To Fall, Or Not To Fall? That Is The Question.

First Post September 14, 2022 02:00 PM

Inspired by Sonny's exploration/re-visit of death metal recently as he searches for a potential fourth clan, I have been weighing up my options for a replacement fourth clan for The Guardians after my interest in the traditional heavy metal style waned in the last 12 months.  Logically for me, given my penchant for some death/doom and butt-fuck ugly sludge metal, The Fallen seems the immediate clan of choice in which to tackle some new clan challenges.  My main draw for The Fallen is the death/doom though and there is no challenge for this, I imagine due to the overlap with The Horde.

So, I have thrown up this thread where I will chart my exploration of The Fallen.  Given the infrequent and inconsistent basis with which I post here, this could be a short thread, however I will try and maintain some sense of trajectory.  If I am going to start anywhere though then it will be with the releases that I know already and with that in mind there is no other place to start than with Candlemass' debut release because (review excerpt starts) "I like the idea and concept of doom metal often more than I actually like the content overall but albums like Epicus... and Nightfall make me want to listen to more doom metal.

The constant sense of drama and pending tragedy appeals to my dark nature and I love the huge sound to the riffs and their looming menace. The fact is though that for me the genre doesn't always live up to the expectations that the Candlemass debut promised when I first heard it. Arguably, the first four Candlemass records broke the whole genre for me as I soon realised that there was very few vocalists out there that could live up to the talent and range of Längquist and Marcolin, or even match pound for pound the riffing of Björkman and harrowing leads of Johansson.

So, I confine myself to the odd review within the clan and tonight I find myself reviewing one the greatest doom metal records of all time. I think this rating comes from all of what I have mentioned above in relation to this record. The great vocals, the sterling instrumentation and that constant feel of dense sorrow hanging over proceedings make the whole experience so very memorable. Indeed it is a record you would struggle not to take some lasting memory away from after just one listen I would say.

The album not only perfects the doom sound it lives and breathes the very core of doom in all that it presents. Whether it is the haunting resonance of Längquist begging "Please let me die in solitude" on the opening track or just the staggering imagery the lyric sheet overall can conjure when you read it, it is obvious that doom was woven into the very fabric of this record from the off. It doesn't actually feel like an album either. It has a length in terms of a track listing that make it look like an EP and even at 43 minutes it is not a doom album that relies on repetition and fathomless song durations to get its point across. Despite the heaviness and the quality on show the album doesn't fuck around or risk outstaying its welcome. It feels almost concise to me yet still leaves me hungry for more which is what all good records should do.


Admittedly, the bar is set pretty high with my first choice of this exploration hitting a perfect score already.  There's plenty more to go at luckily enough and to be clear this is not just an exploration of epic doom metal alone just because of the chosen starting release.  The journey will look at all aspects of the clan including the dreaded gothic metal to get a full picture of what I might (or might not) get to grips with on a more permanent basis.

September 15, 2022 06:08 AM

Nice one Vinny. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the best my beloved Fallen has to offer.

It is tough to follow up on Candlemass' debut because, as you rightly say, they pretty much perfected epic doom metal on the first attempt. I guess it is very similar to Morbid Angel releasing Altars of Madness and setting such a ridiculously high early standard for death metal. Still, that didn't prevent others from knocking out fantastic albums, so I hope you find plenty of other releases you dig too.

September 15, 2022 09:20 AM

I hope you find plenty of other releases you dig too.

Quoted Sonny

Or is it more in line with the general ethos of The Fallen to wish Vinny no luck whatsoever in finding releases he enjoys in order to maximize the chances of him wallowing in hopelessness & despair?

