Doom Metal

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Doom metal is an extreme form of heavy metal music that typically uses slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and a much 'thicker' or 'heavier' sound than other metal genres. Both the music and the lyrics intend to evoke a sense of despair, dread, and impending doom. The genre is strongly influenced by the early work of Black Sabbath, who formed a prototype for doom metal with songs such as "Black Sabbath" and "Into the Void". During the first half of the 1980s, a number of bands from England (Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General) and the United States (Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Trouble) defined doom metal as a distinct genre.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doom_metal

Sub-genre collaborators (+ child sub-genres and shared with Stoner Metal and Drone Metal):
  • Nightfly (leader)
  • MorniumGoatahl

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doom metal Music Reviews

SWALLOW THE SUN Moonflowers

Album · 2021 · Doom Metal
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lukretion
Melodic doommasters Swallow the Sun have just released their eight full-length album, Moonflowers, which came out on 19th November 2021 via Century Media. The new album follows what many consider to be the pinnacle of the Finnish band’s career so far, 2019’s When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light, a gorgeous, dark record suspended between doom/gothic metal, prog and post-rock and packed with tremendous emotional intensity due to the dramatic events that inspired its songwriting (the untimely death of Juha Raivio’s partner, Aleah Stanbridge). Written entirely by Raivio and recorded by the same line-up as the previous album (minus keyboard player Jaani Peuhu, who here only provides backing vocals), Moonflowers draws inspiration from the same sorrowful place as Swallow the Sun’s previous LP and it can be considered in many ways its lyrical and musical continuation. There are subtle differences in mood and style, though, which ensures Moonflowers tells its own tale of pain and sorrow and does not just replicate what had already been told by the previous album.

The 8 tracks of Moonflowers tell the intimate and unashamedly personal tale of Raivio’s pain and depression triggered by the loss of Aleah, symbolized by the album’s shocking cover art that Raivio painted with his own blood. The music perfectly captures this dark mood: it is slow, oppressive and full of dramatic contrasts. The songs swing continuously between minimalistic sections dominated by delicate guitar arpeggios and beautiful string arrangements, and violent accelerations with distorted guitars, devastating growls and blast beats. The music feels intentionally unadorned: drums and bass often play very simple patterns, sticking to the beat without too many embellishments. The keyboards are also used sparingly and even the guitar riffs are used in moderation, leaving arpeggios and simple, forlorn leads take the spotlight.

The other main ingredient of the album are the string arrangements played by the Trio N O X, a Finnish group of classical musicians playing violin, viola and cello. The symphonic flair provided by the strings is probably the most distinctive aspect of the album that draws a clear distinction relative to its predecessor. The strings greatly contribute to the dramatic atmosphere of the record and provide a stark contrast with the rest of the electrified instrumentation. With all these elements in place, the album offers a near perfect combination of all the elements that Swallow the Sun have been incorporating into their sound for years now, from the sludgy tempos of doom, to the ferocity of black/death metal, to the romantic atmosphere of gothic metal, to the mellowness of post-rock and the sophistication of progressive metal.

Despite the common lyrical and sonic themes, there is a great deal of variation across the 8 tracks of the album. The record opens and closes with what are the most intense and dramatic pieces of the whole LP. “Moonflowers Bloom in Darkness” is probably the best track here, opening with a sombre, disheartened waltz that suddenly explodes in a stunning blackened chorus where Mikko Kotamäki’s pained vocals paint an all too real image of the “fires of Misery” he sings about. Album closer “This House Has No Home” follows a similar inspiration and reconnects also lyrically with the opener. This is probably the bleakest and most forlorn piece of the record, to the point that it almost hurts to listen to it. “Woven into Sorrow” is another slow-burn piece that follows similar musical coordinates, accentuating the doom/death component of the music. Elsewhere Moonflowers softens its stance and lets the gothic undertones of the music come more to the fore. “Enemy” and “The Void” are the most accessible tracks on the album, with gorgeously catchy vocal lines and a sense of melancholy that brings to mind the best work of Katatonia. “All Hallow’s Grieve” is another beautiful and incredibly melodic gothic piece that represents the emotional peak of the record. The song also stands out for Cammie Gilbert’s (Oceans of Slumber) cameo, her soulful voice playing a perfect counterpoint to Kotamäki’s forlorn crooning. The guitars shine on this track too, from the stunning arpeggio that opens the song to the howling guitar solo that brings it to its climax.

