Beneath its exceptional stratagem of upped melodious ante and reigned-in simplicity the greater harmony of Roman psychedelic doom metal band Doomraiser‘s fifth full-length album lies a much heavier purpose than perfunctory gloom. The stoney muddiness of past efforts always carried some heavier mood, be it mystic or inebriated, but ‘The Dark Side of Old Europa’ instead embodies a loose-but-devastating cultural theme that shines a blacklight upon millennia-entrenched Eurocentrism. The scene set by this shorter and stronger vision of a traditionally raw and meandering doom metal band contrasts its beauteous reverie with exactly what the title suggests: Dark tales of the ‘new world’ of the past where imperialists and colonialists razed whomever they could, culture and all, to create today’s über idealist Europa (Europe, not the moon…) A feigned and easily torn down benevolence built upon the bones of scorned dead. Of course I’m not describing any intended political statement, Doomraiser have channeled this theme in a reflective and psychotropic fashion through prose that elaborates upon Europe’s dire past rather than its much darker future.
As it were, the conversation inevitably turns towards the greatest destroyers of cultural diversity in the history of the natural world, Christians. From the moment their cult caught on it’d soon become a tool of mass killing, with their blades turned upon paganistic religions for centuries. ‘The Dark Side of Old Europa’ uses a meaningful set of irrefutable historical examples of the innocent blood upon the hands of European genocidal Christian usurpation, the first being Mithraism‘s erasure by way of “Tauroctony (The Secret Cult of Mithras)”. “Häxan” suggests the still-felt impact of widespread and deeply ingrained paranoia inspired by the threat of witchcraft and the nigh comically high body count in the name of eliminating the threat of Satan‘s grip upon Europe. Lastly, standout closer “Loathsome Explorer Interpolation” wasn’t so clear initially and I’d taken the mention of “Valerio” as a reference to the life of mathematician Luca Valerio who’d fear the inquisition enough to drop out of academia and exclude his name from key theorem on heliocentrism; It is a common Italian name so, instead it appears to be eulogy, a piece exploring the mind in mourning. Death is truly the core symptom of the album’s greater theme but the murder justified by belief in superiority instilled by ‘God’ is its great impact.
It’ll be no skin off your back to approach the subject matter with apathy because these old pros aren’t shoving any of that theme down your clenched throat. The greatest impact of the listening experience comes through two vital improvements to Doomraiser‘s sound that’ll have lapsed or disinterested doom metal fans doing a slow-jerked double take as ‘The Dark Side of Old Europa’ kicks in. Paired with its vital introductory piece, “Chimera” stomps its way from ear to ear like its 1995. This is one of the most vigorous and sharply Cathedral-esque jogs from the band in ages and longtime fans will note that vocalist Nicola “Cynar” Rossi (Black Land) has never sounded so good, so psychically introverted. I know it is just a simple goddamned rock beat but the drum performance on that opener is a master class in pure heavy metal kicks and the rest of the album follows closely, patterning its sledge somewhere between Blood Farmers, Candlemass, and their own unique psychedelic/stoner doom meandering. The title track features more of Rossi‘s mournful psych-doom tones belting between his Scott Reagers-esque (Saint Vitus) register for strength and a tripped-out cathartic hum for introspection. For a band that’d changed modus very little in the span of their first four full-lengths this all comes as a brilliant bone-rattling chunk of positive change.
Aiming for an ‘obscure’ and somewhat raw heavy metal sound while asserting the steadfast intimacy of their “heavy drunken doom” the suggestion that Doomraiser have achieved a ‘live’ feeling presence on this fifth album is remarkably accurate. This includes the keyboard work, a psych and sci-fi tickle in the back of Doomraiser‘s throat that adds a great deal of atmospheric tension while the lyrics describe the occult, the mystic fear of the unknown, and the aforementioned brilliant treatment of Mithraism on “Tauroctony (The Secret Cult of Mithras)”. On a personal note, I’ve become obsessed with Mithraic reliefs and the concept of the mithraeum since discovering this album and I always appreciate when an artist can inspire a deeper dive into historical information through a simple nine minute song. In fact that’d be another key point for the success of this record, Doomraiser have cut down on their track lengths by about 25-30% as the sweet spot hits around 7-8 minutes while still giving much room to breathe and brood — They’ve crafted a much heavier album as a result.
As revitalizing as Side A will be for the psychedelic doom aficionado, Side B brings in some of the Italian quartet’s signature sluggish side which blends classic 80’s occult doom esotericism with a Finnish doom metal plod; The Gates of Slumber and perhaps Acolytes of Moros come to mind first though the vocal performances and tangential psych guitar raids are Doomraiser‘s own unburdened expression. It is a finely curated full listen that verges on too long at around 50 minutes yet no piece feels extraneous or ill-informed. A high recommendation is due Doomraiser‘s fifth album as I’ve found the tracklist well arranged and eventful, the lyrical themes studious, and the greater changes the band’s sound effective and well-informed.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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