Certain names seem to crop up throughout the year and I do wonder at times who the most prolific musician is that turns up in extreme music with the most regularity? Rogga Johannson is no slouch, Niklas Kvarforth likes guesting all over the place and if you need a spot of clean vocals Tim Yatras is definitely the man. When it comes to doom and more specifically funeral doom though, if an album comes in without Greg Chandler’s name on I have to wonder what’s wrong with it. Whilst his main band Esoteric take a punishingly long time to come up with their punishingly long albums he seems to be involved either in producing and / or at least adding something to the musical canvas of most bands from the sub-genre no matter how remote a part of the Urals or far flung part of the Middle East they are from. It’s no surprise he is mentioned as being involved with Aphonic Threnody on their debut slab of doom along with Jarno from Shape Of Despair. The staple line up itself is a multi-European one featuring players from Gallow God, Urna, Arcana Coelistia and Locus Mortis among others so that should give you a good idea of what to expect from this. So should the fact that feeding it into the CD player reveals that we have 5 tracks running at 62 minutes playing time.
I have not seen the movie Mama (2013) but it is from this the ghostly sample fittingly starts the album with first track ‘The Ghost’s Song.’ From there very strong melody is quick to literally haunt us as it slowly and sorrowfully drapes itself around us from the speakers with some thick flowing guitar lines. Vocals are rough, coarse and growl like weathered bark and there is a big and epic feel about things as harmonious choral parts also join in. It’s got a timeless feel about it and is a quite accessible tune compared to the others on the album so no doubt a good pick to start off this opus. It’s powerful in emotion and atmosphere and really draws you in to its folds taking just a couple of spins to really embed itself in your head and be welcomed back fondly on repeated spins. At 18:00 minutes Death’s Obsession is a whopper of a track, it introduces a fairly strong string harmony to things, sounds like possibly a cello which adds depth to an already deep abyss dwelling number. Again it’s incredibly rich and sumptuous all round and I guess will draw comparisons to early Ahab and Evoken by instrumentation, flow and craggy vocals. Some of the drum patterns pick the pace up a bit to a doomy death morass and this has no problem stretching itself to its length without getting monotonous or having me lose interest.
There’s some gorgeous shimmery refrains on ‘Dementia,’ the song has slowed down to a crawl but the melody lushly sparkles and gleams away within it and really has you calmly drifting along in its caress. Although its slothful nature is somewhat punishing it’s a great number to really immerse yourself in. ‘The Children’s Sleep’ starts with a somewhat nostalgic folk like feel to it before expanding to long flowing guitar lines and a drowsy plodding but heavy slow pummel. Vocals are a bit more indignant as they bellow away and yet another really strong melody flows through this similar to those that have come before but also different meaning that each track has had a strong sense of its own identity. Last track title ‘Our Way To The Ground’ goes very well with the album cover art as a piano plays a maudlin refrain drenching things with a sorrowful shroud of finality. It sounds like a Theremin joining in with this and after a slight pause everything drops in expanding upon the melody and weighing it down like an anchor with its heavy ballast. There’s some particularly rasping higher vocal parts to this possibly we have found Chandler’s part in it all with this at last and the sense of doom is completely mesmerising and overriding.
Having seen the band support Esoteric, Fen and Wodensthrone at the tail end of last year I had expected this to be quite a dramatic and solid debut album and it has certainly proved itself so. Strong stuff for all you lovers of things that are cold, grey and dead!
(8/10 Pete Woods)