Tagged: doom

Throne Of Blood

Now for some very grisly and soul-shattering “Horror-Electronics” from the American magus Burial Hex (Clay Ruby) last heard in these four walls in 2012 with the terrifying Book Of Delusions album. A quick glance at this madman’s Bandcamp page will indicate there’s no end to his prolific career in sight, and you’ve only to peruse the images of skulls, hooded figures, night skies, moons and planets, sigils, symbols, statues and magick hex charms to get an index on where his brain-waves are coming from. Ruby – or CLYRBY – still seems hell-bent on creating music that serves a purpose “In Psychic Defence” (to use one of his own album titles), and clearly perceives the world as an extremely threatening place filled with invisible enemies, demons and devils who strive to capture his soul. To keep them at bay, he dare not relax his charms for a single second, and consequently his every waking moment is likely to be dedicated to the production of this sickening, harrowing noise, filled with desolate atmospheres, harsh explosive effects, unpleasant grinding sensations, and ghastly shrieks of despair. The present record Throne (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR232CD) is the third in a series of reissue albums, bringing together Clay Ruby’s contributions from split records made with Sylvester Anfang and Iron Fist Of The Sun, and other sources. If you missed the original vinyl editions, here’s your chance to catch up. It opens with three shockers of raw noise and yawping nightmare…for my reactions to ‘The Coming Of War’ and ‘Actaeon’, see this post.

‘The Feast Of Saints Peter And Paul’ is a work that in title at least must be understood as evidence of the “eerie religious allusions” noted in the press release; it’s not quite as violent or aggressive as some of the other punch-fests on this CD, and even allows the listener some room to breath in amongst teeming blocks of steel noise…but once you do inhale you will find the air is actually poisoned smog from the chimneystacks of Hades. Buried in this ingenious layered mix of shapeless black noise, we hear the pale echoes (the ghost of a ghost) of a celestial choir singing mangled hymns, as if Burial Hex were striving to portray the utter annihilation of all religious endeavour, yet still mourning its demise, and attempting vainly to reconstruct an entire church from the fragments of a charred and broken icon. A very bitter-sweet 19-minutes of angsty despair, chillingly beautiful in its abject visions…this was the A side of From The Rites Of Lazarus, released in 2010 on the Italian Urashima label.

‘Armagiddion’ was also rescued from Italian vinyl, the 2009 release Bagirwa Hymn on Von Archives. This is even more subdued and atmospheric and with its ambient tones, guitar sketches and exploratory drones, it’s almost like a zero-gravity stroll around what’s left of the scorched globe after a nuclear holocaust…Ruby once again finds a strange beauty in the horrors of the void, staring intently into dark corners where few men dare to peep. The esoteric artwork for the cover is by long-standing collaborator Nathaniel Ritter. From 30 November 2016.

Beat the Law: a set of filthy doom sludge songs coming at you at a fast snappy pace

Legalise Crime, Beat the Law, Poland, BSFD Recordings, CD023 (2017)

From Poland comes this filthy doom sludge mob who rejoice in short, sharp songs that pack in huge wallops of thick magma guitar and drum crash all iced over with the most hilarious song titles I’ve ever seen. “Crack that took the Whole Summer to Lose”? – you’d have to be trying to sell it to penguins in the Antarctic. As for track 12, those latitude / longitude co-ordinates give a location in the band’s home city of Wroclaw which might be where the guys recorded this album. Or perhaps they mark the spot where the band first crawled out of the primordial sludge ooze that still influences and shapes the sound and texture of the thick grinding metal crust on display. Whatever the members had in mind, one thing is for sure: “Beat the Law” is an impressive debut, a surprisingly fast and punchy doom sewer sludge album of raw power and ragged screech.