September 15, 2022 10:46 AM

Trouble - Psalm 9 (1984)

Trouble's eponymous debut is a tale of two halves for me. The first half is me thinking that this is why I got into heavy metal in the first place. With its big riffs and lethal threat levels of groove and doom, there is little to argue with on Psalm 9 when it comes to the bangers such as album opener The Tempter, the charging triumph of The Fall of Lucifer or the epic gloom of Psalm 9. Both tracks are examples of the band at their finest for me and are tracks that represent the very essence of what doom metal should sound like. There is a vibrancy and energy underneath that requisite level of murk that shows a band with their artform flowing through their very veins. The riffs of Wartell and Franklin are huge and yet at the same time they are clearly players unafraid to mix it up and change pace and influence to inject some variety to proceedings. The vocal talents of the late Mr Wagner are accurately logged throughout history and it is hard to find a comparable vocalist, past or present that has such a unique and equally fitting style for their chosen genre of music. He is imperious here. His piercing yet gruff musings punctuate each and every song on here.

Arguably for me, this is also where the second half of my experience of the album comes from. As much as I admire Wagner's vocals the adoption of them on some tracks (in terms of the lyrical content and their delivery) is far too preachy for my liking. This is not a criticism that I level from the aspect of their being a large Christian focus on the lyrics here. Sharing aspects of your faith in your music is not something I have a problem with. Here though, there is an underlying naivety to the lyrics. Victim of the Insane is a bleating tirade from a vocal perspective, saved only by the superb lead work and accompanying tempo change that heralds its arrival. The raging Bastards Will Pay is another example of a song with a message to deliver but not quite having the maturity to tailor it to be less overwhelming. At times the messaging feels like it is from a gothic metal album as opposed to a straight up doom record. I acknowledge of course that this was a debut release and so the most likely of a band's discography to contain the rookie mistakes.

The above does not ruin the album for me by a long chalk. It is an issue that is reflected in my rating most definitely but there is still a lot to enjoy and praise here. Even the instrumental track that I normally dread on most records is interesting and totally in keeping with the album direction overall. The drumming of Jeff Olson could be represented better in the mix overall but I would not go as far to say that it is stifled to any degree, just a little too far back in the mix. As a benchmark doom record for the "Early Days" challenge in The Fallen clan, Trouble's debut album is a superb starter for ten for anyone wanting to dip their toe in these murky yet rippling waters.


September 19, 2022 10:34 AM

Electric Wizard - Black Masses (2010)

We are already getting towards the back end of the doom metal releases I already have a solid background with and it probably will not come as any surprise that EW are in here.  An important record for me and one that I have finally got around to reviewing today for the site:

I feel enough has probably been said already about Electric Wizard on most internet review sites in terms of the (deserved) adulation they received for the likes of Dopethrone or Come My Fanatics. For a period, Electric Wizard seemed to be everywhere, occupying endless “What are you listening to?” or “Recent Purchases” threads on the various internet forums I frequented some ten years ago. There was a sense that they were a band who could do no wrong (although the same collective conscience on the internet all seemed to simultaneously recognise the failure that was Wizard Bloody Wizard), a group who had hit their sweet spot in the realm of occult-ridden stoner/doom metal and consistently churned out the cursed vibes to the baying masses.

After a brief break from metal back in the late noughties I returned to the scene and decided it was time to bring Electric Wizard into my world. Never having really explored any stoner/doom metal before, Black Masses was the record that almost tipped me into the world we all know here as The Fallen. I played the shit out of this record, mostly because I was flat broke and my listening choices were limited (at least until I discovered Bandcamp anyways), but also because for the first time the hazy darkness and fuzz that emanated from this record soaked me up and I simply ‘got it’. Black Masses was one of those records that just clicked with me, better then anything else that I have listened to by the band – even the mighty Dopethrone.

To this day I still find desultory comfort in the arms of Venus in Furs, still feel a nerdy coolness to the b-movie atmospherics that imbue the whole hour run time of the record; Black Masses more than makes me want to shut all my curtains in the middle of the day and watch endless Hammer Horror! Rarely moving beyond a death march plod throughout eight tracks, Electric Wizard still manage to provide consistent entertainment without breaking that much of a sweat. What sounds lacklustre or half-hearted to some is in fact evidence that EW did what they did so naturally back then that they could afford themselves a little bit of arrogance in their playing.

