Aphotic (The End Records)
Long-running Chicago act NOVEMBERS DOOM are back from beyond with another expansive dirge-fest for your ears. They have always remained consistent, putting out new albums every few years to the delight their fans. Not content to tread on the same ground over and over, every release has found new sonic elements added and previous ideas examined deeper. Mastermind/artist/singer Paul Kuhr (SUBTERANIAN MASQUERADE/THESE ARE THEY/EM SINFONA) continues to forge ahead exploring new musical avenues in spite of his well documented health issues that would fell a lesser man (Ankylosing Spondylitis). Perhaps this is the source of his alternately anguished and sorrowful lyrical themes. Either way the band has turned in another impressive effort.
The album opens up with a single sad violin intro performed by world renowned violinist/singer Rachel Barton Pine (EARTHEN GRAVE). When the thrashy main verse kicks in to “The Dark Host” the track is a grinding headbanger with several clever musical twists and turns that creates a mini-goth epic. Kuhr ‘s death growl to a doom laden croon comes off and on like a light switch and he can switch between the two with great aplomb. Second track “Harvest Scythe” has more thrash riffs, growled vocals and excellent hidden melodic moments found in the guitars. Larry Roberts (DEAD SERENADE/SHADES OF GREY) and Vito Marchese do a fine job of intertwining their parts and adding many colors to the music. The songs have all of the necessary BLACK SABBATH heft, but still maintaining a modern swing and sensibility. Sasha Horn (PALACE TERRACE/THESE ARE THEY) turns in a great performance on the drums with this tasteful power and dynamics. Third cut “What Could Have Been” somewhat like an gentle old madrigal. Kuhr shares the vocal spotlight with the amazing Anneke Van Giersbergen (AGUA DE ANNEKE/THE GATHERNING). Their harmonized duet is a beautiful, soulful and sad detour for the early part of the album. Pine also contributes more outstanding violin work here and makes for a unique and folksy gem. Following cut “Buried” also begins with mellow guitars until Kuhr’s impassioned, gravely howl infests the the track. This leads into a sorrowful death march style song that is slow and satisfying. Kuhr makes great use of his middle total vocal range throughout, sounding his best ever. The two part “Of Age and Origin” cycle follows and is a brilliant display of the bands’ interplay of light and dark musical themes. “Part One: A Violent Day” has the heaviness of an older MASTODON (Kuhr even sounds like Troy Sanders a bit here, or it is the other way around?) all while displaying depth of an AGALLOCH or MY DYING BRIDE. Dan Swano (BLOODBATH/KATATONIA/ NIGHTINGALE) who mixed the album also laid down his legendary voice for this part of the song too. Equal parts phenomenal drumming and wailing twin lead guitars are featured as well. “Part Two: Day of Joy” serves as a somewhat mellower downshift to the earlier brutality. The song calls to mind PINK FLOYD both musically and vocally to great effect and the contemplative lyrics are the best on the entire album. Back to the straight up doom of “Six Sides” we hear even more textured harsh guitar parts, advanced song styles and snarling vocal prowess. Mike Feldman (DEGREDATION) has some standout bass guitar work here as he is able to freelance lead lines and fills while not losing the heart of the song. “Shadow Play” closes out the proceedings with a stunning brooder of a tune that is one half introspective and delicate; the other an apocalyptic gothic beast.
(Special thanks to Aaron Pepelis of Return to the Pit for the photo usage.)
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes