It’s funny how quickly cliches can be born; what seemed only yesteryear to be innovation and cutting edge now appears to be trite and hashed out. The Doom Revival (a subset of the traditional metal revival) has been going strong for at least four years now, if not more. It has included a slew of great bands making slow and heavy music in the traditional sense, harking back to the birth of modern metal in the 80’s. But it has also included many bands who only aspire to the stature of these restorers and instead simply end up falling into pits of repetition and cliche. Luckily, Apostle of Solitude belong squarely in the former category, managing to inject enough of their own spirit and flair into From Gold to Ash to shake off the stock templates of the genre.
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since the band far predate the current stirrings in doom metal; they’ve been making this kind of music since 2008, with their debut album Sincerest Misery. However, this of course doesn’t make the album any less refreshing or pleasing, especially since it’s probably their best release to date. It’s a pleasure to hear musicians giving voice to their own style inside the larger scheme things regardless of whether it’s surprising or not. At the core of this personal expression, and what makes From Gold to Ash a rewarding album, lie two things. The first, and perhaps most immediately obvious since the first track, “Overlord”, is an instrumental one, is the guitar tone(s). It won’t exactly catch you off guard with how thick and fuzzy it is but there’s a certain something about the main tone utilized on the album that’s very much signature.
It’s also not just about that singular, mainstay tone; it’s about communication between the different guitar tones and parts utilized. On closer “Grey Farewell” for example, there’s a solo near the end where numerous guitar lines echo against each other. The most prominent one is a tone which will be familiar to fans of bands like Pallbearer, very epic and old school. However, there’s the second prominent guitar line is much more psychedelic and abrasive, lending the whole passage a weird sensation. These tensions, alongside the cavernous main riffs on the album, fix one of the inherent flaws of bad doom: the guitars are actually interesting, instead of just mindless repetition going from solo to solo. Speaking of solos (although we technically already have) the album has a few of those and they’re all excellent.
The second and complementary element which makes From Gold to Ash work are the vocals. Much like the aforementioned Pallbearer, they focus on melancholic, evocative melodies rather than on bottomless, guttural growls. However, the addition Apostle of Solitude bring to the table is a sort of powerful and grunge-influenced vibe on these vocals, a vibe or timbre which wouldn’t be out of place on an Alice in Chains album while at the same time fitting an old-school Iced Earth epic at times. The easiest comparison within doom would be Yob (think “Marrow” from Clearing the Path to Ascend). They also know how to add variety to these sounds, just like they do with the guitars. This rises from the fact that, alongside leading vocalist Chuck Brown, guitar player Steve Janiak adds his own harmonies. On “My Heart is Leaving” for example, probably the best track on the album (it certainly has the best solo), the vocals are almost constantly comprised of two main lines. One works in the foreground while another backs it; they don’t exactly align at times, but rather work off of each other, Janiak’s harmony lending volume and verve to Brown’s main leads.
This adds, once again, a crucial element in any album seeking to recreate the magic of doom metal done well, namely interest. The trap that we mentioned in the opening paragraph is that doom metal is enough on its own; that monstrously large riffs and crashing cymbals are somehow self-sufficient and automatically make an album worthwhile. The reality is that it takes a lot of work to introduce variety into these compositions, to make sure the listener stays intently interested in the work and where it’s going. Apostle of Solitude, by virtue of tone and melody, have managed to do just that, creating an inherently familiar album which also manages to be compelling and interesting.
From Gold to Ash sees release on February 23rd via the always excellent Cruz Del Sur Music (seriously, these guys are amazing). You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp to pre-order it or grab it from the label, here.