Who cares that Patterns of Evil is more than a tad cumbersome in its arrangement, the multitude of component parts clashing with each other at various points, when it all sounds so disturbingly relaxing at the same time? A lot of the success here for me is down to Jus Osborn’s vocals. Dialled perfectly into the mix without getting lost in the density of the instruments they act as a creepy and pained accompaniment to the music. The combination of his and his wife Liz Osborn’s leaden riffs are imperative to the sullen and hopeless aspects of Satyr IX, seeped in psychedelia and gloriously comforting in their enshrouding nature.

If finding peace in darkness and dankly lit places is your bag, then there is plenty to go at on Black Masses. It is sombre without being draining, evil without being overtly nefarious and enriching without the need for ‘nice-to-haves’ such as variety and progression to unlock it rewards.


September 22, 2022 04:07 PM

Age of Taurus - Desperate Souls of Tortured Times (2013)

Well Age of Taurus are early evidence that doom metal might just be for me after all. Desperate Souls of Tortured Times is a hefty slab of epic doom metal that stretches its legs in terms of varying pace over seven tracks of lengthy yet never arduous duration. At their best they are a psychedelic-edged doom behemoth and the standout track by far for me is the mournful and dank Walk With Me My Queen which is superbly situated in the middle of the album. At the same time they are guilty of the odd meander as well with penultimate track Embrace the Stone not really bringing any value during its eight minute runtime despite a really promising start.

The racy Desperate Souls is an example of where the band can comfortably ditch the traditional doom metal tag and go a little more up tempo without sacrificing that looming menace that those twin guitars bring to the table. The vocals are actually a great fit for me and I like how the bass is just as audible as everything else here. It is albums like this that cast my recent history with heavy metal in a new light. I have a feeling that if I had pursued this path sooner with the more epic doom metal sound then I could have tied together the two sub-genres better without now having to explore one at the expense of the other. There is a rumbling coolness to DSoTT that sacrifices none of the youthful vigour of true heavy metal yet in fact manages to add a great level of esotericism to proceedings and although it is early on in my exploration of The Fallen clan this realisation of where my path has perhaps come to a premature end with heavy metal is certainly causing much reflection of my listening habits over the years when doom has gone largely neglected as a listening option.

There are lots of Master of Reality style structures here and this can only be a good thing in my book. That slumbering groove to the guitars scratches a real itch for me and when in full flow this is a razor sharp unit. I can see they underwent something of a line-up change for album number two (which is on my radar) so will be interesting to see how consistent these guys are, but with Leo Smee of Cathedral fame in the band there is an element of real promise ahead of me checking out their sophomore release, built from this solid foundation stone also.


October 02, 2022 05:31 PM

Septicflesh - Έσοπτρον (1995)

Symphonic death-metallers Septicflesh are a hit and miss band for me across the various parts of their discography that I have heard. They occupy that space on the very outskirts of my radar whereby if they release something it will largely go unnoticed with the occasional track appearing on playlists at some point, briefly causing me to pause to listen, usually decide it is nothing new in terms of their standard grandiose arrangements that I find go nowhere in the end. All mouth and no trousers is a phrase that springs to mind whenever I am faced with a Septicflesh release.

Everybody must start somewhere of course and back in the mid-nineties the Greeks had a much more death/doom trajectory about their direction. Their second full-length Έσοπτρον (translated to Epsotron meaning “inner view/mirror”) is full of mournful melodies on the guitar with the support of melancholic keys for good measure. Both these elements drive the record forwards in a mix that leaves the drums firmly at the back of the studio and the vocals being hoarsely uttered somewhere just in front of them.

Upon first listen, Έσοπτρον sounds like virtually the same track played in the same order around nine times with the only real variance being the intro (Breaking the Inner Seal) and the medieval tropes of instrumental track, Celebration. Repeated listens – albeit slowly – dispel this notion as you come to understand that whilst subtle in nature, the nuances between tracks are there, you just must be patient in discovering them. I soon got to finding the album possessing an ethereal beauty after a handful of listens, despite there being some sections that step away from death metal (Ice Castle, which plays like some bastardised epic heavy metal track) for large portions of their run time. On their sophomore album, Septicflesh had a keen sense of dark harmony amongst their lead elements, and it is not hard to understand when listening to Έσοπτρον how this band elevated themselves into the symphonic powerhouse that we all recognise them to be nowadays.

