Review by Daniel for 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.