After seriously enjoying some recent epic masterworks from Monolithe and other entities from the more ambitious end of the doom death and funeral doom fraternity, I was keen to get my decimated ear drums around this debut from Norway’s Abyssic. Eighty minutes of heavily orchestral, but finely balanced, doominess split into four parts – all set to test my miniscule attention span to the limits. The trouble with an album like this is not just finding the time to absorb it, but slowing down enough to take in its sprawling atmosphere.
The first thing that strikes about A Winter’s Tale is that, despite having that obligatory crushing heaviness, the unhurried acoustic and undistorted passages fight for equal billing. The accomplished keyboard sounds, courtesy of Images at Twilight’s André Aaslie, rise above the thundering riffs and even taking over the show completely at various times. In fact, the component parts of A Winter’s Tale are all worthy of note – solid vocals, well-produced orchestral and keyboard sounds, and elephantine riffs. I suspect Abyssic is going for a Pink Floyd meets doom-death fip – and it’s not an unpleasant listen by any means. Some nice progressive keyboard twiddling and layering of the various aspects of the sound.
But ‘progressive’ can so often be used to cover up the fact that something is simply self-indulgent and directionless. And unfortunately I struggled miserably to make it through the album the first full time and struggled even more the second and third times. Because, despite its confident, striding nature, A Winter’s Tale doesn’t really measure up to the epic doom of today.
I’m afraid that a 27 minute track where nothing much happens other than what was introduced in the first five minutes repeated ad nauseum is probably not going to win big marks from me. In fact, Abyssic has set the bar on a new definition of the words ‘sprawling’ and ‘meandering’ when there are plenty of bands in this broadening genre doing those things well and packing much much more into such a huge listening time.
I see this as providing a backdrop to a morning-in-the-life-of a doom-death metal fan. Music to do the housework to as you pass between rooms doing the dishes and the hoovering – and not having to worry if you miss the best bits. Because try as I might I’m struggling to find them. No twists and turns, no surprises or ever evolving passages of clever musicality. It’s almost 44 minutes before I encountered anything that was worth sitting up for in Sombre Dreams – a change of time signature – before we settled back down into the same old pace and predictable riffing.
There are so many good albums about at the moment and releasing this extended, unedited, horizonless journey into grindingly slow heaviness is simply – and literally – a waste of all our times. For hopeless doom-death addicts only.
(5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)