Meanwhile, on “Keep Your Heart Safe from Me” and “The Fight of Your Life” the band experiment with more complex, long-form compositions, alternating acoustic sections with heavier parts (big Opeth vibes here) and playing with subtle atmospheres and mood shifts, rather than relying on melodic accessibility. I’ll be honest – these tracks do not grab me as much as the rest of the album, to the point that I feel the record drags a bit through their combined 14 minutes. This is probably the main weakness of Moonflowers: despite all its splendour, the album does falter in a couple of episodes and its songwriting is not as homogeneously stellar as that on When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light. Strong tracks like “Moonflowers Bloom in Darkness”, “Enemy”, and “All Hallow’s Grieve” are counterbalanced by more inaccessible episodes, like the two songs just mentioned, but even “This House Has No Home” and “Woven into Sorrow” feel bleak and forbidding in comparison.

This unevenness underscores even more what is probably the true essence of this record: Moonflowers is no easy listening material. It’s dark, dense and desperate music, to the point that Juha Raivio himself confessed to find it hard to listen back to these songs after having recorded them. His pain feels raw and real and, as an outside listener, it almost hurts to be its witness. There is a raging fury smoldering underneath the album’s 52 minutes that has all but replaced the sweet romanticism of the material contained on When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light. On that album, the loss of the loved one was tempered by the remembrance of her love, Aleah’s spirit still very much present in every note. That presence is now gone, extinguished, and Moonflowers sings of absence, rather than of loss. The difference is subtle, yet dramatic and crippling. It explains why the music can sometimes feel so difficult, unadorned and barren. Therein probably lie both the greatest virtue and flaw of the album: the thick gloom and rage that transpire from Moonflowers can be intoxicating, but also taxing and emotionally draining for the listener as much as for the man who wrote the music, and while I just couldn’t get enough of When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light, I can only take Moonflowers in small doses, separated in time.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

MY DYING BRIDE The Dreadful Hours

Album · 2001 · Death-Doom Metal
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lukretion
Following on the footsteps of their previous album, in 2001 My Dying Bride completed their full return to form after a couple of full-lengths that had disappointed more than a few fans. The Dreadful Hours is a fantastic album, containing some of the best songs ever written by the British doomsters. Alas, it also contains a handful of songs that I struggle not to see as “fillers”. Despite its somewhat uneven tracklist, The Dreadful Hours sits tall in the band’s discography as one of their best records to date.

Let’s start with the positives. The Dreadful Hours is the culmination of My Dying Bride’s slow metamorphosis from death/doom frontrunners to purveyors of a hybrid style halfway between gothic metal and doom. This process of transition had started on their 1995 album The Angel and the Dark River and saw the band increasingly streamlining their songs and injecting more and more accessible melodies into the music. Songs like the title-track, “The Raven and the Rose”, “Le Figlie della Tempesta” and “My Hope, the Destroyer” are splendid examples of the musical vision of the Yorkshire band. Deeply melodic, yet incredibly dark and morose (also for the subject matters, such a child abuse on the title-track), these songs perfectly combine the slow-tempos and tortuous guitar riffs of doom with the melodic allure of gothic and dark metal.

What is even more astonishing is how different from one another these songs sound. The title-track starts with an almost post-rock clean guitar riff, before descending in doom/death territory with Aaron Stainthorpe’s cavernous growls and Hamish Glencross and Andrew Craighan’s lead-like guitars. “The Raven and the Rose” is balanced between furious (and fast!) guitar riffs and a beautifully orchestrated melodic section, with thick swathes of organ and synths and a monstrous performance by drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels, who here truly gives a meaning to the words “drum fills”. “Le Figlie della Tempesta” is more atmospheric, almost dark metal, as it dances away on a delicate guitar arpeggio and Aaron’s beautiful clean vocals. Meanwhile, “My Hope, the Destroyer” is a gothic beast that again speeds up the tempo relative to the usual sludgy pace of death/doom. All this variation makes The Dreadful Hours one of the most diverse and exciting album the band had written up to that point of their career. It makes for a truly engaging listen, which never bores and surprises again and again with new twists that are ever so tasteful and appropriate.

