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If I could translate my saddest moments into audio, the resulting misery would be coded as Shape Of Despair’s second album, and their magnum opus, Angels Of Distress. This is the best funeral doom metal album I’ve heard so far.
I don’t even fully understand why I like it so much. I think it might have something to do with the whole being greater than the sum of its parts: Standing alone, the female vocals wouldn’t sound as atmospheric as they do, but behind the droning drums, drawn-out guitars, and flowing synths, they sound perfect. And this goes for every other aspect of the album, where they all fit together like a complete jigsaw puzzle.
What Angels Of Distress also shows other up-and-coming doom metal bands is something very important: You do not require to play at agonisingly slow speeds to make quality funeral doom. The final track “Night’s Dew”, is quite rapid, compared to doom metal standards, but the guitar and violin mixed in make it the ultimate closer of this fantastic album. Even the title track seems fast, but it also appears to be one of the more melancholic songs here, particularly at the start.
The vocals are sublime. While this guy could easily work his way into a death metal band, his delivery here is simply marvellous. He’s powerful and emotional at the same time, which is rare for growling. So is his legibility…each word is easily heard, and you can easily follow the lyrics and sing along. What makes his vocals more precious is the fact there are not a lot of them throughout the album…most of “Fallen”, except the very end, is an instrumental, and “Night’s Dew” is a complete instrumental, with large, silent breaks in the middle 3 songs. He’s a very powerful vocalist, and I would love to hear more of him in other funeral doom albums, as he just brings the music to life.
Speaking of music, what we have here are some of the saddest music pieces I’ve heard. The track “…To Live For My Death…” contains the most depressing opening riff I’ve ever heard, which thankfully is repeated at the end of the song. What brings this riff up (or crushes it, whatever you prefer), is the use of the violin. I think if Toni Raehalme was not a part of Shape Of Despair, this album would probably get an 80, tops. Her inclusion ensures that Angels Of Distress is the best, depressing album it could’ve been. My favourite violin section occurs at 14:45 on “…To Live For My Death…”, which makes the riff even sadder, and is quite literally a depressant.
As the only album to make me cry, Angels Of Distress deserves nothing less than the highest possible score. I must admit that by the end of the album, I am emotionally drained. I could commence it happy, but then my happiness would go down exponentially, particularly during the last two songs (whatever shred of happiness you have at the end of “…To Live For My Death…” is stripped away with the closer). Shape Of Despair’s other two albums do not reach the heights that this one does (the debut is too repetitive for me, but, as the reviews state, others can see the joy in it), so this could be the best the band comes up with. All fans of funeral doom must have this album, as it’s a complete masterpiece and deserves the recognition.
Best tracks: All of them.