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While Heaven Wept is an epic doom metal band from the United States, who have nowadays evolved into a more progressive/power metal approach. While I don’t dislike their newer music, it’s certainly their first two albums that make for their finest material. Although some consider Sorrow of the Angels to be an EP (running 39 minutes), Of Empires Forlorn is the band’s sophomore album, and is also a short one, lasting about 42 minutes. With one of the songs being a cover, the album could have helped one or two more to round it up. Worth noting is also the cover featuring Gustave Doré’s bleak and desolate painting “Enigma”, which gives a very fitting first impression of the music to be found inside.
While this album continues the line of their previous one, there are also some elements that start to hint to the evolution to come, mainly in the vocal aspect. Most of singing sticks to classic While Heaven Wept mournful but powerful vocals, having a couple of growls in the track “Of Empires Forlorn”, but also some more power-oriented vocals in the tracks “Voice in the Wind” and “In Aeternum”. Considering this is the direction they followed after this album, it is not strange that they decided to get a new singer, because even though Tom pretty much nails the vocals in “Voice in the Wind”, he doesn’t really do very well in the higher notes in “In Aeternum”. The latter is definitely the weakest song on the album and I feel would have fit better on Vast Oceans Lachrymose and with Rain Irving’s vocals. The song is not bad at all though and towards the end features a very nice shift from slow to a more upbeat tempo, back to slow, then a nice solo.This kind of shifts is something they also did in their first album and is more traditional metal oriented, it breaks the typical doom metal album structure and gives a splash of freshness to the album.
There is also plenty of classic While Heaven Wept throughout the album. The first songs “The Drowning Years” and “Of Empires Forlorn”, as well as the crushing “Soulsadness” are all songs with heavy guitars and sucking, dark atmospheres. It is however the song “Sorrow of the Angels” that is most reminiscent of their first album (bet you didn’t see that coming…), and also one of the best on this album. The song is absolutely crushing and beautiful. The album also includes a cover of “Epistle 81” by Candlemass While Heaven Wept play it faster here and with some added keyboards, which turns up pretty nice. I also like how Tom’s singing fits in here. Being a big Candlemass fan, I am probably biased on this one.
Overall the album is a very good piece of depressive and emotional music, being the length of the album and the vocals in the song "In Aeternum" its only flaws. The album ends with a quiet string instrumental that serves perfectly as a closing song, with waves on the background that mirror those in the beginning of the first song. You come from the sea, you go back to the sea.
The Drowning Years
Of Empires Forlorn
Sorrow of the Angels
Doom is such an enigmatic genre, with its fans being unusually close-knit and not receptive to change – even moreso than in other genres like Black Metal, which is the usual scapegoat for comments of that kind. So it is quite a cause for controversy when a band like While Heaven Wept and their fantastic sophomore effort Of Empires Forlorn changes things up and provides a different take on the standard sound. How so? Well, let’s take a look and bask in this album’s otherworldly glory.
It is just stunning how good this is, and how much it reinforces everything good about Heavy Metal as a whole. With a heavy base of sorrowful synths and piercing vocals, While Heaven Wept shatters the standard template for Doom and crafts something marvelously new out of it. Of Empires Forlorn is a passionate and emotional affair, made by veterans of the scene for people who share their love for the music. Every riff, every note and every synth build-up is crafted with a magnificent flourish of metallic pride. The songs flow like white water rapids, not at all afraid to stop the searing, massive guitars for a few minutes and just let Tom Phillips’ smooth, delicate voice carry the music until the guitars come back, never afraid to turn up the synths to add an extra dimension to the atmosphere at hand.
And while I’m on that topic, yes, this band utilizes keyboards more than others do. I know some people seem to find these too sweet sounding, but really, they’re just different – this band isn’t trying to be a part of some kind of higher order of Doom, they’re just playing unique, individualistic music that is completely captivating. Truly you won’t find many bands as honest and sincere as While Heaven Wept here. The synths and the guitars sort of run together to create a swirling miasma of humongous breadth and wistful honesty.
My only regret with this is that the album only contains seven tracks and only lasts forty-odd minutes. Just listen to the opening drops of melody in “The Drowning Years,” as they explode into an almost Pagan sort of stomp, with folksy vocal lines and a subtly heavy musical motif to back it up. The title track and the enormous “In Aeturnum” remind you that the band has not forgotten the riffing as they proceed to grind your soul into the endless sands that permeate their grand atmosphere. The poignant “Voice in the Wind” and the closing echoes of “Sorrow of the Angels” will break your heart, and album standout “Soulsadness” will scatter its ashes across the entire world with its enormous hooks and beautiful leads. Even the Candlemass cover is good, feeling more like an interlude between songs with the hymnal treatment the band gave it than an out-of-place cover song.
There is something unnaturally gorgeous and rewarding about this, made only paradoxical by the fact that this music is amongst the most natural and honest I’ve ever heard. Listen to While Heaven Wept and let their music capture your soul.
