(TheMadIsraeli recently went on a reviewing rampage. We may have one from him every day this week. Today’s review focuses on “The Giant”, the new album by Germany’s Ahab, which will be released by Napalm Records on May 25.)
Doom metal is a genre that is often hard for many to accept or buy into. I get why. I didn’t even start to appreciate it until only last year when I forced myself to sit down and really listen. In the end, I found it to be ideal contemplation music, music to which I could meditate about my life. It’s not so much depressing as I find it to be the soundtrack to introspection, often the introspection of one’s mortality and shortcomings.
Funeral doom, however, is where my love for this style really shines. If you aren’t going to be chaotic and frantic, you best be as morose and macabre as possible. Four bands have accomplished this for me with the most powerful of results: Mournful Congregation, Colosseum (R.I.P), Pantheist, and Ahab.
Ahab’s new album The Giant continues their tradition of seafaring melodic death doom. Their music has always penetrated my soul to its very depths, but The Giant is a whole other beast entirely. An added strong presence of stoner vibes is evident throughout, creating something of an otherworldly experience akin to drowning yet not feeling or experiencing any of the fear, pain, or frantic desperation. You are simply accepting.
The Giant is only six songs long. That may not sound like much, until I tell you the shortest song is about eight minutes and the longest is about thirteen. Ahab have taken a much more introspective and dynamic heavy approach this time around, crafting a journey that leaves the listener feeling like that lone shipwreck survivor holding onto a single plank of wood, floating in the middle of the ocean, hoping he’ll find land soon.
Opener “Further South” is four seconds shy of nine minutes, but slightly more than half of it is nothing but bereaved clean lamentations with vocalist Daniel Droste’s haunting wails floating over the music. It isn’t until near the five-minute mark that a sludgy, poignant riff kicks in along with Daniel’s gutturals, which could be rising up from the belly of a whale to penetrate the ocean surface, creating a tidal wave of sonic weight.
The whole song, as all great doom metal usually does for me, revolves around one melodic theme and merely manages to vary it profoundly for an exceedingly long period of time. I often complain about repetitiveness in metal I don’t like (or music in general), but the doom realm seems to be home to musicians who can take one section, and with just enough varying touches throughout, milk one riff for all it’s possibly worth without the music ever turning into a bore.
“Aeons Elapse” is the second song of the album and also the longest, clocking in at a solid twelve minutes and forty-five seconds. It opens with another bereaved clean intro, but the music is far more on the bleak side this time. When the distortion kicks in, the particular riff of this song has a very sinister undercurrent that makes it almost disturbing to listen to. The song includes A LOT of switching between distorted and clean pieces, making full use of loud and soft dynamics to accentuate the turbulent emotions conveyed.
“Deliverance” is my favorite track on this album. Ever wanted to know what old-school In Flames would sound like reduced to doom tempo? This is the song. Harmonized riffs and rather medieval melodies permeate its sonic structure, all while retaining that macabre atmosphere. The harmonized riff that makes up the last three minutes of this song is one of the most memorable I’ve ever heard. I last listened to this song two days ago and was still humming it to myself while writing this review.
The currents might carry the man on the solitary plank of wood floating in the ocean to an unexplored deserted island, and “Antarctica The Polymorphess” would definitely be the soundtrack for such an occasion. It’s full of apprehension and an air of mystery. It’s a powerful, rousing number with lots of hills and valleys full of suitable build-ups and diminuendo. The riffs here have a rather dignified feel about them as well.
“Fathoms Deep Blue” feels like a continuation of “Antarctica The Polymorphess”. The song uses a neat idea of moving from sections that sound rather hopeful to sections that sound particularly morose. The riff that increasingly slows down near the end is like the sound of someone’s hope for survival dying in degrees.
“The Giant” matches its title well, a hulking titan of a closer that is more of a strongly introspective song than anything else. It’s peppered with welcome middle eastern melodic flourishes, painting the image of a seafarer pulling into an Arabian port city and witnessing the life surrounding him. It has the feeling of a journey coming to its end and ushers the listener out of the album exceptionally well.
The mix of this album really adds to its character. It’s extremely organic, and really does sound like the music wells up from a hollowed-out ocean cave. You can imagine yourself walking on the ocean floor below, watching as the life floats by. The production also accounts in part for the stoner vibe I mentioned, in that the guitar tone has a bit more fuzz and a bit less gain, achieving something more old school in its sound.
The drums are mixed superbly; in my opinion, getting them right in the mix is an essential of a doom album. You can really hear the kit, as if you’re standing in the room with it. The snare especially has an odd aura, yet a precise and powerful snap when struck, acting as the main proponent in moving the music along.
The vocals of Daniel Droste, excellent as always, are also mixed in quite nicely and have the right amount of reverb and echo to give him that beastly yet ethereal tone.
Ahab have yet to disappoint me. This makes a promising EP and three killer albums in a row, with a theme rarely explored within the metal realm that makes them interesting both in sound and in the album art and lyrics. I’d call this album a must for doom fans, and for those who don’t yet quite feel the music of the genre, this may very well convert you.
(Find Ahab on Facebook here.)