Dolorian - Dolorian (2001)
I must admit that, despite having a knowledge of the existence of Finnish doom metal trio Dolorian for many years now, I’d never gotten around to checking them out until my brother Ben nominated them for The Fallen clan feature release status a couple of weeks ago. From what I’d observed, the band were always referred to as a quality artist with their most recent outing (2006’s third album “Voidwards”) having been touted by many as a genuine classic so I came into this experience with considerable optimism, particularly given their high praise from my brother whose taste in metal I generally trust (with the obvious exception of Summoning who suck hard). I’d soon find though that Dolorian offered a lot more than I’d bargained for because their self-titled 2001 album is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before & that’s despite displaying a few obvious influences on their sleeves for the duration.
Firstly, I’d like to say straight up front that I feel that the tagging of “Dolorian” as a doom metal release is deceptive. Yes, Dolorian utilize slow, doomy riffs as a key ingredient in their sound however I’m not sure that it’s the protagonist here. There are many disparate influences being thrown around but to my ears this is predominantly a gothic metal release because the key ingredient that makes Dolorian so special is the consistently outstanding use of clean gothic rock & post-punk inspired melodic guitar work. These lines perpetuate not only the heavier doom sections but they also work to highlight the lengthy atmospheric excursions the band like to take with many of these seeing them hinting at psychedelia & even the post-metal of a band like Isis. The vocal delivery is very unusual for a metal band too with front man Anti Ittna Haapapuro opting for a whispered approach that sees him sitting predominantly in the background while the instrumentation takes the spotlight. In fact, Anti’s vocal contribution sees him taking on more of a supporting role while his ethereal guitar melodies maintain the listeners attention & this is one of the most significant talking points of the album. It really works if you ask me & it gives Dolorian a truly unique atmosphere. As does the repeated use of tribal drumming; a tool that I’ve historically found myself to have a very strong affiliation with as it tends to provoke a ritualistic & more primal feel.
The album kicks off with a beautifully dark three minute introductory piece called “Grey Rain” which I was delighted to find sounds exactly like Italian gothic darkwave exponents MonumentuM. I’m a HHUUGGEE fan of MonumentuM’s 1995 album “In Absentia Christi” & have never heard anything like it since so the hints at their sound that are scattered across “Dolorian” have nothing short of delighted me. “Grey Rain” is followed up by the first proper metal track “Blue Unknown” & it immediately tweaked my interest as it reminds me very much of “Wildhoney” era Tiamat. This is interesting because I’d find myself returning to that reference a number of times throughout the record but I’ve never seen Dolorian being linked with Tiamat before. Perhaps this link is why I have such a strong tendency to want to label the album as a gothic metal release but, to be fair though, the beautifully sombre clean guitar lines that dominate these pieces could have been pulled straight from an old record from The Cure or Joy Division & there simply aren’t enough tracks that offer that true doom metal atmosphere. The vibe we get here is surely dark & the tempos are inevitably slow but the everything feels much more gothic than it does doomy so I can’t even see myself being convinced to go with a both ways bet on the gothic doom metal tag here. Also, I’ve seen quite a lot of references to dark ambient being made online. Of the album’s nine tracks, three of them are short & particularly well executed ambient pieces but don’t expect them to fall into the dark ambient category. There’s nothing that sneaks outside of the more conventional ambient space here for mine but all of these tracks work beautifully within the context of the music around them. In fact, the two minutes of bliss that makes up “Ambiguous Ambivalence” may be the highlight of the entire record for me personally.
I find that my many years of DJing have left me with a bit of a knack for picking up the perfect setting to experience a record. With this one I knew straight up that I needed to listen to it through headphones while lying in isolation in a dark room &, as it turns out, it was only then that I managed to truly understand its ethereal majesty which enabled me to be completely swept up in it. The consistency of the tracklisting is nothing short of exceptional. There’s not a single track that doesn’t impress me in one way or another with the last four tracks representing a particularly spectacular run of high-quality art. You’ll notice that I chose the word art there & I did that intentionally because this is one of those records that feels like you’re experiencing genuine art rather than the regurgitating of some similar influences because, despite sporting some familiar elements, the sum of “Dolorian” simply doesn’t sound like anyone else & this makes this record a particularly worthy selection for a feature release. Dolorian” comes highly recommended from this ol’ metalhead as you won’t hear too many records like it. Just be prepared to give it your full & undivided attention & a good few listens to allow its charms to open up.
For fans of MonumentuM, Katatonia & “Wildhoney”-era Tiamat.
Wow... I didn't expect this to be so amazing! This album was quite a leap for doom metal 20 years before this review. Originally known as an ambient blackened death-doom kind of band, Dolorian kept up their unique doom inventory by reducing the blackness they apparently once had and adding a more gothic sound with ambient and industrial elements. Those new elements are more prominent in the shorter interludes with the lonely atmosphere of an empty wasteland. Their earlier material had screaming vocals for lyrics, but their self-titled album has almost none of those. They sound much closer to haunting whispers in this perfect blend. The keyboards have more background presence to fill the empty room of this music. There are both quiet and heavy guitars, the former to draw out your courage and the latter to drag you into a helpless Hell. Those bright tones and dark tones in the guitars really unite for sorrow to embrace the depression.