As you might guess, While Heaven Wept play doom. This is very heavy and melodic metal that oozes class from every riff. Unlike a lot of so-called doom bands, WHW do not play boring, slow riffs and call it doomy. True, most of this is slow or midpaced, but "Of Empires Forlorn" offers up plenty of time shifts and different parts to the songs to keep things interesting. These are long songs with majestic, sweeping melodies and ultra-heavy riffs, all of it topped off by the clear, strong vocals of Tom Phillips. Lots of use is made of vocal harmonies to lend a choral quality to the vocal parts, and keyboards and strings add just the right epic feel to the already superb music.
I have never been that great a fan of the ultra-depressive school of gloomy lyrics, and these are, without exception, bleak and mournful lyrics. They are very well-written, but not really my thing. The vocal melodies are not the bland moping one would expect, but rather sorrowful and soaring at the same time. Album standouts "The Drowning Years" and "Soulsadness" overwhelm with grandiose playing and catchy melodies that stick after only a single listen. The cover of "Epistle No. 81" shows their hearts are in the right place, but I wish they had done more with it, as it’s a little too close to the Candlemass version, if a bit faster. I would have expected them to either slooooowww it down or try a more orchestral approach.
The digipack (arrrgh! Accursed digipack!) has a beautiful cover by Gustav Dore and excellent art design worthy of a Dark Symphonies release (even though it isn’t). The lyrics are included, as are very extensive ‘thank you’ lists and a short rant about Peaceville and their false doom-wankers. Haha! sadly, the Rage of Achilles re release does not feature the splendid closer "From Empires To Oceans" which is an entirely atmospheric synth piece, but it finishes this album with just the right touch of class.
Despite the gloomy vibe, which usually is not my thing at all, I cannot get enough of this CD nor say too many good things about it. While Heaven Wept have produced a first-rate album in a genre that is tragically underpopulated with quality bands. If you favor doom metal or melodic metal in general get your hands on this album, as it’s about as good as you can get.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
I’ve heard people numerous times calling while Heaven Wept fake doom metal. I believe people get the misconception that all doom has to be slow, drawn out, with crushing riffs and crushing vocal ballads. This simply isn’t true. While Heaven Wept play a different brand of doom – not one you’d find rampant in America, nor really in Europe. It’s safe to say when comparing band to band, WHW really stand alone, towering over the herd with torch in hand.
Earlier WHW is very similar to Of Empires Forlorn, only OEF carries a more symphonic and electronic-oriented approach. “The Drowning Years” starts off with the famous WHW intro using ocean sounds instead of rain this time, accompanied by a slow approach into the song. Tom Phillips vocally is one of the best in doom metal – his high-pitched vocals are completely beautiful and clean, while his occasional growl accompanies their slower and down-tuned riffing very well. “The Drowning Years” has an almost upbeat and occasionally optimistic sound; however when reading the lyrics you can tell it’s about a man losing the love of his life (a common theme for WHW) and, in retrospect, grieving for what he has lost.
Tom Phillips is so powerful vocally the instrumental part of WHW is almost just to accompany his vocals, and to guide them in a more melodic and sweet sounding delivery. The occasional “chugga-chugga” riffs I mentioned are used seldom, and only in company with Phillip’s growls and harsher vocals – the song “Of Empires Forlorn” being one of them. The next mentionable song is “Voice in the Wind” which I believe is a cover, but I couldn’t tell you who the original artist was. The intro to the songs starts off very ‘80s, and introduces a synth pop correlation mixed with echoing snare hits that eventually leads into the high-pitched, almost satirical vocals. There’s faint but consistent keyboard notes coming into the mix that make the song what it is: an almost complete retrospect into a ‘80s love ballad.
Every song is great in its own way and really stomps on the stereotypes doom metal may have. “Sorrow of the Angels” is an interesting addition to the album, as it was previously released on their Sorrow of the Angles full-length. This is the song where you can truly sense the vocal changes Phillip’s has adjusted to – on earlier releases, Phillip’s used a more somber, flat, and desolate approach, whereas he is now using a brighter yet equally somber vocal melody to bring the true anguish out. The lyrics make the song, as they’re all just as hopeless and unfaithful as the rest, yet the vocals are high-pitched, more annunciated and much clearer in the production. The guitars often are twangy, some-what clean, and very melodic in a lot of senses – the bass often times ia audible, but in a few numbers you can occasionally hear it.
Basically, this is album is pure doom metal with a few added in extras. There are strong symphonic touches, some ‘80s synth pop influences, and some up-tempo licks that really defy the “true’ definition of doom metal. WHW are just as doom as any other band, only they bring more to the table. Rebuttal
When this album came out I was a bit disappointed, because it was too short. I think that this was actually While Heaven Wept's first full length, although Metal Archives lists Sorrow of the Angels as a full length, I think it was an EP, a pretty long one, that's for sure, bit still an EP. So, after years of existence finally a full length and it turns out to be just around 43 minutes long and that for an epic doom metal album.
