Don your priests robes, hold aloft your holy cross of evil warding and come with Dautha into times long past where unspeakable terrors lurk and the lost flame of epic 1980s doom can be found blazing on the highest peak. Yes, Dautha’s demo released in 2016 (and then with a label release 12 months ago on Ván) promised much with its darkly woven tapestries of elephantine chords and Messiah-like vocals and it was only a matter of time before their stamina to maintain that remarkable start over a full-length release was tested. Was that first release a false prophet leading us astray with sweet delight that would soon descend into disappointment or would it bring a new day’s dawn…. ?
Yes, Dautha takes the essence of that heady period around Candlemass’ Nightfall album when doom perfection existed for the first time since Sabbath-period Ozzy. But these Swedes (who are no stranger to the forces of doom – with several members having already released an album as Wardenclyffe among other bands) have created their very own monster of windswept, epic doom. Plodding riffs mirror the baritone vocals with melodies that are bound to hypnotise any fans of their Swedish forebears. But, rather than staying firmly on the line of Sabbath or Candlemass worship, Dautha twists its own quasi-historical colour into the vast tapestry that it has made here as well as a blend of ecclesiastical liturgy harking back to times when life was one short, brutal stop on the way to eternity and every child working in the fields knew that angels were not just something you stuck on top of your Christmas tree.
The mighty force that results puts clear blue water between its own formula and doom both dark and light that has gone before, even if there is no escaping the sheer weight of Dautha’s influences from Sabbath right the way up to The Order of Israfel. The first track is a solid icebreaker for the Dautha sound combining all the elements that it uses as the baseline for the rest of the album with a whale-hook chorus and a transcendental bridge, all displaying the band’s talent for moulding its own signature sound. Lars Palmqvist’s vocals (also on clean vocals for Scar Symmetry) undeniably take centre stage right the way through – and he finds himself truly channelling the Messiah on tracks like Brethren Of The Black Soil even if the song writing manages to just about remain on the right side of gloom even when Candlemass sometimes rose fully and squarely into the realms of full-on power metal (c’mon, those choruses on Ancient Dreams are some of the best ever but do we need to discuss the definition of doom?).
It’s possible you may be hooked for life by the end of track two. But the Dautha have far more in their cannon: Maximinus Thrax is a triumph of darkly titanic doom, building into a thundering, cyclopean finale (just try to keep yourself from turning the volume up to 11); while The Children’s Crusade gives the title track a run for its money as the album’s epic saga. Dautha even throws in its own take on a more experimental sound with the unlikely titled Bogbodies – a shambling ode to menacing swamp things that lurk on the fringes of human influence and with a killer twist in the riff that should be enough to inflame further affections for the band. A perfect choice to round off the album already bursting with ideas and which the band pulls off admirably.
If, for some inexplicable reason, those powerful doom vocals ain’t your thing then you may struggle to get through to the end of this. But if you’ve spent the past 31 years, like me, wondering why every album can’t sound like Nightfall then you are in luck here – the angels have finally answered your prayers. But with not with some frail strawdoll imitation: something that will last the test of time and, I strongly suspect, will get better with vintage. Because this is far from blind emulation – there is a dark storyteller’s thread that weaves through this like folktales told by flickering candlelight as well as some inspired arrangements that that rears this slab well above the vast majority of epic doom albums I’ve heard (and that’s alot), several Candlemass albums and the Messiah’s side project (although that ‘memento mori’ lyric in the first track is surely more than a coincidence). Finally the space in my heart has been filled and who knew the flickering flame of doom never even left Sweden after all. This is huge. All hail Dautha – Brethren of the Black Soil.
(9/10 Reverend Darkstanley)