Sunday, 11 January 2015

Novembers Doom - Bled White (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 15/07/2014
Label: The End Records

‘Bled White’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1). Bled White (06:49)
2). Heartfelt (07:09)
3). Just Breathe (07:50)
4). Scorpius (01:15)
5). Unrest (05:25)
6). The Memory Room (06:53)
7). The Brave Pawn (03:58)
8). Clear (06:06)
9). The Grand Circle (06:48)
10). Animus (06:39)
11). The Silent Dark (09:29)

Novembers Doom is:

Paul Kuhr | Vocals
Larry Roberts | Guitars
Vito Marchese | Guitars
Mike Feldman | Bass
Garry Naples | Drums


There was a time when Novembers Doom was on the verge of becoming doom metal royalty. 1999’s ‘Of Sculptured Ivy and Stone Flowers’ and 2000’s ‘The Knowing’ were classics in a time when doom metal wasn’t anywhere near as fashionable as it would become nearly fifteen years later. Both albums were rich with melody and atmosphere, and of course; Paul Kuhr’s guttural vocals are the stuff of legend. Later, ‘Welcome to the Fade’ was a strong follow up, though a step behind the others and ‘Pale Haunt Departure’ marked their greatest notoriety to that point, even if it still felt a notch below their best work at the time.

After that point, Novembers Doom seemed to struggle, releasing a few albums from 2007-2011 that felt flat after years of much stronger material. I’ve always given each album a listen based on the strength of their early material, but more often than not I was disappointed with what I heard. It sounded hollow, with only a tenuous connection to the powerful music they’d produced before. That brings us to ‘Bled White’, released last summer. Some 10 years since their last truly vital album, Novembers Doom are still struggling to recapture the magic of those early albums. It’s not a bad album by any stretch, but none of it really connects on any deeper level beyond the superficial. It’s beautifully recorded and there are some songs you can nod your head along to, but ‘Bled White’ is still an album by a band in stagnation.

The album starts off strongly with two of its strongest tracks: “Bled White” and “Heartfelt”. The former bares some resemblance to “Harmony Divine” from ‘The Knowing’ in the opening moments for its dissonance, before locking into a doom death verse/semi-prog based chorus, which are nice compliments to each other in the way they’re carried out. “Heartfelt” had me sit up at first, on account of how beautiful the introductory riff is. There are some great riffs throughout, though it’s a bit more uptempo than I’d prefer. After that, the album gets off track, with “Just Breathe” falling shy of the mark as a lighter contrast to the band’s traditional darker doom metal fare. Too much of the album is focused around resonant chord plucking in the chorus and faster tempo (for Novembers Doom) sections that fall with a thud more than they elicit any emotional reaction of adrenaline rush.

That’s essentially the story of Novembers Doom circa 2014. They’re a band branching out into musical spaces that don’t play to their strengths as musicians. It’s a shame, as I’d love for a band exploring new terrain to come out of it the better for having done so. The results indicate that too much of their musical direction is focused in places that will keep them from ever really being the great band they were fifteen years ago. There are flashes of that old brilliance, but they’re too far and few between for ‘Bled White’ to be anything better than just “fine”.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can pick up a digital copy here and a CD/LP copy here.

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