Still i wouldn't have been that disappointed with its length as I have been had all the songs had been original, but instead we get two covers: Voice in the Wind, which I don't remember whose cover it was, and Epistle No. 81 - which is Swedish folk/traditional or choral I'm not sure, but made famous to the doom metal circles by Candlemass. The first one of the covers seems like a pop song, and is a bit unlike the rest of the WHW catalog except maybe for the track that opens this album, which is also a bit subtle and has roots in some prog/pop gone epic metal. And the second is a nice tribute to one of the band's main inspirations. It shows the ability of Tom Phillips to sing this quite difficult vocal lines. But a song is faster than the original so it seems that they are in a hurry.
Two more songs that bother me are rerecording of the Sorrow of the Angels which was on Lovesongs of the Forsaken EP - so nothing new there apart from the improved production, and the ending track From Empires To Oceans which is a synth meandering ambient which is a bit dull and boring, but of course not just as much the ending of Anathema's Serenades album.
So basically this album is only good for the two marvelous tracks: Of Empires Forlorn, and Soulsadness which are absolutely what I expect of this band, long, epic, emotional, heavy and diverse songs. And the opener is pretty good, but not as good as these two tracks.
What is very original in this album are the synths that seem very warm and used in a way more connected with pop/prog rock than metal. The production is very clean and full, but I don't like that they used auto tuning machine on Tom's vocals (although I can't be quite sure on this) which made the album a bit stiff.
Overall, decent one, but I expected a lot more. If there were just two more original songs with the quality of Of Empires Forlorn, and Soulsadness it would have made such a big difference. I'm sure next WHW will be better, just how long will we have to wait for it.
Since this was and still is my first true Doom album I'm not sure where this album fits into the genre, so I'm not sure if this isn't "true" or not.I found out about this band when i saw my guitar teacher(Tom Phillips himself)wearing a While Heaven Wept shirt.He started off saying they were like Pink Floyd meets Black Sabbath, but by the end of the lesson he had finally told me it was Doom metal with Thrash elements.
The first two songs are all good, they have nice slow guitars with good drums, keys, and vocals. Tom changes the vocal style just a little on Of Empires Forlorn, he adds some cool sounding scream.
Voice in the Wind is the only song on this album i don't like at all; it's also the one Tom didn't have much to do with.
In Aeturnum is my favorite, it's the fastes one and has a good solo for most of the end of it.
The next three songs are all good, I think Epistle No.81 is a cover though.
After five years since their last full-length release While Heaven Wept are back with another album, While Heaven Wept was always up to apocalyptical looking front-covers and its no different for the cover of "Of Empires Forlorn" as it shows a battlefield littered with carcasses. Kool!
Musically While Heaven Wept are classified as doom but from my point of view that's not really doom, it's like the light version of real doom... Doom has got to be heavy, distorted and evil while While Heaven's sound is full of "friendlier" melancholy.
I know this sounds weird but when you listen to them you'll know what I mean because their sound is pretty clean and their epic hymns come along with hypnotic tunes. The first three songs are all in the same tempo but with the beginning of "In Aeternum" they add some more diversity to their sound. The song opens with some nicely rocking guitar riffs and flows into an epic piece with clean singing that offers even some Iron Maiden alike vocals.
The singer is supported by moshing as well as playfully metal riffs. For me definitely the best track on the album because of the outstanding guitar work and relatively often speed changes. If you expect typical doom you'll be disappointed by this album but if you're into hymnal clear doom I guess you can get along with "Of Empires Forlorn" just fine.
While Heaven Wept left all limitations behind theirselves and present an exceptional album of epic doom. Nice!
When I heard that this band played doom, was American and had a powerful clean singer, I naturally thought this would be pretty good stuff, maybe along the lines of Solitude Aeturnus, whom I've always had an extreme fondness for. Well, I was partially right...indeed, as the Candlemass cover "Epistle no. 81" indicates, this band does owe a considerable debt to 80s doom legends. Where this band falls very painfully flat is in their decision to douse their music in a miasma of vile sounding keyboard that just makes the whole affair sound like sickly sweet gothic cheese. I am not one of those people who claims that keyboards do not belong in metal, however I do believe they should be used sparingly, unless the band in question is really clever and knows exactly how to incorporate them into a metal framework. Yes, these songs are slow and yes, they hint at possibly being rather depressing, though some of the melodies sound more like Bon Jovi than good doom metal...but the proceedings are totally undermined by this thick squall of string patches that makes me think more of mid 90s Genesis than gloomy, angst-ridden atmospheres. Vocals are reasonably good; the man clearly has a powerful voice, and knows how to use it, but even the vocal melodies have this almost cloying quality to them that makes me feel that something went terribly wrong with this potentially very good band. I believe I even heard some death growls in one track, which was a nice touch, but My Dying Bride did this mixture years ago to much greater effect. Finally, the Candlemass cover is awful as it sounds like the band is just going through the motions: they play it faster than it ought to be and seem totally bored, which leads me to want to say to this band, "guys, I think you're in the wrong genre".