As with Greek bm, I find the death/doom on display here to be warmer than usual, or certainly a lot softer than contemporaries of the time. Overall, despite the albums positive growth on me, the piercing tones of the lead guitar are overused and (taking into account that it is death/doom) the album lacks enough variety to make this album a standout for the sub-genre or the band overall. Those dungeon-synth moments that haunt the song structures in places are a welcome addition that add depth and atmosphere to proceedings and there is some stellar arrangements on the lead guitar front (So Clean, So Empty) to keep me focused for the whole album. An important if not outstanding release for Septicflesh.


October 02, 2022 09:56 PM

I picked "Έσοπτρον" up on CD at the time of release & Ben & I both really enjoyed it. I don't think I've ever rated or reviewed it though so I'll need to rectify that at some stage.

October 04, 2022 11:13 AM

Tiamat - Clouds (1992)

Finally, I get around to Tiamat after several decades of somehow missing (or simply not remembering) them. Picking them up when firmly in their death/doom phase on Clouds I find an album that should – on paper at least – appeal to me. Hearing those gloomy riffs and b-movie horror synthesisers on opening track In A Dream certainly seems to indicate that I will enjoy this and…WAIT, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?? That voice, is that Stephen Hawking saying, “in a dream”? That can’t be planned right? The tape has gotten mixed up with an audiobook somewhere on the production line surely.

Joking aside, after a few listens at least, the odd vocal delivery of the chorus line on the opening track retains some quirky value at least. If I am honest, the whole of Clouds has some vocal challenges for me in the sense that I find Johan Edlund to be a lazy sounding vocalist. I get that he is supposed to sound full of despair and hopelessness, but I find that he just sounds like he cannot be bothered in all honesty. His vocals appear to be an afterthought on most tracks, like they somehow forgot to record them with everything else and then had to track them at the last minute.

Luckily, there are some merits to the instrumentation to note that manage to detract away from Edlund’s half-hearted efforts. The guitars have a suitably mournful tone to them, and the use of keyboards is applied well to tracks to give a real depth to that gloomy atmosphere. It is not difficult upon hearing Clouds to understand how Tiamat moved onto their more gothic climes in latter years. The melancholic elements on the record lack any grandiosity overall but certainly hark to a more emotional performance than a mere death/doom vibe.

A Caress of Stars might be the better of the tracks on offer here with its patient and enveloping growth, torturing the listener by offering no real crescendo in the end albeit that the promise of such is hinted at in the song structure. If you can cope with Edlunds vocals, then Clouds is an album that rewards you for sticking with it as it continually delivers on a dank level of comforting consistency as it slopes its way over eight tracks. The drums are really striking throughout the album and have a chunky edge to them that gives them a real strong presence in proceedings. There isn’t anything particularly standout about them in terms of technicality, they just hit the spot consistently well.

The mood of the album is its ultimate triumph. To be able to provide something – anything – to distract from those vocals is a tall order to deliver, and Tiamat thankfully could rely on their musicianship to save what would otherwise have been a real struggle for this pair of ears to get through.


October 04, 2022 11:25 AM

It's been many years since I heard "Clouds" but I think I'd probably rate it the same score as you have Vinny. Tiamat's next album "Wild Honey" was their first to really command my attention.

November 12, 2022 01:33 PM

My Dying Bride - Turn Loose the Swans (1993)

As I further my listening in The Fallen clan I inevitably find myself with my first MDB album. I cannot articulate why I have never ventured into MDB over the last three decades. It is not that I recall any poor experience of one song that turned me off them although I predict that if I had heard Turn Loose the Swans back in 1993 I would not have gotten past album opener Sear Me MCMXCIII as my Pantera-adled brain would not have tolerated such a dreary number. In so many ways TLtS is a gift that I can only appreciate with age, as it is an album that transcends a mere death/doom tag over its seven tracks and is in fact a lot to take in.

