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To Cast a Shadow is a gothic doom metal band from Norway and this is their second studio CD. The songs are generally driven by very heavy, dense and crunchy riffing with extended clean guitar melodies weaving in and out of the arrangements. The riffing is traditional doom style, combining deep bass and rhythm guitars into a crushingly heavy, slow-to-mid paced atmospheric wall-of-sound with subtle but frequent changes in texture. The clean guitar melodies have a classic, somewhat power metal feel to them, and their variety and length provide an almost progressive touch to many of the songs. Although ‘In Memory Of’ is largely melancholic, there are occasional faster passages featuring a festive gothic groove reminiscent of Draconian. There are practically no keys at all.
Their female vocalist, Gunnhild Huser, is a superb and versatile singer. She usually sings with strong, smooth rather deliberate alto or soprano style that fits perfectly with the underlying doomy riffing, with frequent excursions, especially her choruses, to a bright, clear anthemic style that is often just thrilling to hear; it’s a rather unique blend of brooding melancholy and guarded hopefulness, the same emotions that are often expressed in the lyrics. There are several styles of male vocals but all are sparse and serve mainly to add atmosphere to a song: there are tortured growls and harsh shrieks to add menace, and clean and spoken vocals to add warmth.
There is something very special about ‘In Memory Of’ that is actually quite difficult to pin-point. It is absolutely hypnotic when given a dedicated, focused listen, yet can be quite nondescript as background music. Part of the magic is the subtly changing texture of the arrangements combined with their sheer power and majesty, and part of it is Gunnhild’s enchanting vocal delivery with her mesmerizing flow back and forth from deliberate alto and soprano to melancholy poppiness. Perhaps it’s the skillful and seamless integration of all these things together, but in any case ‘In Memory Of’ is one of the most emotive and engaging CDs I’ve heard in a very long time.
Originally reviewed at http://www.metalcdratings.com/