On Thorns I Lay – Aegean Sorrow (2018) REVIEW

No matter what era of On Thorns I Lay’s much evolved sound you’ve jumped into across the last eight albums, you shouldn’t be surprised at what an organic fit the melodic death/doom of ‘Aegean Sorrow’ is. Though I discovered the band through copies of their death metal demo tapes, as Paralysis and later Phlebotomy, I did a double-take upon first hearing ‘Sounds of a Beautiful Experience’. Their debut was clearly reaching for something like early Opeth or Paradise Lost but was held back by a drum machine better fit for an early Rotting Christ or Varathron album. Their follow-up ‘Orama’ is a huge point of contention to this day because of it’s drowned production but it remains an important cult masterpiece of ‘gothic’ melodic death/doom to this day. So, I’m in that camp of people who argue its high value despite it’s flaws. Now six albums and twenty years beyond ‘Orama’, the band have taken a similar trip as their idols in Paradise Lost and gone from death/doom and back again on ‘Aegean Sorrow’.

I’m not a big fan of Gothic rock and variations of The Cure/Sisters of Mercy set to metal guitars, so I’ll spare you any literary sputum I could manage on the band’s discography between 2000-2003. It is recommended if you like the rock albums from Amorphis and Katatonia at the very least. After a decade of silence ‘Eternal Silence’ first popped up as an unfinished demo in online file sharing around 2011, either it had leaked or been stolen I’m not sure. The album was eventually released in much better shape in 2015 and it was a return to their original melodic death/doom sound with an emphasis on heavier death metal atmosphere throughout. It essentially recreated a heavier, more polished version of what they were doing on 1999 album ‘Crystal Tears’ as they incorporated female vocals and chunky, simpler riffs a bit more. ‘Aegean Sorrow’ eliminates those elements in favor of a sound closer to October Tide or Rapture that allows melodic guitar leads and death metal vocals to lead the experience.

The album is beautifully recorded by current Necromantia drummer Fotis Benardo, and mixed with the careful ear of Dan Swanö, who obviously had a big hand in producing the style of melodic death/doom bands that inspired On Thorns I Lay in the first place from ‘Orchid’ to ‘Rain Without End’ and a million other things. It is a thickly lush production with soaring layers of despondent lead guitars and death growls. For my taste this is the best stylistic choice the band could have made in terms of death/doom that connects the style the band was known for and still clings to some gothic edges without any unsettlingly bad gothic vocals or strange 90’s keyboard runs. If anything it sounds remarkably close to ‘Tunnel of No Light’ until some of the more progressive guitar performances are allowed room to breathe on the two part “Olethros” and the muttered gothic ambiance of “A Sign of Sadness” that leads into the dwindling coda of “Skotos”.

The more I listened to ‘Aegean Sorrow’ the more compelled I was by it’s title track, which best exemplifies what On Thorns I Lay is now in 2018 and “Erevos” expounds that statement in a slightly more concise vision. A lot of great bands have conquered this sound to similar success but few are as captivating as the stretch from tracks 2-6 here. Highly recommended for fans of melodic death/doom with the assurance that there are no wailing, unfitting Gothic female vocals or misplaced keyboard experiments. Beyond what it isn’t, it is a really solid 45 minutes of depressive melodic death/doom to fall into.


Artist On Thorns I Lay
Type Album
Released March 12, 2018
Pre-Order on Stone Circle

Preview on YouTube

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Death Doom Metal, Melodic Death Metal

Amidst ancient gardens. 3.75/5.0

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