An ear drum destroying good morrow to you all, Heaviest of Bloggers! Here we are with the antepenultimate Doomsday for 2022, and all I’ve got to show for it are these riffs. They’ve been pretty good this year though so that’s enough for me. We’ll be posting our deepest thoughts on the year of doom in January, so I’ll keep those to myself for now. But I think the point I’m getting across is to get ready for it. In between listening to new riffs and mulling over the old ones, I’m having a good time reviewing the year and readying my hot takes.
But that’s for January. You came here to discuss this month. And another month it was. You can’t say it wasn’t a month. November and October tend to be those months where big hyped releases come out, and there have been a few we’ve looked forward to. So enough of all this claptrap, let’s get it on. TO THE RIFFS.
Dream Unending - Song of Salvation (death doom, prog doom)
Sometimes when I listen to a band defined as “doomy,” I can get a little bored because it sounds derivative. A lot of doom bands just sound like other more famous doom bands. The same cannot nor can it ever be said about Dream Unending. They have some hallmarks of the genre, but they really do their own thing in a lot of ways. And while last year’s debut blew me away, the duo upped the ante with this year’s EP, Song of Salvation.
Song of Salvation builds upon the musical thoughts of last year’s debut record and expands on many of the ideas originally conceived there. The melodic psychedelia of Tide Turns Eternal is more effectively explored here. Each track gets that extra space you need to really consume what you’re listening to. There’s extra space for those flourishes required of this kind of record. In that way, it does feel like the awake version of a dream where the listener is enveloped in the musical atmosphere.
I love just how outside the norm this record is. Song of Salvation incorporates so many different ideas you rarely hear in metal. For instance, the intro to the title track involves and electric 12 string guitar. When has that ever been a thing on a Doomsday column? I think it makes an appearance on every track, too. It’s not just because it’s there; it’s because of how it’s used to build the atmosphere. And how it helps to tie every track together to make this a singular cohesive work. Everything this band has done makes me love them that much more. Listen to Song of Salvation once and I dare you to disagree.
The Otolith - Folium Limina
While I wasn’t too late with listening to/writing about this album, this is still sort of an “I messed up post” since I should have been shouting its name from every rooftop I could conceivably find. It’s no secret that SubRosa (rest in power) was one of my all time favorite doom bands; when they split up, I felt an immense sadness second only to the feelings of moroseness evoked by the band’s own music. So when The Otolith was announced, containing as it does nearly everyone that made SubRosa so great, I should have been elated and immediately attentive to their first release. But, for some reason, I wasn’t; maybe I was worried that my extremely high expectations would be shattered, leading to disappointment. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to receive and enjoy the sort of high intensity, immensely massive, ethereal doom that I knew this group of people were so good at.
Whatever the reason, several weeks ago the dam broke and I allowed myself to dive deep into Folium Limina and boy, am I glad I did. In ways, this is indeed SubRosa’s heir; the strings are prominent, the chords ring out into the very sky, and the vocals are majestic and powerful as ever. But, in other crucial ways, this is also not “just” SubRosa 2.0; the approach with The Otolith has changed, subtly but changed nonetheless. This group focuses less on the etherealness and roundabout approach that SubRosa had always placed at its core, preferring a more aggressive and direct attitude to the same kind of epic doom that the previous project had championed. This makes Folium Limina every bit as punishing and grandiose and injects those attributes into every moment of the music. It’s funny to describe a long, ambitious doom album with the word “direct” but that’s how Folium Limina feels.
Listen to, you guessed it, the opening track “Sing No Coda” for an example. The track is thirteen minutes and a half long but it wastes very little time into getting into each of its distinct passages and moving the track forwards along its compositional trajectory. In addition, the sound is different; the bass is way louder, the guitars still massive but much more present and “filled out”, and the strings the same, more present, prominent, and full. In a way, it doesn’t make the sound “more” doom-y and crushing, but it makes it crush you in a different way. SubRosa was like watching a storm from a mountain peak, seeing it unfurl before you. The Otolith grab you by the throat and throw you head first into that storm, surrounding you with their music and its intensity.
INCANTVM - Strigae
Adding to the high number of excellent unorthodox releases that appeared this month, debut album Strigae by INCANTVM has already ranked among my favorites for 2022. Led by clarinetist Vittorio Sabelli (formerly of Dawn of a Dark Age and Notturno), the blackened doom orchestra stretches the bounds of doom metal for an evocative performance that still delivers heavy riffs.
Strigae is a concept album based on witch hunts and trials that took place in the 17th century. Though performed in Italian, the riveting performances by vocalists Tenebra (Dreariness) and Nequam (The Magik Way) carry listeners through the rage and fear that must have followed the trials. Tenebra’s raw and caustic performance contrasts particularly well with the grandeur of the orchestral instrumentation, building tension in ways that can only be described as theatrical. Indeed, Strigae is so absorbing that it feels like watching a play. Soul-crushing riffs embrace a warmer edge with Sabelli’s clarinet, become more ominous with a church organ, and downright funereal with a choir. The sound is unquestionably doom metal, but the execution matches the pacing of live theater. Wildly unconventional, but incredibly beautiful and devastating.
Chrome Ghost - House of Falling Ash
While I have already covered this album for Editors’ Picks, it’s impossible for me not to include my favorite doom album (in a year already filled with incredible releases in the genre) in Doomsday. Simply put, House of Falling Ash is one of the most complex, subtle, and yet uncompromisingly heavy doom releases I’ve heard in years and, somehow, a bold step forward for a band who had already made some of the best doom ever with The Diving Bell. My advice is to listen to this album for the first few times with nothing else happening; it is a demanding, intricate, and challenging piece of music that’s best enjoyed with your attention fully on the many twists and turns that it contains. If you do that, you’ll also find the album incredibly emotionally resonant, as it diversifies and expands on the mental landscape that Chrome Ghost have worked on in the past.
Vitskär Süden - The Faceless King
I had first covered this band a couple of years ago, when we premiered a track from their debut, self-titled album. I had mentioned then that they have massive potential, channeling the kind of force and impact I love in my desert-y psych rock. I’m happy to report that The Faceless King proves that I was correct; Vitskär Süden continue to improve on and expand their cosmic horror themed psychedelic rock, embellishing it with more redolent and interesting synths, even more evocative vocals, and a dedication to the bluesy, desert riff that is both admirable and incredibly pleasing. The album also pushes harder on the band’s compositional abilities, expanding the range of sounds, transitions, and tropes they are willing and able to explore. If you’re looking for a groovy yet expansive album that is good both for headbanging and for stargazing, then this is the release for you.
Also, this has to be one of the only iterations of AI-generated album art that fits the album’s concept and is actually clever.