This is an album that manages to felt as well as heard. It has tangible form and edges as well as an interesting interior to explore also. Whether it is the destitute crooning of Aaron Stainthorpe that you feel in the very pit of your stomach or the melancholic stabbing riffs of Andrew Craighan and Calvin Robertshaw that fill your head with heaviest of dark thoughts, there is always an experience to be had with any part of TLtS. Rick Miah more than deserves a mention also with his drumming providing a consistent and solid backdrop to whole despondent atmosphere of the album. The drum patterns manage to sit in the space between simple percussion and expansive detail. Never lost and never overpowering, this is one of the most balanced drum performances I have heard for some time.

Props also for the subtle use of the violin and keyboards. Martin Powell manages to make his presence felt without turning the album into a wishy-washy, gothic affair. The guitars, drums and vocals are genuinely allowed to shine with the keys and classical strings seeping in to support them or compliment perfectly the more down tempo moments. The Snow in My Hand is a great example of how they violin is effectively used to introduce the song, set the tone and then hand it over to the doomier aspects of the sound. In terms of the true death/doom content, I would argue that this is quite sparse overall and only comes into play from around the halfway point of the album. Indeed, I would go as far as to suggest that TLtS is a real grower of an album overall in terms of staying true to its overall genre classification. The elements of gothic and doom metal certainly dominate the first part of the album, yet when the death/doom content is displayed it does not push any of these other elements aside. The band merely combine them as new component parts to the sound and as a result the album has a real sense of development to it. At the same time all tracks seem somehow interconnected. Listening to the aforementioned The Snow in My Hand you cannot help but think of album opener Sear Me MCMXCIII. I am not aware that the album is a concept album and so I can only put this down to sheer consistency.

Building as it goes along, the release hits its peak shortly before the end of the record as the two lengthier tracks, Crown of Sympathy and the title track, truly showcase the song writing prowess of the band. Dramatic, grandiose (trumpet fanfare) and utterly desperate, both tracks encompass the overall experience of TLtS perfectly. I cannot pretend to have hit it off with this record from the outset and I have in fact been listening to it on and off for weeks now just to get to the point of being able to gather my thoughts for a review. At first (as with Anathema) I did find it a little bleating at times but this issue soon dispersed over repeated listens. Despite the experimentation, the record maintains a real death/doom ethos at its core and is one of the best records I have heard to date in my exploration of The Fallen clan.


December 14, 2022 12:15 PM

Pentagram - self titled (1985)

I have been meaning to catch up on my exploration of The Fallen clan with Pentagram’s opening offering to the world being on my challenge list. Last night I was flicking through a magazine and an interview with Mirai from the band Sigh referenced Pentagram’s debut record as “Heavy, simple and evil” and so my task for today was set. Mirai listed it as one of his five most influential albums, citing the simplicity of the riffs as being one of the key successes of the record. I would agree with this to some extent as the riffs here chart no complicated or technical patterns. Equally, the drums and bass do nothing extraordinary in the main part, but then Joe Hasselvander suddenly pulls amazing runs and fills out of thin air (Run My Course) or Martin Swaney steps in from nowhere with his charging bass line (Dying World) and suddenly this is not such a simplistic album anymore.

What works well on this record is the restraint that is showed to showcase individual performances. Whilst the riffs stick that effective level of basic ability during verses, for example, Bobby’s vocals really get to shine. His dulcet croons are given centre stage in these scenarios but then when it comes to the lead work, Victor Griffin gets the spotlight delivering brief but enchanting solos. This sharing of the limelight gives the album a real sense of cohesion and camaraderie; no individual element rides roughshod over another here folks.

There is no doubting the doom credentials on display here, the production job is light touch and the whole sound has an authentic and organically dark feel. The fuzzy edge to things gives a cruel comfort against the backdrop of Bobby’s marauding vocals. Listening to this album some near forty years after its release, it is not difficult to see why Pentagram have remained such a revered name in the doom metal scene. Simple, without being boring and clever without being complex.


