For all your depressive and prog rockin’ (?) needs. FFO: Shape of Despair, Cross Vault, Throes of Dawn
SHAPE OF DESPAIR – ALONE IN THE MIST
Most of you will by now be at least vaguely familiar with Shape of Despair. At least, you ought to be. If you’ve ever pressed play on them, you’ll know that they play a very evocative branch of funeral doom that pays no mind to conventions. Flavouring the core of their sound a mix of clean and growled vocals, lush keyboard arrangements, occasional flashes of flute, Natalie Koskinen’s ethereal voice and lately a progressive edge, all kept in check by the bombastic beating of Samu Ruotsalainen.
Perhaps then, you would be surprised to know that almost none of the above are found on Alone In The Mist. Somebody once wrote somewhere, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” And so we find a logical explanation for our predicament here as well. You see AITM was actually recorded around ’98, when the band was still known as Raven, and only now officially released.
While most of these songs were re-recorded eventually, for Shades Of…, the versions heard here differ significantly, you see on Alone In The Mist features the band at the height of it’s simplicity, perhaps this is, in part, due to them operating as a trio, as opposed to the current six-man line-up. Salomaa (guitar/keys) and Ullgrén (Impaled Nazarene, guitar/bass) are still core members of the band, but vocalist/drummer Toni Mäensivu has since departed – first vacating the seat and then leaving completely.
Whereas Ruotsalainen seemed capable of filling enormous spaces with only a strike or two, Mäensivu’s charmingly wavering hands keep busier behind the set, perhaps leading into the somewhat shorter lengths – when compared to the revisited versions. Alone In The Mist is funeral doom, but with that in mind it’s almost upbeat – featuring the stylistic “one beat per a gawddamn minute” very scarcely (read: none at all).
The guitars grind and drone on the forefront, but at this point the band left most of the melodic work up to the keyboards, which puts the focus on the atmosphere. The same concept is carried throughout making it futile to try to pick this album apart song by song. So if your attention span lies somewhere at the level of
Jack Bauer less than favourable, I suggest you don’t press play. Although songs like “Woundheir” and “Shadowed Dreams” are strong enough to work on their own, every single track feels cut short on it’s own. The slowly trod through images, atmosphere and the ever so slight deviations in the ambiance reveal their face proper only on bigger doses, preferably intake for about 53 minutes straight up.
Alone In The Mist is cold, dark and slow – it features little vocalization, and beautifully drones on, leaving much for imagination – but naught to be desired. While Shape of Despair’s later work has deviated further from funeral doom usual fare, becoming more vivid and diverse, the monolith of sadness that you’re (hopefully) listening to now never falls victim to monotony and stands monument to what could have been, if Salomaa had decided to remain on a more traditional path.
Give them a like on Facebook and tell them “Hi” from me.
CROSS VAULT– MILES TO TAKE
I previously featured Cross Vault’s debut Spectres of Revocable Loss, at the eve of their sophomore’s release. Sophomore that I promptly forgot to review. But have no fear, I am here, now, to make things better as the band has unleashed a two-song EP titled Miles To Take to sate your thirst for more traditional doom. Between then and now, many things have happened most notable of which the band has grown from a duo of drummer/vocalist N and guitarist/bassist ? to include second guitarist ? and bassist ? as well as drummer, Skullfucker. I know, right? Their brand of doom still habits the middle point between the scriptures of the Riffian being Edling’s creations and the more drudging approach of Reverend Bizarre, but now with added guitar leads. The band no longer swims in a river of molten riffs as much as is said molten river – atmospheric songs filled with a sense of longing move ever in at a slow pace, only briefly interrupted by acoustic interludes. No individual riff arises to attract attention, but this is not a fault here, it is the purpose as the band mows ever onward on their chosen path. For such a short, and dooming, EP Miles To Take is surprisingly vivid, thanks to Skullfucker’s lively drumming throughout. Though otherwise I did find myself longing for the less unison style of Specters… Another thing I do miss from the older days are N’s vocals. On the debut they were distant, echoing and mixed lower – occasionally acquiring Aaron Stainthorpe-like qualities. Whereas here they are more powerful and on the forefront. Even with these few minor annoyances, Miles To Take is an EP filled with quality traditional doom, and a tasty appetizer before their next full-length.
You can seek the bands previous full-lengths, Spectres of Revocable Loss and The All-Consuming on their Bandcamp site, and Miles To Take on their new label, Iron Bonehead’s Bandcamp page. I know, my thoughts exactly. What? Like them on FB and tell them something, something Toilet something.
THROES OF DAWN – OUR VOICES SHALL REMAIN
Throes of Dawn is not a band you’d expect to find on a column called “Doomthousandanything”, but here we are. They were founded in 1994 as a melodic black metal band, and slowly added folkier and proggier elements to their music until meeting their demise in 2001. A few short months later multi-intrumentalist Jani Heinola and vocalist Henri Koivula (also currently of Shape of Despair) decided to get back together with an otherwise new line-up, their music evolving towards a calmer and more gothic-tinged sound – although releasing an album every sixth year might be one of the reasons their sound has made drastic changes.
Their latest opus, Our Voices Shall Remain was released last August and marked their transition to a doom-esque prog metal/rock sound. Imagine the darkest, most oppressive moments you’ve spent with Pink Floyd and multiply by doom, then add a little of airy, floating feel – not entirely unlike that displayed by the latest records of Riverside and Winterhorde – and you’re probably very lost at what it this supposed to sound like again, but bear with me for Throes of Dawn lies (un)comfortably at the cross-section of those sounds, with a style decisively their own.
I was instantly sold with “Mesmerized” opening the album with some drum and bass cooperation that could have been lifted from an Om record, followed by sentimental guitar solos, showcasing the band’s new sound in full effect. Whereas the follow-up “We Used To Speak In Colours” features some melodic flashbacks to their older works. OVSR is not a terribly hook-laden album, although it features some, without proper focus it may be reduced to mere background ambiance. So once again I must warn our blast-beat loving and/or ADD readers to be vary where they wander with this record. The meditative bass, echoing synth carpets an calm but decisive guitar work weave an impressive tapestry to be marveled by those with patience.
Unfortunately the album does lack when it comes to contrasts and climaxes. The build-ups are often long, but the releases are left soft and not always fulfilling. Most of the songs follow a similar template and as this is the first Throes of Dawn album to feature clean vocals exclusively, some additional contrast would’ve done wonders. Not that growling would have fit here – Our Voices Shall Remain is many things, but hardly heavy. While I may not personally be the biggest fan of “lifelines”, I feel it’s placing on the album is imperative. Featuring heavier guitar-work, many tasty melodies and Ghost Brigade-esque intro, culminating in a climactic solo, it adds a much needed dash of colour to the record.
While the back half of the record is no weaker, and the title-track is one of my favorites, I must admit the album is long. Clocking over an hour, and rarely deviating from the set template for such a length can get taxing towards the end, as the album lacks clear ups and downs. These few annoyances kept Our Voices Shall Remain away from my AOTY, but it is nonetheless an impressive record worthy of regular rotation. You can like ’em on Facebook, visit their Bandcamp and tell them The Toilet said “Sup.”