By themselves most songs are short and the album is best heard in one hit from start to finish. It actually flows well that way and from Track 1 to the end of Track 7 at least, the music does sound more or less continuous. The aforementioned “Crack …” brings a sharp break with a punky attitude and speed but it still features glacial doom sludge slush mixed with the fast snappy stuff. Some listeners may gripe that the songs should be longer, especially as some have deep Mariana Trench-sized grooves that never let you go once you’re right into them, and that the pauses between songs come too fast. I tend to agree, that most songs could be a lot longer just to savour and immerse yourself in, because the band’s sound is incredibly massive and mind-destroying, and in some songs like “Riot Rat”, the guys really go off their brains in the screaming and in generating the most insane feedback noise.

The album gets off to a good start in the relatively low-key “XXXX” opener which basically softens us up for the onslaught to come. And come it does with full aggression and power, and plenty of throat-shredding desperation on the part of the vocalist. “Jimmy Hix Sucks Cock” (yes, really) is a huge number that just barely fits in its three-minutes-and-a-bit time-slot. (Sorry, it’s difficult to talk about this song without double entendres.) “Doomed City” starts with glorious feedback drone abrasion that tears through your mind like slow-ripping paint stripper. “Noob the Loser” has a great rhythm that drives the song and very infectious pop riffs that together with the singing turn the song into doom hardcore. These songs are but just three examples of how the album bludgeons listeners into awed silence with a surprising mix of fast, even punk-influenced beats, some of the slowest slabs of doom sludge ever to trudge into view, occasional doompop melodies and strong riffing combined with inspired moments of feedback improvisation.

By the end, you might be left reeling from all the hard hitting (not always a good idea if the band wants people to replay the album as soon as it finishes) or you might feel a bit frustrated that the songs are so short and tend to start fast, fast, then go slow and then fast again without much let up. We’ll have to wait for a follow-up to see if the band is willing to play longer tracks that deliver the sledgehammer hits a bit more … slowly.

No One Deserves Happiness: an adventurous sludge / doom progression into songs of love and loss

The Body, No One Deserves Happiness, United States, Thrill Jockey Records, CD digipak THRILL 047 (2016)

I admit I haven’t followed The Body’s progress in sludge / doom metal much since the duo released “All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood” several years ago. In that time, the band relocated from Rhode Island to Portland in Oregon and released heaps more product (mostly collaborations, splits and EPs) than I can keep up with even if I were to commit myself to listening to nothing else. The band’s fifth album would have passed me by too if I hadn’t stumbled across it while looking for something else (that always happens, doesn’t it?) on Youtube.

Even a casual first hearing tells me how much The Body has grown in the range of music and subject matter they’re keen on covering: this album is very song-oriented, even inclined to rock / pop thanks partly to frequent collaborator Chrissy Wolpert who lends her larynx to a number of songs, and to vocalist Maralie Armstrong on “Adamah” and “Shelter is Illusory” who comes across as an underground metal answer to Adele. There are plenty of influences from genres like industrial, noise and hiphop, and electronic instruments and effects are present across the album. But at heart The Body is still a sludge / doom beast with Chip King managing an astounding act of playing guitar in time with Lee Buford’s drumming and the other guest performers while screaming his lone-outsider-prophet-in-the-wilderness shrieks in a way at variance with whatever his hands (and everyone else) are doing.

The Body (Chip King and Lee Buford): hunting for more interesting musical collaborators

The best tracks are those where The Body incorporates influences from other genres into the sludge / doom template to produce a very layered, unique fusion that simply couldn’t exist if any one of its parts were removed. “Shelter is Illusory”, combining swooping and snapping electronics, doom grind, a thumping tribal-drum percussion rhythm roll, a siren’s voice in the background and frying noise, is one such track; “Two Snakes”, including hiphop rhythms and sound textures along with guitar and a gritty drum machine, is another. “The Fall and the Guilt” is a beautiful song whose structure relies entirely on sung lyrics by Wolpert over disjointed piano chords, a lazy violin and a running gritty industrial drone texture layer.