Alas, the second half of the album does not match the quality of the opening trio of tracks or “My Hope, the Destroyer”. “Black Heart Romance”, “A Cruel Taste of Winter” and “The Deepest of All Hearts” inhabit more traditional doom territories. There are some surprises and interesting sections (the beautiful clean guitar flourishes on “Black Heart Romance”), but the general feel is one of sluggishness and lack of inspiration. The album closer “Return to the Beautiful” deserves a word apart. This is a re-work of “The Return of the Beautiful” from the band’s debut album, As the Flower Withers, when My Dying Bride were firmly playing death/doom metal. Inevitably, this last song stands in stark contrast with the mellower and more sophisticated gothic/doom of the rest of the record. As an album closer this totally backfires as it concludes the record incongruously, with a completely different sound and atmosphere than the rest of the album.

Despite containing hits and misses, The Dreadful Hours is one of my favourite albums from My Dying Bride. Its moments of brilliance far exceed the duller episodes and the diverse nature of his tracks paint a beautiful and exciting picture of the band’s sound evolution at the dawn of the new millennium.

MY DYING BRIDE The Light at the End of the World

Album · 1999 · Death-Doom Metal
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lukretion
After two disappointing albums (the mediocre Like Ghosts of the Sun and the failed experiment to modernize their sound which is 34.788%...Complete), My Dying Bride were quick to jump on the horse again and try to show their fans that they were still a relevant voice in the metal landscape at the turn of the millennium. Seen in this light, The Light at the End of the World is certainly a resounding success. Ditching the experimentalism of their previous record, My Dying Bride embraced again their sorrowful doomy identity (including their original logo!) and showed the fans they could still write memorable death/doom/gothic tunes like no other. At the same time, the album only contains a couple of tracks that can truly be numbered among the band’s best, while the rest of the songs are little more than respectable extras.

In terms of songwriting, on this album My Dying Bride return to their tried and true formula of combining snail-paced tempos, long-winding and tortuous guitar riffs, dramatic keyboards (played by Bal Sagoth’s Jonny Maudling who replaced as a guest the band’s former keyboard player Martin Powell), lots of drum fills (played by Shaun Taylor-Steels, who replaced Rick Miah), and Aaron Stainthorpe’s trademark lamented crooning vocals. Aaron also throws-in growled vocals on a couple of songs, as well a half-spoken recitation on the album’s splendid title track. Structurally, the songs are complex and go through several different sections throughout their duration, with plenty of tempo changes and accelerations/decelerations. As with all My Dying Bride’s albums, this is not music for the faint of heart and it requires some time investment to be properly appreciated.

Yet, many songs on The Light at the End of the World showcase instantly memorable melodies carried by either the vocals or the guitars, which greatly facilitate their assimilation compared to the band’s previous output. This trimming-down and streamlining of the sound is a process that the band had already inaugurated on their 1995 album The Angel and the Dark River, and marks the transition from their early death/doom style to the gothic/doom sound they will embrace at later stages in their career. On The Light at the End of the World My Dying Bride are still in transition, though the desire to write more accessible songs is evident on tracks like the chorus-driven “The Isis Script”, for example.

The album flows away pleasantly, with some peaks and some declines. Among the strongest songs there is certainly the title-track, a 10+ minute beast that is as dark and desperate as the night itself. A beautiful tale of lost love, the song ebbs and flows between Aaron’s sombre recitation and a beautifully decadent vocal melody that keep returning again and again throughout the duration of the song. I also like a lot the three “shorter” and more compact pieces that follow the title-track, “The Fever Sea”, “Into the Lake of Ghosts” and “The Isis Script”, which all contain some great, attention-grabbing melodic intuitions. While not as perfect as some of the tracks on the band’s subsequent album (The Dreadful Hours), these tracks showcase all the potential of the gothic/doom sound My Dying Bride were developing at the time. On the other hand, the record sags a bit when it hits the longer compositions, like “Edenbeast” and “Christliar”, which overstay their welcome with tortuous, unyielding melodies that verge on the boring.

