Dark Moor has, for whatever reasons that affect a band's demographics, flown under the radars of the power metal scanning systems for years. Their efforts, often compared to the likes of Rhapsody of Fire and Blind Guardian, are mostly fresh, riveting pieces of fantastic power metal—the kind of stuff that imprisons your mind and soul whenever they're given the chance to do so. I'm not going to make any rash comparisons between "Ars Musica" and Dark Moor's other albums as I'm not horribly familiar with the bulk of them, but I will say "Ars Musica" is overall outstanding. Dark Moor's efforts are as elegant as they are magnetic; gushing with songs that are confident, daring, catchy, and pristine, yet showing a degree of boldness that doesn't transcend into ridiculousness or something gimmicky.
With the flag of their Spanish heritage flying high—they have a song here entitled "The First Lance of Spain" for crying out loud—Dark Moor produces a hefty feast of grandiose power metal baptized in minor symphonic/orchestral influences and instruments. The songs aren't radically different from one another, yet there's a lot going on in each tune to give each one its own unique tint. The first number, "The First Lance of Spain," doesn't differ too radically from other tracks like "The City of Peace," but the melodies and flares are often calculated and manufactured differently. That said, the aforementioned songs are two examples of the sheer excellence here. The riffs and solos are dramatic and demanding, and Alfred Romero, Dark Moor's vocalist, proves he is one of the unsung heroes of power metal with one of its most amazingly graceful and versatile voices.
It's not like Dark Moor used some magic orb which blesses its user with awesome musical abilities to make "Ars Musica" so good; they're just fantastic at writing cohesive, addicting anthems that have a lot of color yet not overloading with it. In fact, some of the more serious numbers, especially "Together as Ever," are the album's prime cuts. However, that is not to imply more chaotic songs like "Living in a Nightmare" deserve participation ribbons—Dark Moor has the game mastered no matter what they do. Female vocals are used semi-frequently behind Romero's bellowing, and the orchestral elements are never underplayed or overcooked. The bass has an enormous presence here as well, and there are several songs in which Mario Garcia hammers out an organized bass lead and takes complete control of the whole portrait. Me gusta.
However, "Spanish Suite (Asturias)," one of those neoclassical instrumental bits, runs a little too long and has pacing issues that throw it off a bit—not a horrible song, but it is far from the lush territory of its cohorts. "Ars Musica" is otherwise a stupendous experience of enchantment and supremacy by one of power metal's strongest titans. This, ladies and gentlemen, is an album from a band that knows what it's doing, and you'll be enthralled by Dark Moor's magic minutes after the power of "Ars Musica" has created an ethereal portal to an enticing world where first-rate power metal rules the day. The classy gentlemen of Dark Moor may not be overlords of their niche, yet they're far from being a one-trick pony or a temporary flavor that'll fizzle out. Check this out, now.