Sunday, September 11, 2011

Raventale - After : Album Review

Ukraine's Raventale is a Black/Doom Metal (or often labeled as Depressive/Atmospheric Black Metal) project of  Astaroth, and was formed in 2005. Of the total of four albums released, After is the most recent work, released in 2010, under Solitude Productions. Raventale's musical approach, although very typical of modern melancholic Doom Metal bands is mature in terms of songwriting and production.

The album starts off with Gone, a 10-minute track that shoots off with a dark and atmospheric riff, which gives a basic idea of Raventale's sound, which is very distanced from what it is sometimes labeled as, since the production value is much cleaner and polished than you would hear in a Depressive Black Metal band. Still, the production suits, since musically, it is closer to the likes of Novembre or Darkflight. I would even draw a comparison between Raventale and Black Autumn. The rather atmospheric riff is followed by a much heavier Doom Metal riff, played by a separate guitar. The guitars are layered in a good way, and the music doesn't end up sounding thin or pale. The heavier riffs give the music a very strong Doom Metal touch, sometimes reaching heaviness that, when at its peak, can be likened to bands like Ataraxie. Despite the crushing heaviness, Raventale chooses to play faster than what is expected of Doom Metal. The playing speed doesn't hamper the melancholic atmosphere, since it is supported by intricate, melancholic guitar leads played by a second guitar, and the presence of clean guitar sections spaced and placed well in a song. To top it up, the atmosphere is further enhanced by synthesizer present throughout, but mostly audible when the guitars aren't playing or in cleaner sections. The vocals are overshadowed by the music, which appears to be mostly instrumental. Since they aren't that great, their long absence in song goes unnoticed. The music speeds up after the second track, which is also the title track of the album. The fourth track, Flames has a rather fast intro that breaks down into a part with a heavy, but depressive, palm-muted guitar riff. This song showcases Astaroth's ability to write good, engaging riffs, and also consists of a brilliant guitar and even a keyboard (of the non-annoying variety) solo. The keyboard solo is very bearable, very unlike Children of Bodom's keyboard wankery, and isn't audible unless you're paying special attention to the details. This song is clearly the highlight of this album. The bass and drums are nothing to write home about since the drums are mostly programmed and played by a drum machine, and that fact is very obvious.

The element of melancholy in the music isn't stretched far into Funeral Doom realms, but has a far more relaxed, less misanthropic sound. The music embraces nature and darkness rather than depression and emotions, both musically and lyrically, as evident from their mellow sound, and a rather positive, more than negative vibe.

Raventale is recommended for fans of bands like Novembre, but it nonetheless can entertain Doom Metal fans, as long as they don't expect a massively crushing wall of agonizing riffs to pummel them. This release doesn't have it, but it will surely be a great company during a long, tiring journey.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Woods of Desolation - Torn Beyond Reason : Album Review

Woods of Desolation was formed by D., in the year 2005 in Australia. Working alone in the band, handling all the instruments, Woods of Desolation released several demos and splits. In 2009, D. was joined by Desolate (Mitch Keepins) of Austere and handled the vocals in the EP "Sorh". Soon, Desolate left the band and was replaced by Tim Yatras of Austere, who handled the drums and vocals, and the gave us this piece of emotionally-charged music titled "Torn Beyond Reason".

Not having heard previous works of the band, I cannot comment on how different/similar this record is to the others, but Woods of Desolation's music can perfectly be described as sorrowful, with great emphasis on melodies, yet keeping up the qualities that puts it under the "Black Metal" category. This may or may not be a conscious effort, but is certainly favourable, considering the type of music they make. The songs are filled with tremolo-picked guitar riffs and very dynamic and energetic drumming, which makes it a lot less depressive, yet the tremolo-picked guitar melodies manage to invoke a sense of desolation and sorrow. That is combined with screamed and wailed vocals and rather generic emotionally-charged lyrics that are only few steps away from entering the "cheesy" territory, yet not quite stepping into it. The riffs and melody have very little to absolutely no Black Metal influence, barring the distortion, drumming and tremolo-picking and tend more towards Depressive Rock territory. That, of course, doesn't automatically render it bad by any means. It just places it apart from Depressive Black Metal. Woods of Desolation sits comfortably in the grey area between Depressive Black Metal and Depressive Rock. The playing style is akin to Metal, but the melodies and compositions are nowhere close to it. Tim Yatras clearly imports his drumming style from Austere, which makes it easy for any uninformed listener to confuse the band for Austere. The vocals have a slight similarity to Austere too, and so does the overall sound and playing style, placing both bands parallel to each other and hard to distinguish, and takes away the originality element from the band in question (since earlier demos had a different sound, whereas on this record, it sounds adapted from Austere's terminal studio album).

