There's something about the concept of micro-countries that is inherently epic, brimming with gothic majesty. They have held on to their nation-state status from centuries in the past, operating like some kind of fortress. Nestled between Switzerland and Austria, the 160km2 German-speaking country of Lichtenstein is a hold-over from a past age. Castles, cathedrals, and Old World architecture dot the landscape. From these surroundings, doom and sludgey metal would seemed to be easily inspired.

Metamorphosis is the debut album from mastermind Maurizio Dottore's heavy new project Black Reuss. The Lichtenstein native's album explores the open space that is created when change is occurring. At times, suffocating like a vacuum as well as vertigo-inducing like the state of free-fall when jumping off a cliff. Yet, it is a necessary and constant companion. This record explores all the dark, terrifying emotions that are dragged up by the forces of change. At times dour, while others are triumphant, Metamorphosis takes the listener on a journey into the unknown. Striking out like a medieval soldier into a harsh, pitch-black night.

Disarming descending bells open the album like small stones that start an avalanche. Massive guitar chords, monster fills, and colossal choral vocals compose a cathedral-filling sound. Eventually galloping chugs and harmonized solos create that familiar Iron Maiden/power metal aesthetic. 'Grief' relies on a Master of Reality era Sabbath-style riff with Dimebag squeals thrown in for good measure. Dottore's vocals reach the grandiosity of Opeth's Mikael Ã…kerfeldt when at his mid-register howl.

The album's standout track is 'Anger'. A straightforward rocker that breaks from the slow doom dirge of most of Metamorphosis to let Dottore find his determination. In this case, anger is both a cloak and a motivator. Four-on-the-floor drums, Randy Rhoads type solo, and Dottore hitting a dogged bellow. All of this makes for a driving anthem for change in the face of adversity. There's more than a little Type O Negative vibe in this one.

'Lifeblood' brings a monk-like chant amid the creeping dirge. 'Mind's sauntering beat evokes late 90s heavy alternative in the verses before finding the forward plowing straight choruses. Exotic sitar preludes 'Love' as Dottore finds a slice of Eden in his transformation. Gothic romanticism in spades. 'Joy' and 'Inspiration' are the album's closing statements showing the protagonist emerging from his strife stronger and more alive than when he began.

Black Reuss does a great job of personifying the myriad of states we all go through when in the clutches of transformation. Gruelling, painful, and disheartening but in the end, invigorating and necessary. Tonally Dottore rides the line between slow doom quicksand and soaring power metal. Fans missing Type O Negative will probably sink their teeth into this gothic power piece.