(Our Russian connoisseur of all things doom, Comrade Aleks, has brought us a series of reviews of 2017 releases that we haven’t yet touched upon, beginning with this first trio of assessments.)
I looked through my list of reviews for September and suddenly found for myself a few names that I almost forget to mention in the places where they should be mentioned. Shame on me…
I’d like to solve this situation as soon as possible, so a few stories of doom wait ahead. Let’s start with new records of Seattle-based Army Of Dagon, the heretics from the Finnish woods, Cardinals Folly, and the grim crew of Dautha (Sweden).
Army Of Dagon: Night Of The Mystics (Self-released)
Army of Dagon from Seattle made their way to a self-titled debut without hurry: Born in 2011, they managed to record it only in 2015. This record represented a kind of traditional doom with heavy metal influences and melancholic atmosphere. Two years passed and they return with a sophomore release that successfully cultivates the general “Army Of Dagon” musical ideas.
Night Of The Mystics is a heavier record, but it has the same depressed mood, the same intentionally rude sound, and Jonn Rockwell’s vocals haven’t changed too much and sound recognizable – it’s emotional, but these emotions are well balanced.
The songs’ durations are comfortable; usually it takes Army Of Dagon five minutes to play a proper, memorable song. Though the album itself is level, there aren’t any empty fillers; all the songs are of equal good quality. I wouldn’t say that there are songs that will become iconic ones, yet “Black Mountain Keep”, “Evening Sky”, and “Amulet Of Strength” are right traditional doom songs with hooks that are catchy enough to make you want to listen it again.
Army Of Dagon aren’t the darkest band, they’re not “extreme” or “vintage” as many bands tend to sound now, they do their doom in their own way, and they do it well.
Cardinals Folly: Deranged Pagan Sons (Nine Records)
Believe me or not, these heathen dudes turn out to be one of the most active, prolific, and charismatic doom bands from Suomi. Such Power Is Dangerous! and Our Cult Continues! were not bad albums; the third release Holocaust Of Ecstasy And Freedom was damn good; and now Deranged Pagan Sons approves every strong aspect of its predecessor.
Cardinals Folly feel comfortable on up-tempo tracks, and the fanatical hooked singing of Mikko Kääriäinen only increases the impression of “savage Finnish doom”. The band praises the undead spirit of Reverend Bizarre and somehow they have the essence of their far precursors Minotauri. As Mikko speaks out his pagan proclamations and makes the bass spread pulsating primordial vibes, Juho (guitars) and Joni (drums) lead these ancient rituals with him, spreading their twisted creed like fire on an old wooden church.
They may ignite you with their ardent beliefs or maybe not, but I wonder if someone can remain immune to these grooved tunes, their dark passion, and the purest blend of traditional doom and heavy metal. The songs’ sound is high-powered though it’s marked with the underground’s raw atmosphere and a bit of a sloppy, almost punk-styled, performance. Pagan Sons run free and wild, and the album they’ve done is one of most remarkable doom impressions of 2017.
Dautha: Den Förste (Ván Records)
“Dautha” is a declined form of “dead” or “death” in Old Norse, yet this Swedish band preaches doom in its traditional form. The band’s lineup is pretty remarkable. The rhythm section of Emil Åström (bass) and Micael Zetterberg (drums), and guitarist Ola Blomkvist, came from the death doom outfit Wardenclyffe; besides that, they spent a lot of time in other bands such as Terrorama and Griftegård. Second guitarist Erik Öquist is from Projectu, and vocalist Lars Palmqvist sings clean vocals in the death metal band Scar Symmetry.
In May 2016 they recorded the first demo as Dautha, and now it’s released as an EP. Less than a minute-long instrumental intro and two songs make a record that’s just 15 minutes long. It’s difficult to judge the scale of the band’s intentions, but these two compositions are excellent evidence of dedication to the sacred canons of doom metal.
The compositions are mostly performed at mid-pace, though there’re some tempo switches along the way. The guitars’ sound is mournful and thick, and the violin on “Benandanti” amplifies the feeling of long-gone tragedies. The lyrics tell the story of a strange visionary cult that existed in Northeastern Italy during the 16th and 17th centuries. The soaring and sonorous voice of Lars fits this medieval topic well; his words sound prophetic, and old-world witchcraft is the common theme for a doom band. The second track “In Between Two Floods” obtains the same atmosphere and features as the first one. Its text appeals to Christian symbolism, and thus reminds of Griftegård. That’s logical, as Ola is the lyrics’ author in Dautha.
Den Förste is a promising start, but only a full-length will more fully reveal the band’s strengths, and any weak points. As for this short EP — it has no flaws but its size.