Despite a few missteps and a mastodontic length of 71 minutes that discourages repeated listens, The Light at the End of the World is a fine album and a worthwhile descent into misery. It represents a clear return to form for the British band, which was needed after two albums that disappointed more than a few fans. That things were on the upswing for the Bride will become even clearer after a couple of years, when the band will release The Dreadful Hours, which stands still today as one of the best records in their whole discography.

MY DYING BRIDE 34.788%... Complete

Album · 1998 · Doom Metal
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lukretion
The mediocre Like Ghosts of the Sun had already shown that in the mid-90s British doomsters My Dying Bride were probably facing a sort of creativity crisis, struggling to write inspired music within the canons of the genre (gothic/doom) that they had contributed to create. Released in 1998 after the departure of violinist Martin Powell, 34.788%...Complete feels a lot like an attempt by My Dying Bride to jump start their songwriting machinery by injecting into it fresh new influences, from industrial to trip hop to electronica. Truth be told, My Dying Bride were not the only doom band exploring new forms of expression in those years. Paradise Lost had turned electro-goth since a couple of years, and Anathema were slowly but surely developing their own Floyd-infused progressive rock style. So 34.788%...Complete can also be seen as My Dying Bride trying to play catch up with the other two main UK doom metal bands of that era. Either way, 34.788%...Complete is a sort of extemporary experiment that is brave and at times interesting, but that ultimately falls inexorably flat.

The idea of mixing doom/gothic metal with industrial and electronic influences is actually quite promising, as the opener “The Whore, the Cook and the Mother” shows. This track is by far the best of the album. In fact, I’d say it is the ONLY song of the record that actually works. The abrasive industrial guitar intro is jarring and unexpected, and it immediately grabs the listener’s attention. Aaron Stainthorpe’s slow-paced singing paints the usual dramatic atmospheres, but the distorted filter that is used to process his vocals adds a layer of urban grit that makes things fresh and exciting. The guitar lead is instead quintessential My Dying Bride doom, creating a nice contrast with the futuristic feel of Aaron’s vocals and the industrial rhythm guitar. The track then dissolves into a music collage of acoustic arpeggios, background noise and sampled vocals, another unexpected turn that keeps the listener guessing what may come next. It’s a great track and an excellent example of how to develop the band’s sound without feeling forced or losing their sonic identity.

Alas, the rest of the record does not even come close to matching the promise of its opener. The main reason is that in none of the other songs does the band succeed in mixing the new influences in a natural and fluid way as on the opener. “The Stance of Evander Sinque”, “Der Überlebende”, “Apocalypse Woman”, and “Base Level Erotica” are all songs that feel completely underdeveloped, where the songwriting technique seems to have been to throw-in a couple of industrial riffs, electronic flourishes or futuristic guitar effects, while firmly staying in the usual comfort zone of the band’s old doom/goth sound (not too far distant from the music on Like Ghost of the Sun). It all feels artificial and not really thought through. I get the distinctive feel that the band was not quite sure in which direction to take their music. Or perhaps this is the symptom of a reticence to fully embrace the new influences in order to avoid alienating too many fans.

Things get even more puzzling when one considers “Heroin Chic”, which is the most outlandishly experimental track of the album. And not in a good way. This is an electronica/trip hop song with some soulful female singing (by Michelle Richfield, who also sang for Anathema and Antimatter) and, shockingly, a sort of (very poor) rapped vocals by Aaron. After the first minute, when the initial surprise wanes off, the song quickly becomes unlistenable as it continues in the same vein for another seven minutes with bad lyrics, bad vocals, and a rather insipid musical background. I have nothing against experimenting with electronica/trip hop and in fact I love the early electronic-infused albums by the aforementioned Antimatter, for instance. But “Heroin Chic” really feels like a parody of a band who wants to mix electronica and metal, rather than a serious attempt to merge the two genres. Again, this leaves me wondering what My Dying Bride were trying to do with this album.

In the end, I am not quite sure the band knew themselves. The new sonic “direction” was quickly abandoned, and only after one year My Dying Bride were already back in the shops with a new record (The Light at the End of the World) that took three steps back in terms of sound, scrapping all industrial/electronic influences and returning to a style closer to Turn Loose the Swans (growls included). Overall, 34.788%...Complete is probably best remembered as a child of its times, when many metal bands were looking beyond the boundaries of the genre to experiment with new sounds and influences. In some cases (Anathema, for example), this worked splendidly. In others, it failed ruinously. Either way, I respect My Dying Bride for trying, although this is not an album that I can see myself listening to again any time soon.

