without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
The sunshine outside is burning brightly and summer is well upon us, thus making the miserable world of funeral doom metal seem an utterly pointless genre to all but the bleakest of metalheads at this time of year. Somnolent's debut album did thankfully come out during a winter but listening to it again now is a very difficult experience. With four unmeasurably morose songs clocking in at 59 minutes, Somnolent will already be cutting their potential audience base right down to the bare bones with a cursory listen to their Mournful Congregation and Esoteric angled take on the genre, but it is safe to say further listens will narrow down that field even further. Save for one minute at the end of 'Paradoxes Of The Universe', the beat rumbles on at what could be best described as the 'standard' pace for the genre, never doing much in it's attempts to drive you into despair. Despair is gleefully achieved however with a lead guitar tone, primarily found in 'Unrequited Love To Reverie', that is so out of tone one wonders how it wasn't picked up during the recording process. The sound of heavy rain and crashing waves accompanies the listener at numerous moments across all four songs, at times accompanying the lonesome echoey guitar nicely and at others providing more of a distraction, but then really nothing is pleasant about listening to this album. Despite the relative few attempting such a style, this would not be the album for one looking to explore the genre with one listen. Just too staid and plain for much of its time, Somnolent have walked the path lesser trodden and come out at the end of it with a record stuck firmly in 1st gear and featuring few flourishes to keep you entertained on the journey. For the brave, or suicidal only.
I’ll get it out of the way. The lead guitars on “Monochromes Philosophy” are fucking agonising, absolutely desecrate this album, and you have to be completely tone deaf to not notice the hellish racket they produce. This is extremely unfortunate, because it’s a simple matter of the band not being able to tune their instruments properly, and the frequency of which it spoils the music is saddening. The only way to keep listening is to see if it gets any better, and it barely does, travelling from “the threads of tolerable” to downright atrocious.
It’s such a frustration, because this album has so much potential, as otherwise it fuses some of the better parts of different doom sub-genres – not just normal chords found in funeral doom, but elements of classic British death/doom – a growling, raw rhythm guitar, and thunderous vocals. When the lead guitar shuts up and stops destroying all the atmosphere occasionally, you hear some very good musicianship combined with adequate, well-played drums. Rhythm riffs evoke good atmosphere somehow through the awful leads with broken chords and long notes. The clean vocals however, are another drawback on this album – mostly spoken, they don’t provide any atmosphere and just sound out of place. It makes for one of the worst album openers I’ve ever listened to.
Come the second track if you by some astonishing chance made it through the first, the lead guitars back off considerably, and this is where the album starts to really gather some momentum – good proper harmonies played noticeably slower than the opener, and the listener starts to gain hope, with the lead guitar starting to rear its ugly head again in places, but fortunately nowhere near as much as the opening track, and when it does, at the least it’s played in a break and thus doesn’t clash with the other instruments. The title track is almost as if it were on a completely different album to “Unrequited Love to Reverie.” The last two minutes could have been completely done without, however, as the guitars make another appearance and ruin the remainder of the song.
“Paradoxes of the Universe” could just about be the first song again, only a lot more intolerable and boring, and remove the potential. Exhaustingly irritating riffs ruined by the vomit inducing leads, winding down an endless path of brain haemorrhaging boredom. With strange breaks to insert mindless samples of rain here and there before it goes back to the mindless shit, there is not a single redeeming feature about this track, it could have been cut from the album easily. In a moment of “Now for something completely different”, the band breaks out into a thrashy melodic death metal part at the end. Resembling something off “Soulside Journey”, it’s one of the album highlights – not a good indicator for a funeral doom album. The instrumental album closer is okay for its length until five and a half minutes in, when the instruments clash in an unbearable way with each other for the remainder, but it’s unlikely the listener has made it this far. If you have, then you are a truly dedicated person.
Long story short, a simple unwillingness to take five extra minutes for a standard musician’s procedure has ruined what could potentially, otherwise be one of history’s finer funeral doom albums. Download the title track, otherwise avoid this one like the plague, and check back when the band releases their second album.
