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Angels of Distress - 92%

immortalshadow666, October 9th, 2009

The first proper funeral doom album I’ve ever heard in full is this, the second album of Finland’s Shape of Despair, and what a despairing album it is. Here is why it is not perfect, but still damn good.

The album is a bit artsy and soft for me, which is why it didn’t get a perfect score, because I do prefer balls to the wall heaviness done correctly – the reason Comatose Vigil got 100% from me. But this is not a review of that album, it’s of this one.

The synthesisers are the first thing that is heard, so I’ll mention them first. They take up the first minute of the opener “Fallen” by themselves, and sadly herein lies one of the records biggest problems virtually straight away – over presence of the synths. After a minute when the guitars and vocals start, it all becomes different, and flows together so brilliantly – everything starts to complement each other. Most of the time this flow is uninterrupted but there’s just a bit too much synth at times.

Drumming is quite standard funeral doom – crushingly slow and very heavy. But, as always, I admire the drummer for keeping up a slow pace with flawless rhythm and fills, when a lesser man would have continuously made mistakes. The bass is audible, resulting in the production being very heavy which is perfect.

I find with most of my musical experiences that the vocals tend to make or break a recording, they always seem to be the worst point of the album or the best – in the case of Angels of Distress, the latter. They are simply brilliant. Pasi’s death vocals are very heavy, but still with that distraught edge required of a doom album. He features just at all the right times, and sometimes is so minimalist in the lyrics that the vocals could almost be “just another instrument” at times. Nathalie, the female vocalist, doesn’t actually sing a word – only choral backing, which is a unique way to tackle the album as it leaves the keyboards free to do other things. The Engrish is fairly bad on this CD, but it can be forgiven as mostly Pasi gets the message across.

Tracks could be a bit longer, this is a funeral doom album after all. Five tracks and not even an hour, and only two of said tracks over ten minutes. This isn’t a problem though for the most part, in fact the best tracks are a couple of the shorter ones;

“Nights Dew” is what made me want to buy this album – the saddest and most beautiful track I’ve heard in a long time, but funnily enough, the fastest song (which isn’t saying much). It’s an instrumental, which is fine – two riffs after the synthesiser opening, and boy, they are soul crushers. An amazing album closer, and this is the song you’d send to friends to get them to listen to the album.

“Fallen” suits as the perfect opener, only four lines of lyrics and a couple of riffs but they’re all that’s necessary here – it doesn’t drag on too much and serves as a good build up for the title track, where things really kick up (or down) a notch.

In summary, while some of the songs on “Angels of Distress” take a bit long to get into, and the solo synth parts can become a burden, it’s really hard to fault this album otherwise.