I always scratch my head when a band has a month in their name and releases an album at a different time of year completely, might just be me but doom in November from Novembers Doom is at least playing by the rules and strikes me as just perfect. Always a go to band as far as the atmospheric side of things is concerned I was thinking it had been a long time since we last heard from them but it appears I somehow missed their last two albums and it was the excellent Aphotic back in 2011 that last had the Chicago band on my radar. Not sure how the hell that happened but hopefully a change of label from The End to Prophecy Productions will give them some greater visibility over here in Europe. Sole founding member Paul Kuhr first introduced us to this act back in 1992 and quite honestly everything I have heard from them has been pure class due to his outstanding vocals and the grasp of sublime melodies and harmonies that the band inject into their music. Pressing play on the wonderfully entitled Nephilim Grove proved that this is still very much the case and I instantly found myself comfortably entranced straight away by the power and memorability of these 9 new tracks. Coming back to them again and again has been a sheer delight and the compulsiveness of the craft I heard in albums like ‘The Pale Haunt Departure’ a firm favourite from 2005 has not diminished in the slightest.
The pleasant waft of ‘Petrichor’ opens up the 53-minute album and all senses are caressed. It’s a thundering entrance from drums and builds up like an approaching storm as the vocals drench in a shower of harmonies, clean and mighty in every respect. The mix and master by Dan Swanö is equally formidable. He has said this is the group’s best album to date and as this powers through and continues who am I to disagree. Versatile vocally there are plenty of gruff roars, unlike certain other bands who went all wafty prog and used to make music similarly as awesome as this, thankfully Kuhr has not stopped injecting them into his “laboured breath.” Indeed some songs like ‘The Witness Marks’ are full of anger and danger bordering on death metal at times but flirting with rich clean parts too giving you the best of both worlds. On this and closing number ‘The Obelus’ these harmonic vocal parts sound a little bit similar the clean parts employed by Fear Factory at their prime on Demanufacture. Yeah that might strike you as unexpected but I guess you will have to listen to see where I’m coming from. Of-course there are some gorgeous acoustic passages to be found too such as at the opening of the title track, allowing you to drift and dream a little before the next weighty black cloud bursts and envelops you. What a fantastic track this is, giving you a bit of everything. The central melody is absolutely gripping and when matched with the poeticism of the lyrics another facet excellently and somewhat biblically handled this will have you hooked. There’s even a bit of underlying retro keyboard play and some piano motifs to fixate on.
There’s something congruent here in the material of wide-open spaces ravaged by weather and time the haunting lyrical refrain of “Scarecrow” haunting a song like ‘What We Become’ paints a picture completely suggestive of album cover art of the aforementioned ‘The Pale Haunt Departure.’ It’s essentially a fantastic doomed love song too as good as anything that could have been wrought out by the likes of My Dying Bride; absolutely sincere and beautiful. From bodice ripping romanticism to gruff and raw anger it’s all there and ‘Adagio’ has some real gruff bellowing distemper. Light and shade match in contrast but within songs rather than between them as everything is carefully considered and perfectly matched. “It’s so easy to hide in the dark as the daylight goes away” from ‘Black Light’ is a line that kind of sums up the album as a perfectly measured listening experience and the contrast between sunbeams and moonshine constantly tugs at the listener. To cite another atmospheric doom band by name, Daylight Dies and we caress the dark here in perfect symmetry. Each and every song has something to say and although melodies intertwine between them it continues in a mesmerising way that never gets stale in the slightest. Once it is done Nephilim Grove is the sort of album you will be wanting to play again or perhaps save up for a special occasion. Basically if you hunger for a group who you used to love but have lost as they change direction or had their work sadly curtailed in their prime and yes I am thinking of Opeth, Katatonia and the dearly departed Woods Of Ypres then this is an album for you. Is November itself enough to contain it? Probably not but it is one that you will be looking forward to the calendar changing month so you can relive once more for years to come.
(9/10 Pete Woods)