Music Box Opera

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If the title Music Box Opera evokes a precious, small thing being expanded into something grand, then it has done its job. The mood is introspective and melancholy throughout the Delerium project's first studio album in six years, but as before, the filigree and elegance flow throughout, offering music that's a more goth and grand version of Enigma. As far as vocals, like last time out (2006's Nuages du Monde) Music Box Opera is filled with guest singers, so take the guitar-bite and tortured-tween attitude out of group's like Evanescence, or inject more mystery into the work of Sarah McLachlan, and you've got the song structure. Delerium mastermind Bill Leeb (who also offers much darker, much fiercer material with the industrial acts Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly) is more comfortable than ever with letting these tracks develop. The contemplative heartache of "Days Turn Into Nights" with Michael Logen drifts and flows past the six-minute mark while "Sky (Tears from Heaven)" with Kristy Thirsk breaks seven, giving up its middle minute to a hypnotic, beatless breakdown. Even as "Hammer" with Leona Naess creeps into Portishead territory with its trip-hop beats and jazzy vocal vamping, Leeb's allegiance to the dark keeps everything Delerium-worthy, with grand pianos echoing from down the hall while wordless, ethereal vocals suggest ghosts wearing corsets and frills have taken over the grand ballroom. Longtime fans of Leeb will be pleased to see names like Rhys Fulber, Jared Slingerland, and Jeremy Inkel in the credits, and even if this seems like last time out with singers guiding the show, this one flows better and comes off as the Delerium album that's best experienced in one sitting. Approach it with anything close to a Beetlejuice attitude and all the lace starts to unravel, but those who think dark and stormy nights are also the most romantic will feel right at home.

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