Extreme symphonic metal is a subgenre that has continued to flourish and grow in life more and more as the years have passed. From its early pioneers in Septicflesh and Cradle of Filth to modern acts such as Fleshgod Apocalypse and Carach Angren, the subgenre has gone through a number of iterations and evolved and been revitalised time and again, creating wholly new subgenres of its own. In Caedeous, the musical project of Portuguese composer Paulo J. Mendes – a brand entry into the twisted, orchestral world of symphonic metal -this dramatic, fresh take on the style comes after a number of years work on the part of Mendes. Having originally composed and recorded for his debut album, ‘Domini Tenebrarum’ (Latin: “the dark”), back in 2014, it has been a little while in the making.

‘Domini Tenebrarum’ opens with the dour intro, The Shape of Things to Be, an entry as ridden with melancholy and ominous in nature as one would expect. The strings lull in beneath cold, far-off orchestral tones as a voice free of joy whispers to us. The Fall of Mankind quickly sings in, propelled by the impressive operatic range of Rute Fevereiro, Mendes’ right hand in this project and lead vocalist and lyricist for Caedeous.

By Corbie The Deceiver, the album encroaches on new ground, revelling in its own uncomfortable grotesqueness provided through the chilling narrative of the antagonist who calls on Corbie. The whole track plays out with the tension and unsettling nature of one running through the rain, as they are terrorised by unseen but heard forces; driving them to the edges of sanity. The orchestras couple with melodic riffs and the ethereal vocals of Fevereiro to deliver an inspired track that falls just shy of the eight-minute mark.

Light of Darkor builds off the tension created through the previous track, building the sorrow and stakes of the former to an even greater height. Fevereiro’s operatic range is a thing of sheer beauty here, as her impressively guttural harsh vocals lash out from beneath the surrounding symphonies. A child’s voice is heard over the strings, recalling the best moment of Dead Boy’s Poem by Nightwish.

What I really enjoy about this album is how it all feels like one large, interconnected tale and the music and compositions (of which Mendes has done a phenomenal job) reflects that. Each track builds beautifully off the last, and by the time, the cold, belligerent soundscapes of Rise of Marion and Siege of Draedemor have rolled around, the record is almost touching on a nail-biting level of musical tension – with Bruno Guilherme’s drums blasting at a frenetic and manic pace. It is marvellous. In the latter, the strong presence of Summoning was brought to mind, from the nature of the harsh vocals taking precedence here and the particular style of riff adopted for the track. Whether that was intentional or not, I’m uncertain, but it worked brilliantly on a whole for the album; serving up a healthy dose of atmospheric nihilism.

The final song of the album, Valley of the Wicked, brings it all together for one final slice of emptiness and suffering. Filled with dissonant sounds and strong hooks (courtesy of excellent solo work from guitarist, Bernardo Rodrigues), and coupled by an overall atmosphere of horror, it serves to make ‘Domini Tenebrarum’ one of the more impressive blackened symphonic metal releases I’ve heard in the last few years.

Get your copy of ‘Domini Tenebrarum’ from here.