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Time for a Reevaluation - 68%

Diabolical_Vengeance, February 28th, 2005

There was a time when I counted this album as among my favourite MDB albums. It was the 2nd MDB album I?d ever bought and the Cry of Mankind was the first song by this band I?d heard. However, it?s now been 7 years since I?ve bought it and I don?t listen to this album as much as I used to. I recently gave this album a spin and found myself bored with some parts and thus prompted me to reevaluate this album. Many have already commented at length about the strengths of this disc so this review will steer more towards the negative.

I still feel that the Cry of Mankind is among the best songs this band has ever written. However its characteristic of the entire album and several tendencies that work to this song?s benefit, actually hinder this album as whole. This is minimalism in composition. By this I mean that MDB have always relied on using few riffs within the context of relatively longer songs. MDB were always able to rely on their compositional skill to keep this from getting tedious. The riffs may not have always been mind-blowing but they were enough to carry the song along. It worked well enough that one didn?t really notice it. But unfortunately, there are many riffs on this album that in isolation may not seem weak, but within the context of the songwriting became weak.

Take From Darkest Skies for example. It is an excellent song until it reaches protracted conclusion. The song ends after the last verse with almost 90 seconds of the same riff being repeated endlessly with the keyboards being equally dominant. This is the same riff that was used in the bridge of this song. This riff when it was augmented with Aaron?s passionate vocals worked quite well. However, without the vocals we realize that this riff isn?t all that interesting. Even when I was younger the ending of this song sometimes struck me as being overly long and drawn out. Now I am convinced of this. If MDB had been content to just repeat this riff once or twice it would?ve made the song stronger and more concise. However this endless repetition just seems tedious and makes me yearn for the next song to begin.

Many people cite A Sea to Suffer In as one of the strongest songs on the album. Indeed it?s the only song on this album that doesn?t suffer from the ?Alright we got 3 riffs now we have a song? syndrome that plagues this album. I still feel that this is one of the strongest songs on the album. However, towards the end the song returns to the first verse, it?s probably the only MDB song with that could have something akin to a chorus and this completely ruins the song. All the power that had built up in the first 6 minutes of this song just deflates completely when Aaron sings that first verse of again. It?s disappointing to end so meekly on what was originally a very heavy and powerful song.

Two Winters Only has always been my least favourite song on this album and now I downright loathe it. The song is centered around a clean guitar riff that isn?t all that interesting. That is quite a problem with a 9-minute song. Even with its two heavy sections this song just feels like MDB are going through the motions. The heavy parts don?t seem heavy at all. The riffs which should hit you hard emotionally fail to have any impact at all. Everyone knows the story about how Sabbath wrote Paranoid as a half-assed attempt to fill up enough space on the disc to please the producer. Well, that?s what this song feels like: Filler. This song is probably the dullest they?ve ever written.

A word now about the Vocals. Aaron?s vocals have always been very passionate and this album was notable for it was the first time he used entirely clean vocals. While there is nothing wrong with his voice either technically or emotionally, his reliance on the clean style does hinder this album from having a greater emotional impact. By Two Winters Only I find Aaron?s vocals to be getting on my nerves. There are times some growling would help the music more than his clean wailing. And Aaron was among the most powerful growlers I?d ever heard. The inclusion of The Sexuality of Bereavement as a bonus track serves to illustrate the contrast between the two styles and the emotional impact they have. Sexuality? is one of the most powerful songs this band has ever written and the growling is key to the hard emotional impact it has. While Aaron?s clean vocals are actually quite good, they don?t resonate as deeply as his growls. It makes this album softer. If I wanted easy listening I?d listen to the radio. What I like in Doom is for there to be a hard emotional impact, which is what this release lacks. It soothes more than it pulverizes.

Now I find myself more inclined to MDB?s early, deathier material than any other period. I no longer feel this is one of MDB?s best albums. I find this disc now to be a mixed bag and I feel it?s symptomatic of a band entering a decline. This decline would be most noticeable in this album?s immediate successors, the mediocre Like Gods of the Sun and the experimental 34.7888%?Complete. Despite pretenses that the band has since returned to form I think that this decline has continued unabated, a decline that began with this album.