On the other hand there are too many songs that repeat over and over without coming to a definite resolution of their ideas, or where King’s hollering and whooping carry on endlessly without much change from one track to the next. One gripe I have also with the album is that there are many good and varied tracks that are too short and could do with a longer treatment and development of their musical themes and ideas that might lead The Body into even more interesting and offbeat detours.

As it is, even with its repetitions, this album is very brave and adventurous, taking its creators and their fans far into new worlds musical and non-musical. On one level there is plenty of discovery and the joy of creating incredible musical combinations yet at the same time this is a highly accessible recording with themes of doomed love and loss. It may be heavy going for a lot of listeners but I’m sure most people will be very satisfied, even over-sated with musical richness, after the last song has played.

Boa / Cold: a mesmeric fusion of droning desert Western doom and cold heavy industrial techno dub

Earth / The Bug, Boa / Cold, Ninja Tune, ZEN12394 12″ vinyl (2014)

I sure did not see this collaboration coming at all and I was surprised to discover this release by Dylan Carlson (Earth) and Kevin Martin AKA The Bug from way back in 2014 … but on further reflection I really shouldn’t have been astonished. Both Carlson and Martin have been exploring, pushing and redefining the limits of their respective genres over the past 25 years, and among many other things Martin is known for his work with Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh / Jesu fame) in Techno Animal, so it was really a matter of when, not if, Carlson and Martin’s paths in out-there extreme underground and experimental music would cross. “Boa / Cold” grew out of The Bug’s recording sessions for his album “Angels & Devils”, in one of which Carlson was originally one of several collaborators.

This recording is unlike anything most of us will ever hear. “Boa” stands somewhere in a futuristic industrial sci-fi shadow zone between Desert Western Country Doom Guitar Melody Wander and Arctic Cold Heavy Hiphop Dub. The two genres sit side by side rather than try to blend into one fusion style. The contrast / tension between the two and the comment each style of music makes on the other make for a daunting and very sinister listening experience. The sound wash, the rhythms and beats (with occasional break-beats) are massive and the feeling can be overwhelming and hellish, as has often been my experience in dunking my head in Techno Animal’s sonic worlds. For all that, “Boa” is a short track and the actual playing by the musicians is as gentle, slow and relaxed as can be.

“Cold” is more of a fusion between Carlson’s guitar rambling and The Bug’s beats and rhythms that writhe around the guitar melody and the drone echo wash that follows in its wake. This seems a more structured piece than “Boa” if much colder, industrial and inhuman, with a shambling tribal feel. I have always had the impression that in their own ways Carlson and Martin have always been interested in music of a hypnotic shamanistic nature for the trance effects it can have, and this track certainly has a mesmeric, consciousness-altering effect on this listener.

If only both “Boa” and “Cold” were longer – at least 20 minutes each longer and more! – such an album of continuous serpentine droning doom / industrial techno dub would hold me spellbound forever.

The Irrepassable Gate: an uneven recording with good moments … and some very long ones too …

How does the cliche go? “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here …”

Ash Borer, The Irrepassable Gate, Canada, Profound Lore Records, CD PFL174 (2016)

If you’re thinking “there’s no such word as irrepassable”, well you’re wrong now because US West Coast black metallers Ash Borer have just brought it into being. Go on, is there another word in English that expresses the sense of wanting to pass over or through a threshold or portal, finding yourself stuck, yet being unable to go back, and being possibly condemned to remain in eternal limbo? This is the sense I have with the title of Ash Borer’s most recent album after a long hiatus of three-and-a-half years after the band’s last release. The cover art also conveys an impression of an occult temple entry into another dimension, one that will have a dramatic effect spanning the rest of your life if you dare try to go through; and if you don’t, you’ll remain in a child-like state forever, unable to progress to a higher spiritual level or state of conscious existence.

