The Porcelain Throne: Novembers Doom

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We are back on the throne again, this time with a submission from the great Xan. I, for one, am very grateful for his decision to cover this band, as I have been procrastinating giving them a listen for far too long. If you are like me, follow his advice and give them a close listen.   

Novembers Doom has always been the death-doom band that never really got the recognition that bands like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Anathema got for their contributions to the genre. An element that has stayed with this band is consistency. Every album has continued the style they established in their second album, and has improved with age. I first heard Novembers Doom when I purchased a copy of Amid Its Hallowed Mirth from a flea market. Upon playing the CD in my car, I discovered the world of beauty, tragedy, love, and loss that is Novembers Doom. Starting as a death/thrash band called Laceration in 1989, the band quickly changed names and slowed down their music. Typical Novembers Doom songs will feature fast portions with vocalist Paul Kuhr’s trademark roar and brief interludes of atmospheric acoustic guitar, sometimes during which Kuhr will use his excellent clean vocals. I imagine that this band will be a band that people will either love or find to be boring.

Amid Its Hallow Mirth (1995)

Novembers Doom’s first album is the only album that sounds noticeably different than the rest. Kuhr uses his harsh vocals almost exclusively, only punctuated by Cathy Jo Hejna’s operatic singing as an ambient feature. The guitar tone is thick and hits like a mammoth. The opening electric guitar riff in “Amor of the Harp” raises the hairs on my arms. A present element that the band would build on in later albums was an atmospheric sound, particularly, a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere. A track that represents the feeling of this is “Dance of the Leaves”, a three minute track with Hejna’s vocals permeating a windy landscape. Standout tracks on this album include “Amor of the Harp”, “Chorus of Jasmine”, and “Tears of the Beautiful”.


Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers (1999), The Knowing (2000), and To Welcome the Fade (2002)

The modern sound of Novembers Doom comes into play with Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers. Building upon the atmosphere present in Amid Its Hallowed Mirth, the band adds elements of gothic metal into the mix and combines Kuhr’s cleans with his harsh vocals. Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers has a very sorrowful sound to it. Each song sounds as if Kuhr is crying out over lost loved ones. My favorite track from this album is “Suffer the Red Dream”. The Knowing continues building atmosphere. Whereas the last album was sorrowful, this album sounds melancholic and crestfallen. Kuhr uses his cleans in ever-increasing quantities, and this is probably the most atmospheric of all their albums. An element introduced in this album that stays on future releases is an ebb and flow effect. Albums will usually start with a bang and then slow down only to speed up again. “Shadows of Light” is my favorite track from this album. To Welcome the Fade marks that bands step up in the songwriting department. Atmosphere is laid on thick and heaviness returns with full force. I find myself able to remember the riffs from this album with much more ease than the last two albums. Other than the speed and heaviness increase, this album sounds very similar to the previous two. “Broken” is my favorite track from this album.


The Pale Haunt Departure (2005) and The Novella Reservoir (2007)

The Pale Haunt Departure and The Novella Reservoir are often considered the best albums by Novembers Doom, and personally, are my favorites. The opening riff of “The Pale Haunt Departure” is instantly encapsulating. Kuhr’s vocals are greatly improved. His harsh vocals are feral and his cleans are perfectly bleak. Themes of this album are sorrow, wistfulness, nostalgia, and mourning. “Autumn Reflection” is an excellent example of the Novembers Doom’s style, combining slow and mournful cleans in the verse with a fast chorus. “Through a Child’s Eye” is the best example from the album for featuring Kuhr’s cleans as they are layered with perfect density. This songwriting in this album is great and it flows from one song to the next with perfect seamlessness. The Novella Reservoir opens up with the pumping anthem “Rain” which is very heavy and lyrically interesting. A common theme present on this album is water, as it is referenced in three back-to-back songs: “Rain”, “The Novella Reservoir”, and “Drown the Inland Mere”. “Twilight Innocence” is a very calm and atmospherically serene masterpiece about a father treasuring his daughter. This album continues the path laid out in The Pale Haunt Departure of pumping fast paced growling interlaced with slow, sleepy, dreamy interludes. With both of these albums, Novembers Doom’s songwriting improved immensely along with the ability to intermingle death, doom, and gothic metal. The atmosphere and themes of these albums are truly a joy to explore. I would suggest both of these albums to people who have never listened to Novembers Doom.


