Colosseum - Chapter 2: Numquam (2009)
Now that my schedule has cleared up for the next couple of days, I can finally get to reviewing that new Protest the Hero album, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. Ever since joining Metal Academy, I have made it a goal of mine to listen to more metal in 2020 than I did in 2019, which should not be all that hard considering how much metal I actually ended up listening to during the year, minus my retrospective binge in January.
Another goal of mine was to listen to different subsections of the metal tag that I normally would not give the time of day. And this feels appropriate. Colosseum were a Finnish Funeral Doom metal band of the late 2000s most prominent remembered for their principal members being apart of the band Yearning. I chose this album because our good friend Sonny92's review was selected to the front page of RYM and I figured it was a good a time as any to cross something different off of my list (don't worry, the PTH album review will come tomorrow).
My distaste of this particular subgenre is the lack of melodic focus. On the opposite side of the spectrum, technical death metal has many of the same compositional tropes of funeral doom metal, in which melody is scorned at in favour of tempo, depending on the genre. With Colosseum, their is melody, quite a lot of it actually. And some of the individual songs on this album are quite impressive in scale. Since many of the tunes are relatively shorter to other funeral doom metal groups, Colosseum use the time they have been given effectively, giving these songs some much needed staying power.
The first half of this record is very well executed. "Towards the Infinite" and "The River" are two excellent standouts that exemplify the shorter songwriting's benefits to a tea. The string and synth embellishments throughout the record, but most prominently on the first half of "Prosperity" sound great. They have their own unique melodic flare at times have a very good overall sound, never feeling compromised by the thick guitars. As for the guitars, they are pretty good as well. I wish that they could have had some more melodic importance rather than serving as an extension of the rhythm section. As for the rhythm section, they sound decent enough; but then again, what did I expect from funeral doom metal. At least they sound good and carry these tunes forward.
Unfortunately the second half of this record drags on for far too long. I've already spoken about the excellent first half of "Prosperity" and that carries over into "Narcosis" as well, but the end of these songs just sort of...fizzle out and they spend their time simmering in whatever resido they can find. And the "Outro" sounds like a pretentious sound collage. It sounds nice from a production standpoint, but really leaves the album ending on a not so good foot.
If there is anything I can gather from this record, it is that Colosseum had potential. Their shorter song structures and focus on melody were big stepping stones that could actually make this music sound memorable. Unfortunately that never happened, and one of the members of this group would give in and commit suicide in 2010. If there were more artists creating funeral doom like this, I would be more intrigued in the genre. But for now, I'll take what I can get and this album is pretty solid.
Colosseum were formed in 2006 by Juhani Palomäki and Janne Rämö, both members of Finnish doom outfit Yearning, in order to explore doom's slowest and most monolithic sub-genre, Funeral Doom. Unfortunately they split in 2010 after three brilliant albums when Juhani Palomäki committed suicide at just age 32.
This album is a gorgeous testament to the man's art, an amazing album that is as close to funeral doom perfection as it is reasonable to expect, in my opinion. The atmosphere created is one of immense majesty, overlaid by a mournful sombreness made more poignant by the fate of the band's driving force. Feels like walking through a long-abandoned and ancient, yet still impressive, city such as the one featured in Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness or the ruins on the sacred island of Delos in Greece. A huge weight of history and accomplishment forgotten and dimmed by the passage of time, it's previous might and majesty now only remembered deep within the stone wrought by masons and sculptors long-gone.
The riffs are heaving and slow as you would expect, albeit certainly not the slowest tempo in funeral doom and the keys add a substantial layer to the atmosphere without swamping the sound at all. A number of guest musicians contribute classical instruments such as violin, cello, flute and trumpet for an even richer and more deeply mournful atmosphere. For me though, it is Juhani Palomäki's voice that really sets Colosseum apart, I absolutely love the timbre of his vocals, that deep, rasping growl that shakes you to your core is one of the most doom metal voices ever caught on record.
This album does seem to be the least well-liked of Colosseum's three full-lengths and I'm sorry for being so out of step, but this is one of my all-time favourites being both immaculately heavy and yet still remaining accessible due to it's generally shorter and relatively melodic songs.