The title track is a mighty roaring guitar-dominant beast rampaging through its jungle domain, all thudding drums, whining guitar and subterranean growling vocals. The sound is very clear and the style of music is close to very melodic, clean-sounding BM with thrashy elements. Any pretensions to being ambient BM are being left behind and Ash Borer is becoming a full-fledged guitars-n-drums band. This in itself presents a challenge to Ash Borer to convey atmosphere, mood, intense emotion and their full, densely layered style without the help of keyboards. Stretched over 11 minutes, the title track appears a bit one-dimensional as the band concentrates on piling riff upon riff and plows its path speedily and relentlessly, forcing listeners to follow as best they can. The slower, bass-heavy (in its first half anyway)”Lacerated Spirit” is more successful at carving out a three-dimensional sound and distinct atmosphere with feedback drone and an experimental bent. Likewise “Lustration” is another step further into the twilight world promised by the album title with deep drone, repeating guitar strum shrouded with echo and moaning voices and effects suggesting the presence of ancient spirit beings.

The album does have its bombastic moments and at times these and the long passages of never-ending blast-beat drumming, guitar noodling and background demon wailing can start to sound like filler material. There may be some fine melodies and moments where the music is intense and unsurpassable but when songs are very long and get carried away by constant repetitive fidgeting, no matter how technically good that is, such jewels can be missed. Listeners who find the second half of the album something of a drag (I have to say I did) can spend some time with the songs to their halfway points and shoot through to the final track “Lustration II” which is a return to the slower, complex doomy BM style of earlier songs like “Lacerated Spirit”.

As you can guess by now, this album was a very mixed bag of good, avant-rock music and longer scrabbling pieces of endurance-test proportions. The experimental ambient avant-rock style of tracks like “Lacerated Spirit” and the two “Lustration” pieces unfortunately doesn’t extend all the way through and the distinct sounds these have compared to the more straight-ahead melodic BM of the rest of the album make “The Irrepassable Gate” a very uneven recording. Well, Ash Borer didn’t exactly promise us a smooth ride through what may very well be a transition phase in their career. It seems that “The Irrepassable Gate” symbolises a formidable challenge for the band at this crucial moment in their history, whether to advance in a different musical direction or stay as they are, as it is a listening experience for its audiences.

Entropy: a dive into a world of black metal / doom fusion despair and hopelessness

Spire, Entropy, Germany, Iron Bonehead Productions, IBP 265 CD digipak / vinyl 12″ / digital (2016)

Only recently have Spire issued their debut album in spite of having existed for nearly a decade. The long gestation period (with an equally long wait for their fans!) has finally paid off: “Entropy” is not so much an album of very dark ambient ritual black metal songs as it is a full dive into a universe of deep alienation, untold pain and never-ending despair. The immersive nature of the music reminds me a great deal of French BM legends Deathspell Omega and it’s possible DSO served as an inspiration and the standard against which Spire strove to craft and refine their music. In that, Spire have certainly set themselves a high target to aim for and they have done well indeed.

Each track, no matter how long or short, is epic in itself which says a great deal about how the musicians composed and crafted the music and constructed the whole thing – not just the actual song itself but its atmosphere, the effects that flesh it out into a three-dimensional beast – so that the entire structure is a soaring monstrous creature of unlimited malevolence, magnificent in its clear and crisp sound, and utter crystalline coldness. The first track “Ends” demonstrates Spire blasting out atmospheric BM doom drama the equal of any music in that genre to be found. It’s really with “(Remake)” though that we enter territory that maybe not even DSO have dared to venture into: here we come into a stupendous Ninth-Layer-Of-Hell region of deranged crunching guitar riffing and reptilian echo-cacophony that plainly spells out “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter” in case we still harboured such child-like notions in our heads. Even then, we only get a glimpse of the depths of the abyss that beckon before we’re whisked off to the next track, an equally intense work of thunderous bass, rapid-fire percussion and pounding visions of eternal hell.

So far, so good … and then we come to “(Unmake)”, an almost all-ambient track featuring guitar trilling melody and feedback against a background of pulsing whisper noise effects. Putting this track here after mostly short though intense pieces does take the wind out of the album, especially as this is one of the longer tracks, meaning that the song coming after has a lot of work to do reclaiming the earlier intensity of the music. Fortunately this is not difficult for the title track to do, building up to behemoth proportions with nuclear-powered blast-beat percussion, martial riffing, loads of screaming vocals and deep-end guttural groans, and bass lines that travel their own off-centre rollercoaster paths into derangement.