The Fallen The Horde The North The Pit
December 14, 2022 07:33 PM

Happy to see that you're digging more of what The Fallen has to offer. Turn Loose the Swans has always been a favourite album for me. One of the first that I think of when coming up with any sort of favourite albums list.

December 19, 2022 09:02 PM

Celtic Frost - Monotheist (2006)

Song writing is a fine art form. A skill that only very few excel at. You can admire well-structured and cleverly built songs all you like, however for me the real praise needs to be reserved for those that elevate their song writing to truly deranged levels of morbid grandiosity. That ability to truly detach from the expected, to actively seek to shy away from the conventional is where my eyes go all glossy with adulation. To that end, my discovery of Monotheist today for the first time has been nothing short of a revelation.

To be honest, I rarely listen to Celtic Frost and had most certainly not thought to connect them with doom metal. Of course, now I sit down and acknowledge that this last offering from CF sets the scene perfectly for the very similar sounding Triptykon, it all falls into place nicely. That having been said part of my stunned and slightly quizzical look on my face cannot hide that sense of being caught genuinely off-guard by a record for the first time in absolutely years. Although relevant, comparisons with Tom’s latter day output are not altogether an accurate reflection of just how good Monotheist is.

Which ever release I listen to from Triptykon, it exudes some sense of measure and control. It feels like some of the rampant emotions of Monotheist have been brought to heel in the intervening years that have passed since CF ducked out (on a high). That is not to say that Monotheist is bat shit crazy either, whilst it most certainly lacks some of the dark composure of Triptykon it is still a deviously calculated record to listen to. Whilst it starts off perfectly normal with heavy opener Progeny providing an above average welcome to proceedings, this is a record that slowly unravels and unhinges itself the further you get into it.

As well as Tom’s increasingly demented vocals there is a growing sense of groove and bend to those riffs also. As songs start to crash into feedback-soaked endings it is with a degree of wonder that you must ask yourself if the four years of recording was the route the band should have stuck with for their entire careers, such is the level of accomplishment prevalent over these eleven tracks.

Clear album highlight is the penultimate track (proper), Totengott. Its blend of harsh black metal vocals and noise-like atmospherics are a stunningly macabre glorification of evil music and Tom sounds rabid on his performance on here. The fourteen minutes plus offering, Synagoga Satanae is a wonderful exploration of doom metal, full of big and memorable riffs. For me, they could end the record right there and do away with the instrumental track that closes proceedings but this still acts as a great palette cleanser to end on.


December 19, 2022 10:54 PM

It sounds like you are slowly succumbing to the melancholy charms of The Fallen, Vinny.

December 20, 2022 02:13 AM

"Monotheist" is comfortably my favourite Celtic Frost record & sports one of the heaviest production jobs I have ever heard in my life. I genuinely love it. 4.5/5

December 20, 2022 08:30 AM

It sounds like you are slowly succumbing to the melancholy charms of The Fallen, Vinny.

Quoted Sonny

Still working away at the clan challenge as that way I will truly understand what I do and do not like.  Monotheist was a curved ball though whilst in a quiet period at work and just threw it on stream, to great success clearly.  If all doom metal sounds like this then I am in!

December 30, 2022 10:56 AM

Messa - Close (2022)

There are some records that you simply feel daunted at the prospect of having to review. Some records are so diverse and eclectic, so bristling with organic energy and vigour that committing some paragraphs to state the success of their content seems an almost injustice of near epic proportions. I mean, I can be impressed by some albums I hear and easily transpose my thoughts on the highlights to word format, but the albums that constantly challenge and surprise you are the tricky ones to truly interpret in a review. Close is one such record. Looking back at the year as a whole it is hard to understand how this release initially passed me by back in March and only really fell onto my radar at all in the final three months (breaking my end of year list to boot). My exploration of The Fallen clan certainly helped bring this to my attention but there is so much more here than the simple doom aesthetics of this record.

