Italian doom singing about deeply occult themes? Yeah, go on then, I’m in. I haven’t listened to any Italian bands in a really, really long time – not for any reason other than I haven’t really had the opportunity to. This is apparently the fourth album which Caronte have produced, though for purposes of full disclosure, I haven’t listened to any of them before. Being labelled “Acid Doomers” does rather cover a wide spectrum of listening potentials doesn’t it? Does this mean something like much-missed Welsh tripsters Acrimony, or something a bit more angular and wilfully psychedelic like Acid Witch?

Well, dear reader, not really like either of them. This is dark, heavy on the Gothic doom-laden rock / metal with plenty of nods to the giants of the genre, and even some to the lesser known and long-passed. In fact, the band that I was most reminded of while listening to the almost obscenely enjoyable “Wolves of Thelema” was our very own Blood Divine, the two-album Peaceville act that had ex-members of Anathema and Cradle of Filth on board. “Wolves of Thelema” was produced by Jaime Gomez (Paradise Lost, Ghost, Cathedral and others), and boy, can you tell. Channelling the fine line between darkness and shlock, Caronte have managed to mine a rich vein of campy horror that doesn’t fall so deeply into daftness that it would nestle alongside the more theatrical popular bands that peddle the ware, but manage instead to have enough metal muscle and gristle to remain enjoyable that enjoy our music with a bit of “oomph”.

Tracks like “Queen of the Sabbath”, with the ethereal noises and swirling guitars before the main riff kick in may have more than a hint of 60’s “Twilight Zone” about them, but when Dorian Bones’ voice kicks in alongside the catchy yet aggressive axe licks, this is strictly down to business. It is entirely possible to have a band that is at once catchy, a little hammy and still retain the cut and menace that we want from our music. The band also consists of Tony Bones (guitar), who manages to produce plenty of memorable gravely melodies, Henry Bones (“descratorbass”) – which, as far as I can tell sounds pretty much a groovy normal bass (maybe the desecration happens out of the studio), Mike De Chirico on “hell drums” (again, sounds a lot like normal drums only with a slightly wet sounding snare hit) and the relatively sober sounding Asher on “guitars”.

There’s a really hypnotic vibe to a lot of the tracks here, with some droning guitars and Hammond organ managing to underpin the proceedings, and to that end I was reminded a little of Monster Magnet, albeit with a much darker, more metal tone. If you like Ghost, or aspects of Ghost, but wish it had a lot more menace and metal gusto, then this might be the album for you. It’s a really enjoyable listen, and yes – here and there the effects may be cheesier than the world Fondue convention, but the sheer theatricality of it is part of the appeal. When it all clicks together, as it does on the sprawling, post-six minute exercise of closing track “Starway to the Cosmic Fire” – equal parts Danzig and early Anathema, it’s quite a glorious sound to behold. Now, I just need to track down those first three albums and inject them into my ear holes. Top stuff.

(8/10 Chris Davison)