Ocean of Grief’s debut EP Fortress of My Dark Self caused a bit of a stir in the doom metal underground with its grand and doleful lamentation that left many a doom death-monger in pit of euphoric dejection. Is this what misery really feels like? Because it’s actually pretty flippin’ good. With its forever undulating lead guitars, riffs that breath like the oil-black night-time oceans and vocals that grind like a thousand years of white-capped waves battering on the beaten shores. As an example of the genre, it was undeniable, but preferring to fill every space with guitar work and tossing aside any of the conceits that often make the genre a no-go area for any but the frowning hoards of committed despondents keen to pay their respects to the darkest corners and be, well, truly miserable. So, more than a few have been waiting to find out whether Ocean of Grief could keep the levels of intensity they achieved in those 25 minutes going for an entire album.

It should have been no surprise that the band have been snapped up by Rain Without End – sub-label of Naturmacht – to unleash this hoped-for feast of melancholy delights. And, if you were expecting Fortress Of My Dark Self coming of age and magnified, then you won’t be disappointed. Again the lead guitars are tirelessly at work – undoubtedly the granite pillar to the band’s grand ambitions. What’s more they soar on a backdrop of doom death exquisiteness that does everything that it should – thundering percussion and compositions that soar into crescendos of gratification like a high-gloss My Dying Bride without all those weird, dark and uncomfortable bits that leave you feeling really and truly glum. More like what Jean-Michel Jarre or Coldplay might produce if they were let loose on this sort of stuff. If you want to know what that sounds like try any individual track here – all clocking in at the six or seven minute mark and all bathing in Ocean of Grief’s sumptuous ingredients. Key to all this is that the band seems to have as perfect handle on unlocking the doom-death riff-lead-keyboard formula as it’s possible to have and which they then drive home with aplomb. The kind of album that, if a kid asks me what this genre should sounds like, I could simply reach for a copy of Nightfall’s Lament in all its flawless glory and ask her / him to start there, albeit restlessly.

So despite all the fabulousness and the exemplary musicianship and the perfectly honed welcome-to-damnation vocals it’s a little difficult to escape the fact that this is all a little too production-perfect at what it’s good at and, for me, there’s times where that means the gloriousness never quite gets the chance it needs to breathe. Something more stale and dingy, perhaps, to drag me away from the main thoroughfare for long enough and then return to appreciate more the glittering path that twin guitarists Filippos Koliopanos and Dimitra Zarkadoula shine so brightly upon. Something human, or inhuman, in this cosmic vision. Fiend of the Overlord for me stood out as a track that comes close to delivering that. Nightfall’s Lament is exemplary in many ways but flawed in its own clinical perfections so that it never quite reaches the depths of euphoric despair on which it teeters. But still plenty in here, and if you love this sort of stuff – or have a longing in your soul waiting to be filled by doom-death perfection – this could very well blow your socks clean of your feet and into your next door neighbour’s garden.

(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)