The album could have done with slightly longer songs in its earlier half – “(Remake)” alone is such a stupendous song that cutting it to about 3 minutes should have led to six months’ community service and maybe a small fine – so as to balance the long tracks that come in the album’s second half. Apart from this, and the slight loss of momentum that comes with having a long ambient piece after the halfway point, I don’t find much to fault this album. True, a lot of the music sounds familiar if you’re a DSO-obsessive freak and Spire could have brought something more innovative to their brand of very dark and occult-sounding black / doom fusion. The band has work cut out for it to develop a more original sound and not be mistaken for someone else’s project. Even so, “Entropy” is still a very ambitious work, sounding very complete in its aims and vision, with a powerful and layered style. The best thing about the album is its immersive nature, how it sounds so much like a real hellish world where pain, despair and lack of hope reign, that it feels more real than the actual world we live in.

Absolution: good heavy doom sludge / melodic rock fusion debut needs a few tweaks

Khemmis, Absolution, United States, 20 Buck Spin, SPIN075 (2015)

The debut album from Denver band Khemmis (cool name!), which the guys released in 2015 on trusty doom label 20 Buck Spin, “Absolution” isn’t quite my cup of coffee for various reasons so I’ll try to be brief. Khemmis deal in a style of heavy gritty doom sludge mixed with classic melodic rock riffs and tunes: plenty of lead guitar soloing is to be found throughout the album. Song lyrics have an apocalyptic edge to them and there are visions of an unyielding God enforcing His pitiless law on imperfect humans.

First track “Torn Asunder” is a lively and energetic song with jagged riffing and crunchy fuzz-guitar tones. From then on, the songs settle into a slower pace and it’s from this point on that I must admit the album has lost me. I’m not sure why every time I try listening to “Absolution”, my enthusiasm starts to flag. I have to say the clean vocals, wherever they appear, seem very out of place in music that’s heavy and grinding with riffs the size and weight of tombstones. At the same time, the more gruff and raspy voices, acting as counterpoint to the clean choirboy singing, are shouty and come off as pretentiously macho in a way not intended by the band. Sorry guys but that’s how the singing, whether clean or harsh, comes across. There’s a one-dimensional quality to both sets of vocals and it seems that the singing tries too hard to compete with the music and needs to concentrate more on bringing the emotion and the vision out of the lyrics to listeners.

Apart from the gripes that I have regarding the vocals, the music hits a sweet spot between deep grinding concrete doom sludge miasma and a more melodic and commercially accessible hard rock style. Khemmis need to take care not to fill every moment of the album with epic melodic doom sludge bombast. Some quiet passages of ambience or acoustic guitar music would help vary the music and maintain listener attention and interest. I’d suggest that the band should concentrate either on the clean heroic vocal style or the shouting rasp, or another style entirely – a deeper clean baritone might suit – and also look at playing more all-instrumental tracks with plenty of jamming and improvisation.

As it is, the album showcases a band with good technical skills and songwriting ability in abundance. I see no reason why Khemmis shouldn’t go far with a few tweaks to their brand of doom sludge / melodic rock fusion for a more individual and distinct style.

Brunt (self-titled): a good debut of instrumental psych doom fusion work-outs

Brunt, self-titled, Hevisike Records, vinyl edition HVSK-1201 (2014)

Since I heard this Channel Islands doom stoner trio’s “Blackbeard” EP, I’ve been looking for other stuff of theirs and found this self-titled album. Most tracks on the album are sprawling instrumental pieces of riff-dominated mood psychedelic doom sludge fusion and the fun starts right away with an extended sonorous drone tone riff, around which percussion weaves a constantly changing beat and rhythm structure, on the first half of “St Felix of Nola” – the second half being a more brooding wander in dark murky space out of which emerge a drum beat loop and then a whining steel-edged rhythm guitar churn topped with an oily high-pitched wobble lead guitar solo. We’re in for a very interesting ride through fields and valleys of atmospheric psych doom stoner melange if this first track is any guide.

