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Ahhh, Novembers Doom's full length debut, Amid Its Hallowed Mirth... this album is often overlooked for their later, more 70's rock influenced death/doom albums; or their more recent material which uses a more straight-forward death metal foundation, with the doom elements being utilized much less often. Here, we see Novembers Doom at their most primitive... and in the end; we have quite the beast of an album.
This is very much a straight-up, death/doom affair here. The songs stay down tempo and rarely go beyond that. You've got sort of slow, slow, and real slow. While the music here isn't flashy or technical, the song structures are well thought out, and very effective at generating a lush, dark & somber atmosphere.
The guitar tone here packs a lot of punch, and the riffs are heavy as all fuck. They pummel its listener with slow, monstrous blows until every bone in their body is crushed. On a couple of occasions, they will break into acoustic passages (most notably the acoustic interlude track, "Dance of the Leaves"), in which they do a fantastic job of creating a beautiful, haunting atmosphere. This sets it up for the heavy parts to hit even harder and feel much more aggressive.
The bass does its job well, mostly by following the guitars. It occasionally breaks off and tries to stand out a little by doing its own thing every now and then. However, this is barely noticeable, because as one reviewer already pointed out, the bass does seem to have this annoying tendency of "cutting out" after each note is strummed (which is a shame because if this wasn't an issue, the bass could add even more force to the crushing guitar riffs). This is only a minor issue overall though, as the guitar tone carries itself well already as it is, and the bass is still able to at least do its job as far as complimenting the guitar goes.
The drumming is top notch. While not doing anything over top, it still does a great job at maintaining a powerful, precise rhythm throughout the entire album.
Paul Kuhr delivers a strong, gut wrenching vocal performance. He utilizes a guttural roar on most of the album, as well as either spoken, or deeper clean vocals in a few spots here and there. He hasn't yet reached the full potential of his vocal prowess at this point (his harsh vocals would improve over time, and especially his cleans), yet his performance is still brutal as hell, and he does a pretty good job of pronouncing the lyrics so they can be somewhat easily understood.
Also of worthy note is the voice of Cathy Jo Hejna. She sings in soprano, and does a great job contributing to the haunting atmosphere that this album is already drenched in. She only appears sporadically, so it is never overly abused... And for those who are curious, this isn't your typical "beauty and the beast" vocal styling (see Tristania, Leaves Eyes, etc.). The vocal arrangements are done very tastefully, so if the aforementioned isn't your cup of tea, you need not worry (trust me, I'm not into the whole "beauty and the beast" style either...).
The lyrics are very poetic, and primarily deal with the subjects of romanticism, mourning, and desolation. Once again though, they are written tastefully, and coupled with the music being dark and heavy, and Kuhr's impassioned/powerful vocals, they truly avoid falling into the stereotype that usually goes hand in hand with these sorts of subjects.
All things said, Novembers Doom's debut can definitely go toe to toe with the Peaceville Three's early material. While at this point in time they were certainly influenced by their works, this album stands in a corner of its own. On their future releases, they expand their sound more, further fortifying their own place within the genre.
I highly recommend this for any fans of death/doom, as well as anyone who doesn't really know much about the genre and wants to see what it has to offer. I also recommend finding the re-release of this album, as it has the 2 very good tracks, "Nothing Earthly Save the Thrill" & "Seasons of Frost", as well as the Scabs demo.
*Standout Tracks: Aurora's Garden, Amour of the Harp, Chorus of Jasmine, Dance of the Leaves, Sadness Rains, Dirge of Sorrow, Nothing Earthly Save the Thrill, Seasons of Frost
If someone were to ask me to describe Novembers Doom I’d say it’s all about creating a suffocating wall of sound through some of the heaviest riffs and the most anguished vocals you’ve ever heard without drowning you in the typical clichés of despair and sadness common in the genre. I think that pretty much sums it up. The debut album ‘Amid Its Hallowed Mirth’ masterfully exemplifies these traits.
