Seems an age since I reviewed anything on I Hate, so this was a nice change. Maybe I’ve been shying away from doom recently as it becomes a never ending morass of stagnating seventies retreads. Or maybe I’ve been too happy…no, no that can’t be it.
Anyway. Mansion. Finnish band who after four or five years of singles, splits and EPs have committed to a full length. Doom as always been laden with religious overtones and as you might guess this album ladles it on in ominous tones. A themed, or even concept album about the inevitable dragging down to Hell of those who blindly follow hypocrites and false dogma. This is all delivered with solemn, deadpan tones as though straight from the pulpit by singer Alma. I think it’s safe to say that her voice dominates the album – I’m not implying that the rest of the band and the arrangements are substandard, far from it as this is a beautifully put together album, but they do push forward to the front. The songs here are most certainly built around the voices here; they drive everything.
This is ponderous, solemn, almost funereal music. Slow guitars drenched in piano and keyboards and strings move forward as the voices pontificate and judge. There is an early Jex Thoth influence writ large here; the same pacing and style of vocal delivery but whereas they skirted the edges of sixties and seventies esoteric counter culture, Mansion (note, not Manson..) have half a toe in true doom, and have eyes fixed firmly on European religious history. By the time we get to ‘The Eternal’, with joint male and female voices, and ‘1933’ there is a lot more of their own character bleeding in.
I have to go back to the arrangements here as they are both the band’s huge strength and a little weakness. They seem straightforward until you realise the depth. Vocals, keyboard layering, guitars, drums, horns, sax; all shift and swirl in the steady direction of the song’s current but scatter light and texture along the way. Never dull, nevertheless it kind of keeps nudging me back towards that Jex Thoth feel, a strain or two of Witchcraft. Still, as I say, they are so far from clones, so no big deal. And the album just gets better as we go through until the mesmerising twelve minute closer ‘First Death’
Hmm. Yes, this is a silky smooth and engaging album. Enough spine and directness to grip, particularly when we reach ‘First Death’. The seventies pervade the music too but not in the lazy flare shorthand of most bands like this. More a flavouring kept from the recipe. When they mix up the male and female vocals they really play to their strengths of songwriting.
This is heady, evocative stuff. Intuitive, dextrous and intelligent. It sounds both beautiful and dark, open and utterly judgemental.
Yeah, this is a superb exercise in crafting songs. They have created their own world here and it may well trap you.