Into Night’s Requiem Infernal (2009), Aphotic (2011), and Bled White (2014)

Into Night’s Requiem Infernal is probably Novembers Doom’s weakest album. The album itself is good, but I don’t come away remembering many of the songs. Ultimately, it really lacks what makes the band great: atmosphere and great songwriting. This is probably the fastest album they’ve made. Aphotic, though many fans I’ve met seem to be rather unenthusiastic about it, is one of my favorite albums by Novembers Doom. The album has three excellent songs right in a row: “The Dark Host”, “Harvest Scythe”, and “Buried Old”. This album explores the themes of death and decay and contains a perfect mix of harsh and clean vocals. This is Novembers Doom at its best: playing melancholic songs that inspire despair. Bled White was one of my favorite albums last year. Songs like “Heartfelt” and “Just Breathe” perfectly encapsulate what the band is good at doing. It took me several listens to initially get into the album, as the first track is not particularly compelling. Nailing the haunted atmosphere, Kuhr’s vocals perfectly reflect all the things I like about Novembers Doom.

Novembers Doom are a criminally underrated band that excel in creating an atmospheric experience that walk through many unpleasant topics. From loss of loved ones, to the decay of modern society, Paul Kuhr writes material that can reach out and touch the lives of many people. He bleeds forth his pain. As he says in “Buried” from Aphotic:

“I have been broken a hundred times
Beaten and battered forever scorned.
Living life with the rope around my neck
Just one push from the edge of life.”


Thanks again Xan for finally getting me into this great band. As always, check The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines, and send your submissions!

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  • Into Night’s Requiem Infernal is probably Novembers Doom’s weakest album.

    Aw, that’s the one album I have. I like it.

  • Month-themed bands are good https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV86AUCTmvc

  • I feel like February is far more a “doom” month than November. Well, February is more depressing than November, that is what I am trying to get at.

    Interesting listens for sure. Thanks!

    GL

  • Tyree

    The Dreadful Hours, all day long.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qitr_kbhdkQ

    • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

      So fuckin’ rad.

    • Up until last week, I’d never listened to My Dying Bridge (despite my love for death doom). I’ve gotten through the first two albums. Wasn’t real big on the first but the second album seemed to be really dark. It seems like a lot of people like The Angel and the Dark River. I’ve purchased most of their discography (well, four albums a friend gave to me) so I’ll listen to it.

      • Tyree

        The Dreadful Hours is my favorite album by them by far. I really hope I can find it in Baltimore this week.

        Edit: Vinyl that is.

      • nbm02ss

        They’re one of the more consistent bands out there, well….aside from “34.788%…Complete”.

        • I feel their consistency is their downfall. By Light at the End of the World I was starting to get tired of their sound. Delete the violins and you’re left with a swamp of mediocrity.

      • Lilo’s Penis Tornado (KJU)

        Turn Loose The Swans was the first one I bought of theirs, and my favorite. Lol, I also remember having a ‘I Am The Bloody Earth; shirt back in high school, which didn’t bowl over well with the teachers.

      • Zeke

        Turn Loose The Swans is my favorite. The Angel and the Dark River is all singing, no growling. It fits the music really well though.

        If you’re interested in that early 90s death/doom style, my two favorite albums are Solar Lovers by Celestial Season and Serenades by Anathema. I can’t recommend those albums enough.

    • Lilo’s Penis Tornado (KJU)

      This was the last one I’ve heard of theirs actually. Are their CDs past this any good?

