With doom legends Candlemass releasing an EP to showcase relative new boy Mats Levin it seems an appropriate time for a bit of reflection on the ways of heavy metal with a gravitational force. Doom in recent years has explored some dark, some satanic and some mind-blowing paths. Proliferating in the same way as black metal did years back. But the middle ground has been a bit wanting. A bit of power-fuelled doom but which manages to plough a dark furrow with a combination of mammoth riffs, mournful vocals, evocative production and tales of woe. The Order of Israel showed more than just promise with their Wisdom debut two years ago – even though it was initially tempting to assume they’d be an entertaining novelty. But the band is fast crystallising that early potential yet further – and convincingly echoing back towards the early days of evil women, sleeping villages and children of the grave.
The Order of Israfel has a bit of everything which should all be enough to hook most doom fans in on some level. Dark journeys through mist filled landscapes, monasteries long since overtaken with demonic sin; a bit of seventies psychedelia mixed with something unmistakably drawn from the long-forgotten past: a long, dark streak of folk tale-telling that harks back to days in the village inn when everything around you was utterly black and shadows lurked for miles around. It all adds up to a tight package that sees the band, led by Aussie mastermind and ex-Church of Misery Tom Sutton, sail effortlessly beyond the second album post and beyond. If, by the end of the first and title track Red Robes, you’re not already deep in the days of inquisitions and devils that spring from the imagination that are as real as you or I, then this is probably not for you. A bit of Ozzy-period Sabbath, Cathedral and more than a dose of Reverend Bizarre and, yes, the obvious comparisons, at least vocally, with the Ozzy-lite of Count Raven.
The lyrics match the mood perfectly, even down to Sutton’s vocals which are rough-hewn but still manage to perfectly fit the bill for the majority of the time (apart from the odd failed attempt at rhyming couplets – we really need to think of another word to rhyme with sorrow other than ‘to-mor-row’, guys). Nit-picking aside, the cool lyrics and 70s vibe of tracks like In Thrall To the Sorceress, the soulful trad metal of Swords to the Sky, the obligatory racer a Shadow In The Hills and the dark and brooding The Thirst. There isn’t really a dull moment here proving that Sutton has alighted on a formula which is letting loose his creative streak.
Red Robes perfectly captures the doom vibe while, like its predecessor, casually throwing in some gratuitous hooks – a bit of monastic chanting, some cheeky 70s rock and then laying on the monolithic guitars at every turn in case you thought you might get chance to take a breath. This is clearly a band on a roll and, judging by this impressive release, only just getting started.
(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)