(We present Part 4 of a series of reviews by our Russian connoisseur of all things doom, Comrade Aleks, and today he shares impressions of, and music from, three more 2017 releases. Go here to check out Part 1, here for Part 2, and here for Part 3.)
Some say that Black Sabbath or Pentagram are the only real doom bands, some add that you shouldn’t forget Candlemass and Cathedral, then another one reminds us about My Dying Bride or Esoteric. Doom takes many forms.
It takes the form of Kafkian surrealistic mind journeys as Odradek Room show it. It may reveal itself through straight primordial riffs decorated with psycho or prog influences, as Vokonis preach. And it may appear in the melancholic tunes of Old Night. You never know… So choose your own doom. Here you will find three new aspects of the Doom Cult.
Odradek Room: A Man Of Silt (Hypnotic Dirge Records)
Though this Ukrainian band has gained the reputation of a “Kafkian doom band” (it’s named after a Kafka short story), Odradek Room’s debut Bardo. Relative Reality was partly influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead and mostly focused on personal negative experiences. That album explored the sonic realms of progressive doom metal, combining crushing, distorted death/doom parts and tender melancholic atmosphere built on acoustic guitars and haunted arrangements.
Their sophomore work A Man Of Silt shows the band’s further progress. First of all, all the lyrics are sung and growled in English, while Bardo… was originally performed in Russian. And second, the heavy parts have become more bloody and extreme, the progressive parts more complex and elegant, and the atmosphere richer as well.
The extreme vocals remind of Katatonia’s doom-periods, and there are a few faster, black-influenced passages on the album which work well with such outbursts. The clean singing reflects a “confessional” side of this work; it’s very human and thus natural.
The band leads the listener through dark corridors of the unconscious, which occasionally could lead you into the blank, darkest dead-ends or into a room lit with blinding sunlight. The A Man Of Silt framework is the labyrinth: You can’t predict where the next turn will lead you to. A rough calculation lets me estimate that the album consists of 40% heavy stuff (and even that part isn’t very straightforward), so the lion’s share of these songs should be interesting for those who appreciate intellectual and emotional forms of music.
Vokonis: The Sunken Djinn (Ripple Music)
The Swedish power-trio Vokonis was noticed with their debut Olde One Ascending just a year ago. That was a promising debut; the entire album was a remarkable monument of solid, massive riffs and powerful shouting vocals. But you know there’s a lot of budding stoner doom crews in action nowadays. The guys returned really fast with new material, and it’s stronger than the stuff they recorded just one year before that.
The Sunken Djinn approximates Vokonis to the crushing standards of barbarian Conan (UK) but in a more friendly way. The riffs and vocals performed by Simon Ohlsson are merciless and unstoppable, like a devastating tsunami wave, and the work of the rhythm section executed by Jonte Johansson and Emil Larsson is as heavy and precise as a killing blow. Jonte has enough anger inside to add it through the backing vocals as an extra amplification to the force of Simon’s voice; believe me – together they make enough of a rumble!
But more than that the band show their best in creating a vast psychedelic canvas (the title song or “Calling from the Core”) and even cruel noisy experiments (“Maelstroem”). Vokonis didn’t put themselves in a creative dead-end with only riff-oriented stuff, something that could have been enough to brand them an “uncompromised and straightforward” band. Instead, they made a necessary and natural effort and took a step down a more difficult path, choosing to improve their sound.
The Sunken Djinn isn’t just more refined than its predecessor, it’s also more professionally produced and recorded. The sound isn’t polished, but clean in its primordial power, so the comparison with the tsunami isn’t accidental.
It sounds like Vokonis feel their own capabilities very well, and they showcase just a part of them. I wonder how much more prog- or post-influences they could accept the next time they meet in the studio.
Old Night: Pale Cold Irrelevance (Rain Without End Records)
Old Night was started by Luca Petrović, who performed the duties of bass player and vocalist of Ashes You Leave (death-doom / gothic-doom). He gathered a crew of like-minded musicians, and the result of their collaboration is an excellent record made of classic doom ideas but under the inspiration of old-school prog.
I haven’t heard much about the Croatian doom scene, so the high quality of Old Night’s release surprised me a bit: The album is a well-thought-out work from the first track until the last one. The shortest composition, “Architects Of Doom”, has a running time of 7 minutes, and the duration of the three longest tracks is more than 10 minutes each. But hey! The length of the tracks isn’t built from the monotonous recycling of riffs. Old Night use this space for beautiful melodic dirges, and you know… there are three guitarists in the lineup.
I couldn’t say that these six songs are filled with hooks, but Pale Cold Irrelevance is an interesting album offering calm melancholic journeys to the world of human weakness and sorrows. Clean vocals prevail (though you can hear some background growls on “The Last Child Of Doom”), and the lyrics tell stories about the crumbling world around us. We’re used to wars which are unleashed far from our homes, we lose our humanity every day piece by piece, so lines such as the following ones are a good occasion to remind us of such things:
He took up arms and went in
Another fool’s war
Because the wolves were hungry
And rotten to the core
All the pigs were shamelessly weltering
While our heroes were dying
On their corpses the wolves were feasting
While honest men were crying.
The most melodic song on the album – “Something Is Broken” — and I would say that this title describes Old Night’s message clearly.