MY DYING BRIDE Like Gods of the Sun

Album · 1996 · Doom Metal
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lukretion
Coming from two very strong albums like Turn Loose the Swans (1993) and The Angel and the Dark River (1995), the expectations for My Dying Bride’s new album were high. Released in 1996, Like Gods of the Sun actually turned out to be a major disappointment for fans and it is to date regarded one of the low points of the British doomsters’ discography. So what went wrong?

On the new album, My Dying Bride continued to hone in the formula they had already used on the previous two records, mixing the slow tempos and crushingly slow-winding guitar riffs of doom metal with gothic and romantic atmospheres. The gothic elements are perhaps a tad more prominent on Like Gods of the Sun, as Aaron Stainthorpe continued to perfect his dark croon to the point of sounding at times like a darker Fernando Ribeiro (Moonspell). The band also used slightly more conventional structures on the new album compared to the preceding records, with nearly a verse/chorus repetition on some tracks (“Grace Unhearing”) and guitar riffs that are tighter and less sprawling. This isn’t necessarily bad, although some fans may have seen this as a “commercial” move.

Thus, on paper Like Gods of the Sun ticks all the right boxes. Alas, the problem with the album is exactly that: it does truly sound like nothing more than a box-ticking exercise. Nearly all songs sound completely lifeless and uninspired, like if they had been written half-heartedly and without a true purpose. There are a few interesting ideas here and there (a cool guitar riff, a nice vocal melody), but they are stretched so thin across the 54 minutes of the record, that they fail to emerge from the general dullness. I also wonder how much effort the band actually put into this album. Take the transitions between the different song parts, for example. Often, the band just resorts to a “stop-and-go” technique: they just stop playing whatever riff they were playing, leave a second of silence, and start with a new, completely different riff. That’s kinda lame. And gives an incredibly disjointed feel to a lot of the tracks on the album.

The album does have a couple of episodes that hark back to the glory of the previous records. “Grace Unhearing” features a nice chorus, probably one of the catchiest things that My Dying Bride had written up to that point in their career. The song is however too long and the repetition of verse/chorus is a bit of a joy-killer when this goes on for 7 minutes with little else in between. “A Kiss to Remember” uses one of the most inspired guitar riffs of the whole album, but again things are stretched too thin and too little happens to justify a duration of 7:31 minutes. After this track, the album drowns in a sequence of songs that are all incredibly flat and boring. Only album closer “For My Fallen Angel” tickles again my attention. This is an atypical track with processed strings, violin and spoken vocals. The fact that it is my favourite track of the whole album speaks volumes about the rest of the material of this record.

Overall, Like Gods of the Sun sounds a lot like a band in the middle of a creativity crisis. Alas, My Dying Bride’s next couple of albums will confirm that this was indeed the case. In a bid to revive their songwriting formula, on their next record 34.788%... Complete, the band will seek inspiration in industrial metal, producing an album that is surely experimental but also not particularly impressive. It will take one more transitional album (The Light at the End of the World), before My Dying Bride will find again their footing, releasing what is instead one of the high points of their discography, The Dreadful Hours. If you are new to the band and want to sample their sound, my advice is to jump directly from The Angel and the Dark River to The Dreadful Hours, skipping the three rather mediocre records in between.

doom metal movie reviews

PARADISE LOST Live Death

Movie · 2004 · Death-Doom Metal
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martindavey87
Considering this was actually released on VHS in 1990, Paradise Lost must surely overestimate the passion and loyalty of their fan club. Filmed in Bradford in 1989 to coincide with the band’s debut album, this is a 30-minute video of the band playing on stage. They barely move around, you barely see glimpses of the crowd, and in fact, you barely see vocalist Nick Holmes’ face due to his shaggy hair constantly covering it.

I’m not really a fan of their earlier, death metal growly material anyway, but even if I was, this video isn’t enjoyable or interesting to watch at all. Re-released in 2004 on DVD, this isn’t worth the 50p I spent on it if not for the fact that I do, in fact, actually like this band, and have a compulsive obsession to own everything a band puts out.

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