With its distinctively playful rhythm loops, “The Tale of the Hideous Tricorn” sounds almost tongue-in-cheek though the lyrics about the origin of Satan and humanity might possibly be more serious than they read. Whatever you think of the lyrics, the music certainly is an enjoyable ride with long lead guitar improvisations and bouncy percussion. “Rabbit of Cannabong” – for a moment I thought this might be a homage to the killer bunny in that old Monty Python flick about King Arthur and his knights in search of the Holy Grail – is just as good to listen to, mixing a smart-n-sassy rhythm section run with a slower, more concrete-slab passage of booming bass and hard-slapping drumwork. The bass work-outs here might just be the best parts of the song, which is really saying something as the whole track smoulders with crunch and crumble guitar textures.

The album gets better and better with “A Concise Cosmic History Of The Swob Monster Pt1 (The Birth Of Fuzz)” which elbows everything that’s gone before with spiky angular riffs that continue to elaborate throughout the track. There’s more of that molten-lava lead guitar attack before the whole piece morphs into a huge doom sluggernaut monster making its sedate way down the Milky Way.

All tracks are well composed and tend to consist of two sometimes very different parts with the second part a bit slower and heavier than the first. There’s an emphasis on a few distinct riffs repeating over and over on tracks and I suppose as long as they’re fairly short they won’t be too monotonous for most listeners. The songs probably could be a bit longer and feature more variation and development of melodies and riffs than they do. Most tracks suffer a little from not having a vocalist (even if that vocalist does nothing more than howl or chant nonsense gibberish) and a couple of lines of poetry. While the clean production gives the music a very contemporary sound and all instruments can be heard (and enjoyed) clearly, at the same time the music gives the impression of being a bit flat and almost one-dimensional, and needing an extra layer of sound to give it depth.

Even so, with all its faults this self-titled album is a great way to become acquainted with psych doom fusion music and Brunt in particular.

Keef Mountain (self-titled): a powerful start to a retro-70s doom stoner band’s career

Keef Mountain, self-titled, United States, The Company, THECO-001 CD digipak (2016)

Hard to believe that this is Keef Mountain’s debut album and all the music is the work of just two musicians: this is really massive and powerful, a very confident and self-assured recording with a definite message that celebrates transcendence and the various modes of achieving it. The band manages to be retro-1970s stoner doom in style and sheer heaviness yet the music sounds fresh and up-to-date due to a good balance between a distorted fuzzy guitar sound and a clean production that gives the songs a minimal and spacious quality. The songs are short and straight to the point in their delivery, with strong tough riffing that defines the tracks’ identities. While the singing is shouty, it’s very clear and isn’t overwhelmed by the music.

Opener “Green Wizard” might clock under five minutes but it has three quite distinct parts: a slow instrumental introduction followed by a speedy middle section where the best riffs and singing are bunched together, and a silly finale featuring a spoken-word recording about the worth of taking drugs over organised religion. Fortunately the found sound recording is the only hokey part of the album so if listeners can hang on, they’ll be well rewarded. “Psilocybin Queen” is a better indicator of what listeners can expect: focused songs stressing good solid doom riffing, plenty of jamming and no unnecessary meandering or filler material. If anything, the songs could afford to be a bit longer so listeners can savour the more doomy and abrasive rhythm guitar crunching – some of those riffs are sledgehammer- heavy – or the more spaced-out trippy ambient parts where they exist.

