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I loved the shit out of this record when I first heard it- a retro doom band in a doesn't suck shock!- but coming back to it recently, well, it's still an awesome album but (as you sharper readers have probably gathered) the vocalist is really terrible, far worse than I remembered. The top shelf musicianship mostly makes up for it, yet it still irritates me like a bit of gravel in the foreskin, and thus here I am, venting my frustrations to anyone unfortunate enough to be on this page.
What's really irritating is that the music deserves so much more. The doom on here is generally more of the freight train variety than anything terribly slow; more Children of the Grave than Electric Funeral, and with a sort of heaviness that suggests that Bentley when writing this was more influenced by later era musics then he'd like to think. From that massive, full force opening riff of Camilla to the epic hypno-doom closer of Karnstein Castle (the best track on here, in no small part due to the different vocalist), shit just crushes. Huge guitar tone, a tendency to put in a shit load of fills and different variations in the guitar work; (the amount of different riffs and different fills on each repetition would make this a real pain in the ass to learn on guitar) awesome noodly bass lines, well, this doesn't really sound modern, but it's certainly no shitty retro throwback either. It's fresh, it's heavy and it's marvellous; not getting boring despite the tendencies of songs to bump the ten minute mark.
Yeah, it's pretty clear that on songs like Vampire Hunter 1600 and the Exorcism of Tanith (the latter which has one of the finest riffs ever) no expense was spared at getting the tunes perfect, which begs the question, what the shit were they thinking hiring this vocalist? Or alternatively, what the hell was Swanson (who's apparently a fairly versatile vocalist, so I'm led to believe) thinking when he recorded the vocals for this? You can't really say he's 'monotone' but it doesn't seem like he uses more than an octave in his range, if that. You could definite suggest that he's "powerless", "emotionless" and "whiny" though, because he is. It sounds he belongs in, well, a really bad doom band. No excitement from the vocals. Not a single decent vocal melody. Terrible, ozzy-but-slightly-lower tone. And he sings all the fucken time! I also gotta take issue at his lyrics; good subjects but poor execution (in Camilla and a Meeting in the Woods, anyway), only Summoning can get away with shoehorning a story straight into the lyrics. It also bums me out in that while the riffs, the fairly unique bass lines and drums strike this perfect mix between uniqueness and tribute, the vocals are just poor, generic as fuck retro doom cleans.
Do I like/recommend this record? I guess the answer is yes, despite the singer's best efforts to get me hating it. From the suprisingly shredding leads, to the actually-not-bad happier tune "The Right Hand of Doom" with it's rockin' riffs, to the deep, droning intonations of Howie Bentley in the album closer, there is a lot here that is really, really good and will get your neck sore and your dick hard. One could only imagine how mindblowing this would be with a different singer...