Going back to the foundation of metal in the 70s, doom metal is arguably the oldest metal subgenre. It has plenty of permutations to explore and it never seems to stop redefining itself. This year alone, there’s a healthy offering of traditional doom metal from masters and newcomers, sludge metal chart toppers, stoner metal copycats, gothic mourners, and spacey death doomers, all under the general umbrella of “doom metal”. It’s easy to get lost in the variations. There’s comfort in finding a record that isn’t trying to be groundbreaking but instead a solid addition to an established sound.
Longhouse takes things back to basics with their sophomore album II: Vanishing. There isn’t much more here than forbidding riffs, killer vocals, and some atmosphere to tie it all together. Sonically, the band sounds like the most straight-forward moments of Enslaved, with a hint of Schuldinerian solos and melody and a dash of classic horror movie soundtracks. The album opener, “Hunter’s Moon”, starts with an extended introduction based on a single, incessant riff at the bottom end of the guitars. Ornamented with eerie keyboards and haunting noise-rock-esque fluff, the build finally gives way to an outright groove around the four-and-a-half minute mark. The wretched vocals finally enter and the song fully blooms for about 3 minutes before its conclusion.
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This opener is a good sample for the rest of the album. Vanishing is full of simple and slow yet still effective builds. The title-track strips away much of the extra fat and gives a less atmospheric, more aggressive death/doom metal track while “Blood and Stone” has a solos throughout that sound straight out of Sound of Perseverance. Typical of anything doom-based, beauty and pain are juxtaposed for an exceptionally emotional experience. “No Name, No Marker” has a grungy, psychedelic introduction and the final track even features some haunting clean vocals reminiscent of the most recent Khemmis album. This track, “The Vigil”, contains some of the band’s most creative riffs and a full synthesis of everything great on this album: the atmosphere, the melodies, the huge builds, the solos,
Overall, this album is a worthy slab of hard-hitting doom metal that flirts with a wide array of different sounds while never fully committing to experimentation. The production is detailed allowing room for the bass and the guitar to be heard as separate while still giving the album enough thickness and depth that doom metal needs. The music is memorable and accessible. Its only flaw is in its strict adherence to the form. There are hints of experimentation like the opening and closing tracks as well as small dips into other genres throughout the album and this is hopeful. For a band only on their second album, Longhouse certainly delivers.