"Condemned" is the debut full-length studio album by US technical doom/thrash metal act Confessor. The album was released through Earache Records in October 1991. The original album features 9 tracks but there´s a Japanese version available with 3 additional bonus tracks. Confessor was formed in 1986 and released three demos in the period 1987-1990 before being signed by Earache Records and releasing "Condemned".
The music on the album is a very unusual kind of doom metal. First of all the pace isn´t snail tempo slow. It´s still brick heavy music but the tempo is mostly kept in slow- to mid pace. Secondly the music is quite technical compared to most other releases in the genre. Especially the drumming stands out as very busy and skillfully played, but the rest of the music is also rather intricate. Calling the music on "Condemned" progressive or technical doom metal wouldn´t be far off the mark. To top it all off there´s the distinct high pitched vocal delivery by Scott Jeffreys. He is the kind of singer that I usually associate with progressive rock/metal. I´m reminded a bit of Cedric Bixler-Zavala from The Mars Volta. While Scott Jeffreys is a skilled vocalist, his vocal lines are to my ears rather non-melodic and sometimes even close to atonal, and it will probably be a challenge to some, if they can digest them. If a bit more melody and variation had been put into the vocals, this album could have been even greater than it already is. The melodies do grow on you though, but most likely the album will require several spins before the tracks stand out from each other and the melodies unfold.
Another unusual feature on a doom metal album is that the tracks are not especially long. Most are about 4 minutes long but to my ears that´s only a good thing. There´s not a dull moment throughout the album´s playing time. Confessor is not the kind of band that play their riffs on repeat for several minutes. On the other hand some might miss gloomy atmosphere and slow building majestic doomy climaxes. The music on Condemned has a more desperate sound to it instead. Many of the riffs on the album are thrash metal inspired but the drums make sure the pace is kept slow enough for this to be called a doom metal album. Most tracks are very technical and there´s no better example than the excellent title track. It´s really refreshing to hear a doom metal album where the influence from Black Sabbath isn´t particularly obvious. Instead the early albums by Trouble seem to have been a great influence on Confessor.
The sound production lacks a bit of warmth if you ask me, but it´s still powerful, detailed, and professional, and it generally suits the music well. Upon conclusion "Condemned" is one of the most unique sounding doom metal albums out there. Not only because the music on the album is unusually technical for the genre but also because of the distinct high pitched vocal delivery by Scott Jeffreys. If you want to challenge yourself to some technical/progressive doom metal, "Condemned" is a great place to start. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved. Just beware that Confessor is pretty surely an aquired taste.