the violin, one immediately knows that Diadema Tristis are more comfortable playing with a folk inspired range than a metal one.
Of course, this would call for the band to be promptly removed from the premises for not being metal enough, but it would also increase the possibility of maintaining the high opinions that folks like me have in regards to the cleaner sides of their style, as opposed to those awful, tainted in excrement metal influences which basically consists of a stronger presence on vocals, given how they’ve transformed from a harmonious clean voice to a immature growl, and how the production has altered to include a greater presence in terms of the guitars, which are horrifically distorted to please metal fans. Overcompensating does not work out well for the Medina brothers, who’re definitely capable musicians, given their breath taking folk inspired side, driven by the sadness of day-to-day life and the struggles we humans encounter along our travels. Again, songs like ‘Hidden Mourning Thoughts’ show that Diadema Tristis can operate a “heavier” style (meaning an increased presence in percussion) and still maintain a level of folk that pleases non-frequenting people to folk like myself. Since I don’t normally listen to folk, of any kind, I was initially weary I’d hate the folk side, but love the metal. In reality, with songs like the aforementioned with their traditional wind instruments, beautiful acoustics and moving piano passages, I adore the folk sections and detest the metal one’s. Mediocre and brilliant almost simultaneously.