Ryan Wilson is the man behind USA act The Howling Void and I have delved into a couple of their 6 albums in the past. He’s a busy chap, also involved in other bands such as Intestinal Disgorge (who I am guessing are brutal death), Pneuma Hagion, blackened death and Excantation, Funeral Doom. Last time I heard The Howling Void was on 2014 album ‘Nightfall’ and it was very much focused on long and repetitive slabs of funeral doom with symphonic elements. By the looks of things he kind of streamlined this a little on last album ‘The Triumph Of Ruin’ last year and that too is very much the case with this new one. Sure it still has just the five tracks on it and they are fairly lengthy and involved but this album is shorter at just 38 minutes in length and certainly not quite so focussed on repetition as previously. In doing so, although the funeral tag can still at times be employed, there is more going on here that that as a main focus and tracks are all the more interesting for it.

Starting with ‘Distant Shores,’ a light and airy vibe cuts through from a bleak sounding guitar chord and then everything drops into place behind it. The melody is a little bit reminiscent of 28 Days Later main theme and this sounds more like a work of atmospheric doom to me which the clean and fragrant vocals also enforce. Melody is strong and there’s a bit of the October Falls, November Doom, Katatonia and even Fields Of The Nephilim sound to it all. Although the music bears heft and weight behind it, it’s far from howling and more like a trembling breeze, stirring and evocative as it leaves you to sway in its grip. Some acoustic guitar moments allow it to sparkle and it’s easy to float off on their wings as the song gently comes to an end. The melody on ‘A Seed On Stone’ is excellent, shivering riffs install a frosty coldness and this touches on atmospheric blackness with the keyboards really giving it a magical vibe. Vocals take on a near choral aspect and cleanly coast along with the sometimes austere and symphonic grace of the musical cosmos. It’s one to get completely absorbed in and I have found myself really looking forward to the track on each play and no doubt would pick it as the album’s favourite cut if asked.

The title track and the album as a whole isn’t so depressive as one may expect and there’s even an uplifting feel at time. Perhaps that’s the clean harmonies and the classic sounding acoustic guitar pickings. There’s even a bit of a Pink Floyd vibe behind it all and the melodies at play and it is all a lot more accessible than the hour plus albums I have heard in the past. With ‘Silence and the Setting Sun’ one wonders how we went from dawn to dusk so quickly but lost in the music and the gorgeous harmonies within it’s not something to ponder for too long as the absorbing flow really gets beneath the skin and for once one wishes the track could perhaps go on for longer. Final number ‘When I Am Forgotten’ is not the miserable affair one may expect either but quite sublime and heartfelt with warming notes from the acoustic parts. A touching finale to a graceful album, which I have really enjoyed and will be one for repeated spins over deep winter hibernation.

(7.5/10 Pete Woods)