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Carnival of Lost Souls Review

Posted on June 6, 2007 by Flames

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Music by Nox Arcana

Nox Arcana’s newest CD in their collection is devoted to the grim, grotesque and the macabre all found within a dark carnival. The CD opens with an introduction; the ringmaster, voiced by Joseph Vargo, welcomes one and all to the “circus of the strange.” Indeed, this CD is “strange” for on it you will hear a blend of organ music, children’s voices and haunting melodies.

Harlequin’s Lament is a gorgeous gothic song, a blend of repetitious chords with a rich-sounding overlay of a grand piano and harmonized vocals in the background. This piece, while not necessarily “circus-like,” shows off the musicianship of Nox Arcana. Next, strategically placed after the melody, is Calliope; children’s laughter echoes in the background of this brooding, circular tune. Madame Endora follows you around and predicts your future, leading you into the Hall of Mirrors. Even though you run away, you may find yourself Lost in the Darkness .

One of the difficulties with creating a CD set in a “Circus Diabolique” is that, if not done properly, a haunted carnival can sound campy or lack general appeal. That is definitely not the case here. Of all the Nox Arcana CDs, there is a wide variety of music offered on this CD, some of which echoes their other work. For example, fans of the Necronomicon CD might find Nightmare Parade and Circus Diabolique appealing. Other than a few songs on this soundtrack, and believe me when I say I’ve listened to all of their CDs repeatedly with the exception of Winter’s Knight, each song is more unique than the last.

Carnival of Lost Souls is one of the boldest moves Nox Arcana has made to date. You won’t hear any playful songs; the music isn’t “painful” or monotonous, it’s something new and different and fresh. What causes these differences? Subtle sound effects like silvery bells, children’s laughter, and a heavy use of synthesized chorals are played upon the backdrop of strong melodies written primarily in minor and harmonic keys. Overall, this is a broad composition that utilizes the full spectrum of volume, pitch, and chords. The use of volume, sound effects, and technique is very evident throughout this CD, especially in the song Storm.

Also offered on this CD is an easter egg. Now I’m not going to spoil the surprise (how much fun would that be); just wait until the end of the CD and after a few moments you’ll hear something you’ve never heard Nox Arcana play before. At first, it threw me off guard but I’ve come to appreciate the song because even though it’s entirely different from what I’ve heard them play, it shows that they are capable of changing styles if need be–and they’ll be good at it.

Fans of Joseph Vargo’s artwork will be happy to know that the CD’s booklet offers us a different look into this setting. Surprisingly, the CD cover is not (in my humble opinion) the best piece in the collection. Just open the page and you’ll see a deeply contrasted ghoulish invitation to “Let the Nightmare begin.” All of the pieces here are professionally done, and there is a lot of rich contrast. Greens, golds and reds adorn the artwork; the tone is appropriate and the style is definitely Vargo’s own.

Overall, this CD shows off Nox Arcana’s skill and musicianship with a large breadth of composition set within a very, challenging setting. This isn’t a CD about scary clowns with bad makeup and evil flamethrowers; this is music that tells the story of the frightened child within all of us swept away by the Carnival of Lost Souls.

Reviewer: Monica Valentinelli

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