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A new name on the atmo-doom ballot - 88%

Gutterscream, March 11th, 2006

“…utopia…we had it in our minds…”

This often blown-over whatever-tet rightfully deserved to be the perennial fourth wheel on the English tricycle of doom. So they’re Dutch, big deal. Where’s it say bands have to sprout like cabbage from the same country in order to encapsulate a style? Well it doesn’t, but I know, I know, it makes things all nice n’ tidy and easier to dream up pithy little aphorisms so the masses can more effortlessly place artists and styles into small-minded perspective, but I digress.

With Forever Scarlet Passion, we see a string-heavy Celestial Season expounding on the bombastic murk of My Dying Bride. Whereas the UK five-piece more or less roped their atmospheric mantras off to certain songs and only those songs, CS wisely disintegrate tracks’ borders and stretch the instrument across just about the entire album. For that, we get a less boxy, song-by-song feel and more of a prolonged, harmonious saga of crushing woe that would be more washed out and incomplete if not for Edith Mathot’s ever-present bow work and Sylvester Piyel’s (the spinner of the 7”’s violin web) occasional keyboard trappings. Without taking kudos away from the five main bodies of the group whose talent of bending rhythms into the shape of teardrops is obvious, I’m willing to admit my glassy-eyed fascination for one weepy neck-held gadget and say it’s the belly of this type of recording. Should it leave, this nine-songer would be akin to a less death-minded My Dying Bride or Anathema’s more bare bones, but emotive material.

Slowly churned riffage literally outweighs the explosive stuff tracks like “Together In Solitude” and “For Eternity” blaze with at times even with the jogging pace of bi-polar “Mother of all Passions” thrown on top like a grave cover. Guitarists Robert Ruiter and Jeroen Haverkamp intertwine massive crunch and (sometimes) tandem, squalid solos well enough, while bassist Lucas Van Slegtenhorst and swinger Jason Kohnen are adequate enough to keep the backbone breathing. Stefan Ruiter highlights the typical death growlspeak, superbly crusty and raunchy, yet when he’s not gargling carpet tacks he borrows some of Anathema’s Darren White’s injured whine to decorate some of the mostly panicky, up-beat “In Sweet Bitterness”, moody “Afterglow”, and slices of “Mother of all Passions”.

Enveloping stuff like opener “Cherish My Pain”, reoccurring “The Merciful” (this version without female vox: a disappointment but happily and strangely isn’t at all misaligned without it), somber violin/keyboard betwixt “Ophelia”, and unpredictably quasi-uplifting closer “For Eternity” are slow brewed to a smooth creamy gray temper that makes the project less metallically grim and sloth-like, the deformed family of thick power cords that lie deep in doom’s pit muffled by a plush detonation of exquisitely opposing strings.

Differing from My Dying Bride as well, or should I say improving on, CS aren’t content with a single weepy violin blade slicing the veil, and with the magick of multiple recording tracks, intrude and overlap a few verses for homegrown duets (a more smoke ‘n mirrors revelation that would bear fruit on ‘95’s Solar Lovers) that make all of “Ophelia” and areas in “For Eternity” spring alive enough so that one could be in the midst of a runaway boxing match and those notes could seep through to somehow calm the blind fury.

Only worth mentioning as a future foretelling, with a not-so-close ear one can hear little trippy adventures that shimmer and boogie nearly out of plain sight, but nonetheless cross the path of one or two of these beautiful bruisers, one being “Cherish My Fate” and its hippie-tinged wallow wavering in and out of a main rhythm or two. Having heard the flashback Sonic Orb ep would better make my case.

All this and printed lyrics as well, well written with second rate Warrior/Ain passion that’s still yards ahead of most bands out there.

By ’93, Paradise Lost’s avant-garde dungeon finery, Gothic, is thrown down the cellar steps for the more forward motion Shades of God, so that leaves us with the two other bands mentioned in this review and The Gathering’s Almost a Dance. Celestial Season hoof it out in scorching doom step along with the sweaty rest, closing in on the slightly elder originators that instead of losing ground, are heard rumbling into their prime. Either way, Celestial Season had proven themselves equals.

“…let me roam with the insects…”