Romania's Magica can count themselves as veterans of the ever-growing melodic, female-fronted, symphonic metal 'genre'. Dark Diary is their fifth full-length album and, boy, does it have a strong reputation to live up to!
Magica's first two albums, The Scroll Of Stone and Lightseeker, are two of my favorite symphonic metal albums which should have instantly separated this band from any charges of being a 'Nightwish clone'. They didn't, which just goes to show how idiotic the majority of people can be at times. Anyway, the first two albums are certainly far more upbeat and power-metal oriented than the later two offerings, namely Hereafter and Wolves And Witches. The last two, to my ears, were more standard but still highly accomplished symphonic metal fare. Dark Diary carries on this tradition.
On the Side Of Evil is probably the stand out track on this album and is the only one that features male vocals in addition to Ana Mladinovici's enchanting voice. This is a song that really shows how good Magica can be. Further examples would be album opener Anywhere But Home and the excellent We Are Horde. Most of the rest of the songs are good but a little too typical of the genre. The saving grace is, as usual, Bogdan 'Bat' Costea's gritty guitars which have a glorious bite and deliver some chugging riffs and excellent solos.
Ana Mladinovici has a voice like the waters of a mountain stream; crystal clear and sweet to the senses. It is a truly beautiful sound that will remain in your ears long after the final notes of this album have drifted away. In fact, if there was nothing else about this album I liked I would still have nought but praise for Ana's voice. She certainly lays to rest any claims that she is monotone with her performance on this album as she sounds amazing!
My one concern is that Magica have moved too far from the faster, 'power metal' blueprint laid down in the first two albums and are now going to be lost in the mix of the vast number of similar bands that keep popping up.
This is not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, in fact its a very good album, but some may not think it different enough to stand out from all the other 'very good' symphonic metal out there. Balls to them anyway, I loved this album and though I may pine for another Lightseeker I still appreciate good music when I hear it! If you're already a fan of Magica or of symphonic metal in general then you should definitely give this one a listen. I doubt you'll be disappointed!