In simple terms, this is a cool record. Not cool as in being representative of some mainstream avenue of music but more just cool in how it sounds. There are enough instruments in use over this album to make it easy to understand just how well this record embraces influences form doom, psychedelia and world music. Crossing continents and exploring cultural boundaries along the way, Close is a celebration of all the influences that this band have been subjected to over their various pathways into Messa. Even on the grindcore track towards the end, none of this feels forced (vocalist Sara, formerly being a member of death metal/grindcore crew Restos Humanos makes the grindcore inclusion a little less surprising perhaps).

With this variety comes the potential for me to get lost in the record and find myself struggling to balance the complexity of such a mixed palate of sounds (the album being over an hour long doesn't initially bode well either) but everything is done so effortlessly it just sounds so authentic throughout. Somehow, Messa manage to sound modern and relevant yet capture the very essence of the retro vibes that ooze through those fuzzy guitar tones, ably assisted by the amazing vocal talent of Sara Bianchin. Although it is obvious where her limitations lie she still compliments each track on here perfectly and is easily one of the standout contributors to the record.

I bought this album on vinyl yesterday, such was my urgency to add this to my library in some kind of physical format and it has worked its way into my top three albums of the year, despite its late arrival on my radar. There is so much that can be said about this record that I could go on for days about it and never still get all my reflections down about it. As I said, in simple terms, this is really cool.


January 11, 2023 09:19 PM

Katatonia - Dance of December Souls (1993)

In my many years of listening to metal there are a few albums that I struggled to grasp the appeal behind. For example, The Karelian Isthmus by Amorphis has long enjoyed the praise of my peers but I personally find it dull as dishwater. I even bought it on CD at a second-hand store one year off the basis of one of my internet acquaintances telling how good a record it was. That same acquaintance has also waxed lyrical about Dance of December Souls by Katatonia for years.

This time around I must acknowledge that the point of Dance of December Souls was largely lost on me because I gave it the incorrect amount of attention required to really appreciate how good an album this was. Criminally, I did this for years. Just applying the occasional spin of the record every now and again whilst doing something else entirely and then asking myself what all the fuss was about. Such scant regard for the true quality of Katatonia’s debut album means that I have missed the impact of a very important album for around five years.

This as a debut release for any band is an achievement. For a band who in 1991 recorded a demo that Anders Nyström himself described as “… is not Katatonia. It's some fuzzy, noisy necro shit done completely aside" to release this masterpiece some two years later shows a massive leap forward in maturity. Sitting listening to the bass work of Guillaume René Le Huche (Israphel Wing on the album notes) alone is a joy to behold. The flowing deep tones that run alongside the dark gothic melodies of the guitar and the crisp and brittle drums make for a real individual journey for the listener to chart the progress of. Factor in the ghastly vocals of Jonas Renkse and you get a real sense of the variation of Dance of December Souls.

Even the instrumental tracks possess an astonishing level of quality to savour over their short runtimes. Elohim Meth is superbly placed in this record to bridge the two halves of the album as it closes off the aggressive mentality of Without God and leads us into the more melancholic Velvet Thorns (of Drynwhyl). The real standout track however is Tomb of Insomnia. A thirteen-minute track straight after a near fourteen-minute track is a bold move but the build of this track is just so well measured and although it clearly has distinct passages at no point is their any disconnect during the track.

Listening through the album a few times again as I wrote this review it occurred to me that the album has an almost classical music theme to it, with certain guitar work sounding like a dank version of some Mozart or Beethoven concerto. Not flashy like Ywngie would do it, no this is much more subtle and might not be all that conscious, but it comes across to me as this was (maybe still is) a band that are really in touch with music and that they feel as opposed to just perform this album.

I have but one, very minor quibble of Dance of December Souls. The drumming appears upon first listen to deploy no cymbals or hi-hats. After many more listens, I do believe that they are there, but they are not well mixed. As a result, I feel the album could have a greater sense of drama than the already dizzy heights of gothic theatre that we have. This in way can detract from my perfect score.


