Staring upwards, kneeling without reverence, and finally collapsed at eye-level with the floor — What lands heaviest upon me after roughly ten days with United States doom metal project Solemn Lament‘s self-titled debut EP is the sky-to-soil crestfallen arc of its descent; Soaring in light of celestial muse, resigning to the busied hands of time, and an ode to the waking-haunt of one’s own dread. All of the requisite bullshit folks are suppose to say about short-form releases still applies here, blithering about potential and ‘things to come’, but holy Hell is ‘Solemn Lament‘ already a thing to appreciate as is, a singular apparition glowing aghast traditional doom metal ruins. Tragedian luminance, the sort which could only have been pulled from the inner dark.
A personal work which comes as the result of a bi-coastal collaboration, Solemn Lament manifest as a crew of folks whose resumes are varietal and/or somewhat undiscovered just yet, with members of spastic hardcore (Blind Dead, Dry-Rot), experimental wildlands (Uranium Orchard) and perhaps fellowes we already know and love through their popular works such as drummer Justin DeTore (Dream Unending, Innumerable Forms, ex-Magic Circle, ex-Rival Mob) but as we look to the music the album itself is arguably built around the impossible to mistake timbre of Phil Swanson‘s (Briton Rites, Vestal Claret, Seamount ex-Hour of 13, et al.) inspired vocal resonance and vitally scene-setting poetry. I cannot necessarily complain about name dropping a load of solid bands in my own wake since I’d not have likely discovered this record if I hadn’t been researching for a tangentially related blip in another review. Swanson‘s work is undoubtedly going to be the draw for most, where he goes I am happy to follow, but we should not overlook the simpatico between the rest of the band — I would consider this largely ‘epic’ heavy metal paced traditional doom metal due to the sludge-speed guitar work shared between lead guitarist Adam Jacino and rhythm guitars from Eric Wenstrom, landing upon a brand of ‘Nightfall’-eased harmony which should be an immediate comfort zone for ‘epic doom metal’ fandom.
Upon closer inspection we could dig deep into certain notions put forth by ‘Lamentations’-era Solstice or even ‘Judgment of the Dead’ herein but a thick n’ slick modern render shoves us beyond retro sentiment, and even further than the maximal fuzz-overload and occult sparseness of 2000’s witching doom metal. Within a ‘modern’ monolithic marbled hall, ‘Solemn Lament’ presents its notably professional render, spacious and beautifully engineered sound design from Rizk + Fisher, in the form of unearthly thunder as “Celeste” encroaches. Not only can we be sure that this is going to be the best sort of sentient, downtrodden doom metal beyond the first lunge of the guitars but the columnar height of its resonance already exists dimensions beyond pub-shaking, surreal-yet-sorrowful heavy rock beginnings. Perhaps it is the hi-fi extreme metal crispness of the event pinging my ear with great appreciation for this level of intensity but I was not expecting such ‘ready for the pros’ sort of action from a first release. Any thought or observation of influences beyond this point are equally nullified by Swanson being a singularity unto himself, especially when it comes to patiently divulged pieces which allow his sensibility for cadence and arrangement to deliver ample feeling beyond performance alone. I’d imagine most listeners will have a similar journey as I have, eyes aglow with the wizardry of the vocal resonance ’til the admiration of each hymn soon turns ear towards the gloom presented by the guitars.
As the neck goes loose with dread, the head has nowhere to fall but into hands — Clean guitar intros and acoustic passages weave their way through experience, expressing not only sentiment for ancient doom metal acts but setting the listener within intimate moments that are key to creating the slow-spun web of affecting torpor that ‘Solemn Lament’ presents. That isn’t to say the the riffs aren’t the major spectacle to behold but that only the rugged scent of their overdriven buzz curates the experience, they land much more in the realm of death/doom metal expressivity in this sense while shirking extremism beyond tone and shape. You’ll remember the major chunking of “Celeste” but “Old Crow” and “Stricken” are stated moreso via leads rather than sheer rhythm guitar dynamic; This is hardly a complaint and if anything I’d gotten the impression that three songs weren’t enough to contain the ideas at hand here, especially as my mind wandered towards the rhythm section in appreciation for just how in tune DeTore is with his instrument, a world within a world. However the layers hit you, the major point to make here is that Solemn Lament arrive upon the right stuff on this debut. Doom metal to atrophy the body enough that the mind relents and processes what it may. More than a ‘good start’ but a great record outright. A very high recommendation.
Sword Worship [Cassette, TBA]
|RELEASE DATE:||August 9th, 2021|
|BUY & LISTEN:||Bandcamp|
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