This re-issue of ‘Amid’ under The End Records is quite the treat for those wishing to revisit or experience for the first time Novembers Doom’s now out of print early masterpieces. The original album is here in its entirety along with two bonus tracks and the four track demo ‘Scabs’ tacked on to the end for a total of 15 songs and nearly an hour and a half of poetic suffering for your enjoyment.
Unless you have been living in a cave for the past decade or so, you will know Novembers Doom as the Chicago based death/doom outfit influenced by the likes of Candlemass, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, etc. While the influences are apparent, Novembers Doom has worked them into something new so as not to appear the hopeless imitators. Each song is dominated by the crushing blow of monstrously distorted guitars. Superb drumming from Joe Hernandez follows close behind only to match the pace. That pace never rises above a crawl. Things here are slow and as long winded as can be.
Paul Kuhr’s vocals, I am convinced, have to be some of the best and most overlooked I have ever heard in the genre. They are at once guttural and full of raw pain and yet easily understood. I rarely found myself leafing through the booklet to find the lyrics. Those lyrics are the standard lost love and abysmal emotions, but not found here are the cringe inducing clichés which so often accompany those themes. The feelings of loss and anguish convey themselves with haunting imagery, powerful vocal delivery, and the good fortune of being generally well written. Female vocals are also utilized sparingly on this album. By sparingly I mean they only appear on a few of the tracks. ‘Armour of the Harp’ contains superb instances of Kukr and Ms. Hejna engaging in some wonderful vocal harmonies. Cathy Jo Hejna’s vocals have been distorted and mixed on this album in such an eerie way that chills literally traveled down my spine. Perhaps she was intended to speak as the disembodied voice of a lost lover because she sounds like a spirit calling out to you from beyond the grave. Whatever the intent, the result blew me away.
The bonus tracks and the 1990 demo ‘Scabs’ will certainly delight die hard fans and those desperate to get a hold of otherwise hard to find material. The demo is presented as it was recorded on tape and sounds uncompromisingly raw but as well conceived as the rest of the album. Not much to say other than the demo has more of a death influence about its song construction by way of certain percussion segments, more varied riffing, and a slightly faster tempo overall.
I can’t think of anything bad to say about this re-issue. That’s either evidence of my inability to criticize music, my hopeless devotion to Novembers Doom, or the superb and flawless quality of this album. I'm hoping it's the third. If you don’t want to pay the big bucks on e-bay for the original release, this re-issue and its bonus material will surely give you what you’re looking for.
Novembers Doom, what can be said about a band that was until recently incredibly artsy, poetic and beautiful. With their first release, much can be said. In this album we see the band that was and the band that could/should have been.
This record starts out at a snails pace and rarely goes past the speed of crawl. This band (that formed from the ashes of Thrash/Death band Laceration) with their first proper release show us that Americans can not only play Doomdeath Metal, but given the chance, compete with the Peaceville Three.
The guitars are incredibly thick, hitting the listener with a wall of sound with enough power to knock down a cement wall. The drums are tight and well executed. The bass is the only thing lacking as it follows the guitar too closely and seems to cut out after each note has been strummed. The music over all is minimalist, but crafty and deep. Also, the album has the tendency to drag on a bit in places.
The vocals (on the original release anyway) are superbly raw and intense. In this we bear witness to Paul Kuhrs’ amazing (and disgracefully overlooked!!) vocal prowess. Few can honestly touch this guy when it comes to sheer power. His lyrics follow the standard Doomdeath style of romanticism and loss, however are never clichéd or tedious.
This album (by the way of the original) also showcases the bands original logo, with is more organic look/flow. Over all this version of the bands debut is well worth hunting down (the re-release adds too much where it’s not needed.)
Also, this album sounds NOTHING like My Dying Bride, as some would have you believe. This band has never sounded like any of the Peaceville Three (or anybody else for that matter) and are truly an original band; the closest thing one can say regarding who they might sound like would be Anathema ‘Serenades’ era, but only in the speed of the songs.