I guess not everything is new for longtime fans hearing the band's usual somber emotion. However, the frustration is out and the depression is in to dig down to the deepest gray. Or you can think of it in this scenario; you're lost in this grey world of colorless darkness, and you end up in desolated factory ruins with no else around except strange shadows that can be seen but not sensed in any of the other human senses. So basically you're along in this world of cold misery with no escape unless to the afterlife, if you know what I mean. To stay alive in the album's beauty and sorrow, you have no choice but to accept the misery. Be strong! Hold back those tears... And maybe your misery would turn to joy and you would find more meaning in this bleak life. All torment can be silenced and you would be able to smile in this dwelling depression.
"Grey Rain" is the opening intro that has low keyboard ambience along with slight industrial metal, especially when the guitars echo simplistic notes. Before it advances to the first actual song, you get to hear a couple, and I mean a COUPLE, undecipherable whispered lyrics. You can't figure out what they say, but those thoughts just echo into your mind. Without pausing a beat, "Blue Unknown" floats away from the soft ambience into a heavier sound. The guitars burst in then go slow and steady, heavy yet melodic. The industrial noises are gone, but there are the strategic screams that are rare here. Of course there are also those haunting whispers that add emotional despair to the sound. The mostly unclear lyrics are about the merciless lonely journey you are in, as you're dragged down into the unknown void. The most chaotic song here, they might just have the last bit of their earlier blackened bleakness. You try to escape the void but you keep being dragged down into the horror. You end getting curled into a ball with too much pressure in the head, inducing tormenting pain as you're taken down further. "Hidden/Rising" continues the journey in slower heavier gloom as the music floats around aimlessly. The guitars range from minimalistic brightness to darkness. The keyboards are still in the background but the whispers are now in the slightly clearer foreground. However, the guitars some more distant in those parts. The music pushes on with more courage and hope. You hear about the pain in the journey so far, but discover faint hope within the depression for you to overcome the longing desire and be the stronger man. You are at a higher state of mind to beat those challenges now...
"Cold/Colourless" has an even greater balance of heavy and dreamy. The dark and bright guitars come together like a high school dance, but instead of dancing happily, they dance in the dark with no lights and no else around. Industrial keyboards follow the guitars that float around. The music is straight and slow with a bit of chaos. The vocals are whispered again to the point where they sound half-spoken, all lonely in this empty space to fit in with the less clear lyrics, which see you floating alone with no one to keep you company. The song is mainly melancholic with slight joy. You're back in the deep sea of sorrow with lack of strength from the sadness. You may be alone, but nothing will harm you. "Nails" floats nicely back into the ambient interlude section, and I mean pure ambience with no guitars or drums in sight. Like other interludes, it's short, and the keyboard effects are a nice break from the metallic doom of other tracks. Crackling noises can be heard like rats running in the factory ruins. The vocals are the same as the intro and even also has a short amount of lyrics where you're still stuck in this cold lonely world but apparently, someone is forcing other people to stay out so you can be alone. Even though you agree that other people are a pain, you feel cold without them. Life is not easy... "Numb Lava" starts with a heavier intro than before. In fact, this track is much heavier compared to the others in the album. Bright and dark guitars collide to give the riffing harsher weight. They set the cold oil of previous tracks ablaze, creating scorching fire spreading for eternity, with a few attempts to rain out the fire for the lonely emptiness to shine. No joy is present, only painful anguish found in their debut. The lyrics take you back to the beginning void but drag you deeper into a hellish labyrinth where finding the exit is difficult unless you can handle the tolling pain.
"Ambiguous Ambivalence" might have clues for the exit. The track has only industrial-sounding ambience that once again takes a break from the usual metallic doom for echoes of rain and machinery. The pain in the emotion is washed away, but filling its place is the hard emptiness that is stronger than before with no other emotions around. The journey is almost ending, but can you live to tell the tale? "Seclusion" has much fewer guitar sections than the other heavy tracks with more minimalistic drums as the atmosphere goes down to the deep end. The harsh guitars can barely be found, but when you can find them kicking in their last heavy strength. Despite the dreaminess, the keyboards are rare as well, but they howl like a machine in haunting emptiness. The journey drifts farther from the fading harsh guitars into a brighter part that is depressing but has a sign of joy. The tale told here is about how separation can be normal (especially now during the virus), yet it's for the best. You prefer to think more emotionlessly, and you do that by separating from your inner self. You have conquered the hard depression of your mind and became a higher supreme form. "Faces" ends the last minute of the album with slight whispers and bright tingling in a calm ambient soundscape, all quiet and empty, having floated away from the horrid agony you've been through.
So now the torment is over. You have travelled through the torture, and as a reward, you've realized what an incredible journey this was, something that I realized as well. You're now back in your chair sitting down, having just listened to that fadeout, and you can sigh in relief. This album might drag you through depression and pain, but in the end, you have an ambient gothic doom masterpiece in your hands. There's nothing to be scared of, as long as you return with a smile!
Favorites: "Blue Unknown", "Hidden/Rising", "Cold/Colourless", "Numb Lava", "Seclusion" (basically all the non-interlude tracks)