  • INDUBITABEARD

    This why Xan and myself have such compatible tastes. Excellence.

  • Stockhausen

    I remember really digging Bled White last year, and it was their consistently unsettling album art that got me into it. Now to get into everything else of theirs.

  • The Beargod

    I’ve always thought Novembers Doom an excellent song band but never quite got into any of their album. Or maybe I never sat with one long enough. Never listened to Amid Its Hallow Mirth before and this sounds fucking good.

    I also like what’s going on in the comments.

  • The W.

    Thanks for doing this, Xan-san. I think I have a very good idea of what it is that draws you to metal.

  • Mother Shabubu III 12 BRICKS

    Off topic, but I couldn’t wait until Tech Death Thursday to link these guys. They have a bit of doom to them, but not much:

    https://barus.bandcamp.com/releases

    • Dagon

      Doom is a keyword to catch my attention. Good doom is like finding twelve bricks and shouting the slowest WOOHOO ever.

      • Mother Shabubu III 12 BRICKS

        I set the YouTube speed at 0.5 for the Doomier version of 12 Bricks. Sounds like every cartoon once a dude goes on a drug trip and everything slows down gradually.

        The “SHOOSH” was incredible.

        • I have been “shooshing” my wife since last Wednesday.

          GL

          • Mother Shabubu III 12 BRICKS

            I can’t imagine she’s been taking it well, haha.

          • I make sure to emphasize the “oooosh” portion. That way it does not sound like “shush” as in “shush your mouth”.

            GL

          • Mother Shabubu III 12 BRICKS

            You’re doing it correctly then. Use it wisely my friend.

      • INDUBITABEARD

        You was mothafuckin right

      • Lilo’s Penis Tornado (KJU)

        ..

    • Lacertilian

      I saw that album yesterday but didn’t have a chance to check it out.
      Will listen to it tomorrow first up now thanks to the bubu recc!
      Join the FB group man. Great place for this stuff.

  • Dagon

    Good stuff, Xan.

    Although I must admit melancholic death/doom is something I only listen to when I’m in a very specific mood.

    • Same here. Though I love the band, they aren’t a band that I play all the time.

    • Lilo’s Penis Tornado (KJU)

      Same here, and same for melancholy music in general for me.

  • Stanley

    Nice write up Xan. I’ve listened to all the tunes. It’s not really my thing but the dude’s voice in that Twilight Innocence track is so warm. It gave me the feels. That solo in the last track is mouth watering.

  • This is awesome, Xan. I’ve only heard Bled White, which is a great album for those special doomy gloomy Link moments 🙂

    Now I have this guide to delve more into them. I’m digging Amour of the Harp.

    Thank you very much, amigo!

  • Maik Beninton

    Great stuff. Didn’t read it, cause I’m not in the mood right now, but love all the songs in the post.

  • While this is certainly not in my wheelhouse, I can appreciate the recordings. All the instruments have a lot punch to them. You can understand all their lyrics as well – very dark and depraved sounding. Also the opening riff on Broken reminds me of Machine Head for some reason.

  • OldMetalHead

    I’m liking this, especially the later stuff. I wouldn’t listen to it all of the time, but it’s quite interesting. One of the great things about this music we all love is that there’s always something new/old to discover.

  • Lilo’s Penis Tornado (KJU)

    Another fantastic Chicago band! Even locally, though, they’re not that well known, and I never heard much about them ever playing live.

  • CT-12

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up man! I read a good half and listened to some of the tracks, but I’m pretty bushed right now so I’ll come back to it after some coffee or something. Great job though Xan, glad to finally have some sort of guide as to how to approach this band!

  • Dead Oceans

    Great write-up! Huge fan of Novembers Doom and I have always felt that they flew under everyone’s radar. Aphotic is definitely my favorite album as well. Really anxious for them to do a tour sometime. Or I just might have to fly to Chicago to see them!