January 11, 2023 10:43 PM

I'm clearly in the minority when it comes to "Dance of December Souls" but I have to admit that I still sit in the space you previously resided in with this record Vinny. These were my thoughts when I last revisited it in November 2021:

To be honest, I've never understood the unanimous praise that Katatonia's debut full-length seems to inevitably draw. Sure, it's got some lovely melodies & creates a uniquely sombre atmosphere at times but is it really a genuine classic? I don't think so. The musicianship is pretty amateurish, the vocals are lacking in power & control, the arrangements are pretty loose, it's lacking in heaviness for a doom release & Dan Swano's keyboards are cheesy as hell for the most part. Somehow though, the overall package seems to draw me in just enough to qualify for a pass mark. I think the first couple of proper songs taint my impression a bit as they both sound pretty lethargic & this is exacerbated by the fact that the closer is absolutely awful but there's a lengthy four track run in between that I really enjoy & it just does enough to overcome my concerns. In fact, you can pretty easily see where a classic like "Brave Murder Day" came from during that stronger period & perhaps that fact alone is enough to command a 3.5/5 rating from me. I have to say that I've never understood the links to melodic black metal though. There's approximately one minute of black metal here if you look closely. There's a lot more of the gothic component which would stay with Katatonia for most of their career. Overall, I'd suggest that "Dance of December Souls" is a mildly enjoyable if inessential & overrated release that kicked off a consistently high quality discography.


The Fallen The Horde The North The Pit
January 12, 2023 02:52 AM

The last five Fallen releases you've reviewed here have received 5.0, 4.5, 4.5, 5.0 and then 5.0.  I feel like a decaying brown icon may be added to your profile shortly Vinny. :yum:

January 12, 2023 04:29 AM

He's kinda "falling" into it, isn't he?

*drum roll & cymbal crash*

"I'm here all week."

January 12, 2023 04:12 PM

The last five Fallen releases you've reviewed here have received 5.0, 4.5, 4.5, 5.0 and then 5.0.  I feel like a decaying brown icon may be added to your profile shortly Vinny. :yum:

Quoted Ben

It is looking increasingly likely, I will finish the current challenge though first.

January 28, 2023 04:58 PM

The 3rd and Mortal - Tears Laid in Earth (1994)

My Fallen clan challenge starts to take me to come very different waters as I get into the final third. Having been a largely positive experience thus far, there has been some genuinely unexpected discoveries along the way. The 3rd and Mortal however present a very different experience, one that has its high points as well as its lows it has to be said. Considering what I normally listen to from the country of Norway, these guys are a few football fields away from my usual black metal fodder that I consume with the vigour of a rabid animal. When I got Tears Laid in Earth between my teeth however I instantly started pulling the face of a confused dog, tilting my head from side to side like I could not believe what I was hearing.

First of all, I cannot ignore how good a vocalist Kirsti Huke is. Although she is entirely the wrong fit for this band and indeed this genre, she has a beautiful and shrill vocal style that when considered in isolation is undeniably good. The challenge is that the rest of the band/the music just cannot fit around her. Listen to this album and what you will hear is the instrumentation doing its upmost to play some doom, using keyboards, pianos and atmospherics alongside the guitars and drums to create some haunting (although never oppressive) music. Meanwhile, whenever Kirsti sings, everything else takes a back seat. The structures to tracks become so predictable, so quickly that I soon start to lose interest. Indeed, the only thing that keeps me present with the album are the two instrumental tracks in the middle of the album (arguably the high point of the record for me) where Kirsti does not sing but cries out alongside the instrumentation instead - more evidence that the two do not fit together well at all.

Trond and Geir are perfectly competent guitarists, that much is obvious here. However, they clearly want to play doom metal - not some ethereal gothic metal - and as a result the album feels constantly short-changed by these opposing elements. Forget you are listening to a doom record and the album is not half-bad but I am on the Fallen clan challenge, not some easy-listening playlist challenge.