Surprisingly the album’s best moments come after the halfway point when we think the band can’t possibly keep up the standard anymore and we start expecting the inevitable slide into filler-zone territory: “Resin Lung” introduces a light psychedelic or sci-fi influence with treated vocal leading into a frenzy of bass grind riffing. “Hendog” is much slower and sludgier with eerily treated vocals that sound as if their owner was stuck in a space capsule high above Earth; the song later collapses into a series of powerful crashing riffs. “Higher Realms” is a gritty and sometimes darkly brooding resolution of the album’s themes and ideas in just over six compact minutes.

All the songs are good as they are, though they probably could do with more atmosphere than they have, and different atmospheres at that so they are more distinctive from one another. Keef Mountain have a powerful and bass-heavy style that could be even more so if they let fly on longer songs with more instrumental and improvised music. I’d be keen on the duo following up with a longer  album with themes and ideas going beyond dope-smoking and rituals of transcendence – these guys seem more than capable of taking their listeners on long extended journeys through vistas of inner time and space.

Farewell to the Sun: a disappointing debut for a promising doom / post-BM band

vow-of-thorns

Vow of Thorns, Farewell to the Sun, Canada, Forest Dweller Inc., CD digipak (2016)

Although the foursome from southern Ontario have been playing together for some 8 years, Vow of Thorns haven’t had an impressive discography so far and only this year (2016) did they release their first album “Farewell to the Sun”. From the sound of it – and I’ve played it a few times already – I’m wondering if maybe even releasing it this year was a bit premature for VoT. There’s some very good atmospheric post-BM music here but taken as a whole the album lacks direction and focus, and much of it seems circular, repetitive and lacking in energy. I’m sure the members worked hard and long on this recording so I’m disappointed for them that it hasn’t turned out the way it could have done.

For a start there are three tracks that form a “Farewell to the Sun” trilogy within the album of the same name so listeners might query whether these songs, totalling 23 minutes altogether, couldn’t have been hived off as a separate album or EP release from the other tracks. For all that, there’s no great difference between those songs and the rest of the album, and the entire recording could have been an overarching work of six connected chapters. At least three tracks on the album, none of them related to one another, are 10+ minutes in length and listeners are hard-pressed to figure out why any one of these should be as long as it is, given that the music often wanders from one set of riffs or melodies to the next without anything being resolved within the song.

Opening track “Meeting on the Astral Plane” seems promising enough as it features some blistering BM energy mixed with passages of emotive doom filtered through a BM sheen along with some solid heavy metal melodic crunch and moments of quiet acoustic meditation within its 10-minute limit. The level of playing is solid throughout and the musicians pour their hearts and souls into the music. Can it be possible that they’re a bit too swept away by the music to the point of overplaying and the song ends up overstaying its welcome? There are moments where it seems there are other songs within “Meeting …” struggling to emerge and the musicians’ attention is diverted to indulging these within the original song and losing sight of what they should be doing. This is a problem that recurs on other tracks later, especially on the album’s other long songs.

You’d expect the “Farewell to the Sun” tracks to form a self-contained set in which a definite musical narrative can be heard. Part I at least starts off as a long instrumental intro. Part II takes up the baton and some of the musical themes but then starts falling apart during its fifth to sixth minutes with pauses that deflate the music’s momentum. From then on there’s a long, long haul back up to where we started. Perhaps the agony and anguish are intended but, jeez, the journey is excruciating. Part III similarly is an endurance test through doomy post-BM. At the end of this set, I don’t get the feeling that whatever crises were brought up during its 20-plus minutes have been resolved and what we’ve had to undergo is an extended wallow in depression and misery.

Much of the music actually isn’t bad, the album could have junked out a lot of the more repetitive sections and been a much tighter and more focused work. The production, while good, doesn’t serve the music too well, not allowing the more contemplative and atmospheric parts to be what they should be (that is, contemplative and atmospheric) or giving the heavier, more crunching riffs the three-dimensional solidity they need. The main problem is that too many songs try to pack too much in, trying to be all things to all people, and they end up sounding very similar.

For all that, VoT have some good melodies and riffs, and the guys play very well together; they just need better song composition skills and to reconsider how they want to sound and what they want to get out of it to provide a better experience for their fans.