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The hole that can't be filled. - 80%

hells_unicorn, December 19th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

Fatalism has always found a rather comfortable home in style of doom metal, and it often manifests itself in very different ways depending on the disposition of the band. But one might ask oneself what is the purest type of bleakness out there in this style, or more appropriately, what it the most stripped down version of it where it breaks ties with anything specific and simply becomes a plain, abstract impression set to music? This becomes a difficult question when one considers just how difficult it is to separate a specific picture of subject to this state of being, and it may well be that no one has really stumbled upon a satisfactory answer, but there is a fairly young outfit from Germany called Cross Vault that is definitely seeking after that very answer, and has stumbled fairly close to it on their sophomore studio outing The All-Consuming in a manner that is perhaps typical, though not in the traditional sense.

Cross Vault's brand of doom metal is fairly in keeping with present day practices and will undoubtedly draw some degree of comparison to the popular American doom act Pallbearer. However, while they have a similarly droning and atmospheric take on things, they have a rougher edge to their sound that puts them slightly closer to the dense, fuzz-steeped and moderately sludgy character of Warning, not to mention a similar affection for abstract visual depictions on their album art and an extremely sorrowful melodic tendency. While it has an extremely slow and frustrated sense of progression that keeps it pretty far removed from the traditional sound spearheaded by Saint Vitus, it isn't really quite in line with the hyper-minimalism of drone music and has a sense of musical development that crosses paths with the bleakness of death/doom, though it only occasionally opts for toneless grunted vocals and favors a raspy and sorrowful yet largely crooning baritone clean voice.

In much the same fashion as Warning's well known sophomore effort Watching From A Distance, this album opts for a small collection of longer compositions that underscore a sense of hopelessness that can be both morose yet at other times beautiful within it's perpetually melancholy state. It's a bit tighter structurally and safer than its subject of emulation, but it's not without a sense of adventurism as it cycles from a punishingly slow beginning to what can be best described as a brooding climax. This is best underscored in the opening song "Revocable Loss", which progresses from a bare bones acoustic guitar line to a series of trudging yet slightly more agitated phases before hitting an upper mid-paced stride. A more stream-lined and compact version of this without the faster zenith and with a greater amount of acoustic guitar work is found on "Simple Marksman In The Pines", whereas the more constantly driving title song "The All-Consuming" leans a bit closer to a traditional doom character in its riff set and features some masterfully dreary lead guitar harmonies.

For an album that generally tends to stylistically mirror a number of present practices in the more popular wing of doom metal, there is a sort of abstract charm to Cross Vault's take on things, and the bulk of this album's contents tends to have a sort of unique charm to it that sets it apart from the rest. They are a bit more formulaic than Warning, but also a bit more jagged and anxious than Pallbearer, all the while putting forth a sort of literary flair to their lyrics that is intelligent without coming off as uppity. It's chief appeal will probably fall within the same audience as the two aforementioned bands, but in itself it doesn't come off as a copy of either, and expresses a universal sense of sorrow that can be appreciated by anyone who likes their metal on the slower side. It's on the well rounded side and it tends to be more solid than outright astounding, but it's a worthy effort by a band that has a great deal of potential.

Later submitted to (The Metal Observer) on December 27, 2015.