The songs have enough variations in terms of songwriting, which keeps the album from sounding like a clusterfuck of depressive riffs and screeched vocals. The band employs clean vocals and clean guitar sections. Especially in the songs Darker Days and Somehow.... The short instrumental, interlude-like track, November is probably the album's highlight. The band invokes a sense of melancholy in its own way, by not relying on the atmosphere, since it's nearly cancelled out by the energetic drumming, but with riff-work and vocals. The end product is mildly sorrowful music that does just enough justice to the lyrics.

Woods of Desolation's Torn Beyond Reason is strictly for fans of Austere. If you liked To Lay Like Old Ashes, you will certainly like this. People expecting cold, unsettling Depressive Black Metal, stay away.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Black Oath - The Third Aeon : Album Review

From the land of Doom metal greats like Paul Chain, hail Black Oath, a modern Traditional Doom Metal band. Formed back in 2006, and with just a few releases, Black Oath didn't make a big impact, especially in presence of bands like Hour of 13, Lamp of Thoth, and other better known present-day Doom Metal bands. Despite that, with The Third Aeon, they are definitely set for much better acclaim by Doomsters all over the globe.

What makes this band, and especially this album so special is the originality in their sound. They do not try to directly lift ideas off Black Sabbath, Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus, although there are many observable similarities with the latter two bands. Black Oath have an occult-like atmosphere, supported by their occult-based lyrics. The eerie atmosphere is created by careful use of organs and mellow piano in certain places. That of course, is led by heavy riffing. Stylistically, most of the music is inspired from the likes of Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus and Solstice, rather than Black Sabbath or Pentagram. Hence, the riffs lack the bluesy quality of the latter two, but have a horror-inducing sound and crushing heaviness. This is where the band brings forth its own ideas, by only in certain places, delving into the melancholic territory of Candlemass, and sticking to a much creepier, occult-like sound, reflected in the riffs and the keyboards. This combination, i.e., the good use of melancholic elements and a more extensive use of desolate, horror-invoking sounds, is what sets this band apart from their mentors. The riffs are, needless to say, one of the most important aspects of this album, and though there isn't much variety in the one-note riffs that chug along through almost every song, the slower riffs and most guitar leads are what make the atmosphere. The drummer does his job well, although his job here is only giving the music a sense of presence, so that it doesn't turn into snooze-inducing drone within minutes. The bass is crunchy and loud, sometimes louder than the guitars, which is always a big plus in a Doom Metal band. The bassist doesn't restrict himself to playing the same thing as the guitarist, and hence, is even more noticeable.
The vocalist, who also happens to be the guitarist, does an amazingly good job on the mic. He doesn't try to replicate Ozzy's vocal style, which I hold a lot of bands guilty of. His singing style is similar to Messiah Marcolin, but without the melancholic element and a comparatively masculine pitch. He doesn't have an extensive vocal range, but manages to pull off relatively higher notes with easy. This perfectly suits the occult nature of the music and lyrics.

The album doesn't stretch too long and clocks at an appropriate length of 45 minutes. This lessens the chance of boredom or "How long before this ends"-thoughts. The 6 songs are enough to satiate a Doomster's hunger for slow, plodding and possessing metal of horror and sin.
Extremely recommended for a Traditional Doom Metal fan. This isn't a release to be missed by any chance.

Good luck finding a copy of the album for a lesser price. Available on Amazon for a whopping $43.