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Upon first listen I felt I had severely underestimated the timespan it had been since my last endeavours in listening to While Heaven Wept, when the first two tracks appear to be fast and verging on power metal! For a band I previously regarded as one of the most epic of all of doom this came as a shock, but after the quick one-two of "Hour of Reprisal" and "Destroyer of Solace" normal service appears to be resumed when "Obsessions Now Effigies" crawls into more conventional WHW speed, not to reappear for the duration of this strangely configured, confused and oddly short album.
Even now that I'm aware WHW are not the epic doomsters of old and today claim as much an 'epic metal' tag as anything else, there is still an odd quality to what is only their fourth album in a 20-year existence. Verging from a Candlemass-meets-Rhapsody-Of-Fire style in the earlier tracks, to the fluff of the middling "Obsessions…" and "Unplenitude", is it "To Grieve Forever" and "Saturn And Sacrifice" which represent the obvious doom but they both finish before giving all that they can, leaving only 11-minute closer "Finality" to play it's full set before disappearing into the night.
On vocals Rain Irving does not hold back, showcasing the kind of energy in his delivery that could make even the dullest of doom come alive in an explosion of colour. His operatic tendencies link in nicely with many of the climaxes of the music (especially in "Finality") but in those moments does it appear that the very essence of WHW's epically sculptured music sounds cheesy and forced. Just listen to "Unplenitude" and argue it does not sound impatient; an odd fact for a band who've recorded so rarely in the past.
It seems like the desire to spread their wings has flown While Heaven Wept into territories they were not ready for. If they wanted grandiose epic (ala Ereb Altor) the pace would need to be slowed, or for the truly epic the song structures would require lengthening and better quality control (ala Solitude Aeturnus). As it is, we're left with an album that among it's brighter moments of passion and charisma falls flat when trying to achieve it's main ambitions, a touch disappointing for a band with better work behind them.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
There is one problem, and one problem alone with While Heaven Wept's Fear of Infinity; the album was released after the epic Vast Oceans Lachrymose. Unfortunately, Infinity does not live up to very high expectations, but at the same time is a solid offering from these epic doom metalers; and this fact pains me very much.
The album starts off with two fast tracks in Hour of Reprisal and Destroyer of Solace. These tracks build off the faster pace the band introduced on Lachrymose and adds a pleasant new dimension into a genre where slow and mid-tempo tracks are the norm. But the album loses steam with the track Unplenitude. The track is a reworking of song recorded earlier in the bands history (and trust me, it sounds MUCH better than the original) but the acoustic track, which don't get me wrong is beautiful, sucks the life right out of the album. I do not have a problem with the song, so much as its placement on the album.
The album picks up again, after the doomy, appropriately named, To Grieve Forever, with Saturn and Sacrifice. The track mixes the slower elements of WHW with the faster material offered earlier in the album. The closer, a 10 minute epic, Finality, seems to be a long song for the sake of being long and does not offer much to catch the listeners attention.
Perhaps I will come around to this album and perhaps I am being too harsh. But I cannot help but feel the band did not fully expand upon the groundwork laid out in the previous album. Those who are familiar with WHW catalog can hear the growth between the releases of Of Empires Forlorn and Lachrymose, but one will find it hard to hear any growth in Fear of Infinity.
Since their beginnings and up until now, While Heaven Wept have successfully shown themselves as the epitome of musical evolution itself: hundreds of lineups, a broad repertoire, and whatever the hell you ever want to imagine. WHW has truly achieved success. I remember a comment by Tom Philips himself saying that Fear of Infinity was going to be THE album. Well, it is THE album.
Spinning in the vein of VOL, this album places you in a huge catapult and shoots you at incredible speeds into the unknown. You never know what to expect while listening to all this. It's so immense and varies a lot. Of course, WHW's trademark is present all the time: acoustic interludes, brutal climaxes, baroque-like music lines here and there and an epic (Finality). It's practically like saying that WHW took the crème de la crème of themselves, made a puzzle with it, and assembled a 37:11 masterpiece.
The only one thing I dislike is... well, only 37 minutes? But in the end, I see music albums like books. You can have a huge book that won't fill you at all, but also you can have a rather small book that will totally lift you from your seat and fill your head, heart, and soul with knowledge and whatever. The same thing happens with this "less than 40 pages book for your ears".
I listened to it in the dark with earphones and trust me, it's a unique experience, just like any other WHW album. I praise the fingers that pulled those strings, pressed those keys, hit those drums, sung those words, and the mastermind(s) behind everything.
Highlights: Destroyer of Solace, Obsessions Now Effigies, Finality.