Be honest with yourself- when's the last time you've heard a good new funeral doom band? I'd have to hazard a guess and say Celestiial, perhaps.. but even they've been around for four or so years or so. With pretty much every new-ish funeral doom band these days sucking it seems to me that perhaps it's time to put the casket in already and let the priest finish his spiel.
Somnolent play a particularly boring sort of funeral doom- like most Skepticism clones, it's got that slow and reverb drenched sound but with none of the mysticism and general otherworldly vibe that those finns have. The compositions here aren't terrible- to their credit they avoid the whole "really slow chords over and over again" trap that bands like Comatose Vigil and the like seem to constantly fall into- but the songs still don't go anywhere, the amount of rainfall samples would make drudkh blush, and the lead guitar!!? For a band with otherwise decent production values, the way out of tune lead guitar (particularly offensive in the first song, where you've got 16 minutes of constant ear torture) is a really confusing thing. The hell where they thinking? It doesn't take much to tune a freakin' guitar, and what could otherwise be a somewhat decent lead is ruined by the whining-cat, hopelessly out of tune guitar tone.
The brief death metal bit in the third track aside, this is one long, out of tune and rather pointless slog. One thing I have to wonder is why, WHY would you make these songs so long? The whole "repeat a theme or two for a really long time" thing can work, but three of the tracks here are over 16 minutes. And for what purpose, seriously? The two figureheads of funeral doom- Skepticism and the mighty Thergothon- kept their music at least relatively concise. It's no surprise that the best track (if you can get over the wretchedly awful lead guitar) here is the shortest; "Imperceptible Noise..." giving us yet another rainfall intro, a short intro, a theme or two and then fading out in the relatively short time of 8 minutes. This album would be twice as good if the songs had been cut in half- really, you could cut all of these tracks down to 6 or so minutes without any major loss in the compositions.
To conclude, then; a very stock standard (read: boring) funeral doom release, with some way out of tune lead guitar on top just for some extra awful. Avoid.
(originally written for www.heathenharvest.com)
Light thirteen white candles and bring out your dead, the bells are tolling for a full hour of funeral laments. The entertainment of this despondent evening comes courtesy of the Ukranian five-piece SOMNOLENT, who will make sure you have a miserable and disheartening time. Be sure to try our selection of bitter wine, and you're set for a real depressing all-nighter.
Four songs clocking in at an hour gives you an idea of the long-winded snail-paced doom you are about to receive, and of course the menu is looking sufficiently bleak and colorless. The opening track "Unrequited Love To Reverie" is the archetypal Funeral Doom song, featuring droning menacing bass, a mix of cookie-monster- and clean MY DYING BRIDE-style vocals, and mournful guitars. However, the lead guitar is absolutely atrociously tuned, sounding sour enough to make even the most hardened sound-engineer cringe. Of course, with such a lousy sound, the otherwise perfectly acceptable atmosphere goes down the toilet, replacing what could have been staggeringly melancholic with headsplitting annoyance.
Thankfully, the lead guitar is featured less prominently in the subsequent tracks, which still find themselves placed quite safely within the confines of their niche. The heavily painted gloom and doom almost reaches the realm of self-parody at times (sounds of rainfall in every song, anyone?), and clean vocals performed in thick accents are hard not to crack a smile at. Smiling at a Funeral Doom album is hardly a good sign, but I guess it's unreasonable to expect a Ukranian band to get the pronunciation perfectly right. It's more troubling that the music is stale and tasteless, bringing absolutely nothing new to the palette of gray shades.
As the ideas are all washed out to a bland mush, and since the lead guitar keeps rearing its horrible head from time to time, it's safe to say that "Monochromes Philosophy" won't make any significant impact. There are some adequately somber moments, but as a whole the album is the musical equivalent of a stranded whale – it's not going anywhere. Anyone in search of brilliant Funeral Doom should look towards ESOTERIC's newest output instead, this one should rightly be filed under "sub-par".
(Online May 14, 2009)
Written for the Metal Observer