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Photophobia - The Seven States of Mourning - 90%

Midwinter Fires, November 28th, 2012

Depressive black metallers Photophobia are back at it once again with their second full length release The Seven States of Mourning. This time around however they've made some changes to their line-up welcoming keyboardist Deimos. The Seven States of Mourning continues to build on the solid platform Photophobia has set forth with their debut album Humana Fragilitas in 2010. The new album was released in October 2012 by Immortal Frost Productions.

The Seven States of Mourning is a step up in the production department from the 2010 release Humana Fragilitas. Humana Fragilitas had a constant buzz that lingered in the background. I’m happy to report that Photophobia have eliminated that problem and The Seven States of Mourning does not suffer the same fate. The production is by no means polished and still maintains the dirty raw tones of Humana Fragilitas but there is a slightly deeper bottom end to the mix. I find everything comes through a little clearer and the addition of the keyboards helps add depth and improves the atmosphere.

One of the things that has always impressed me about Photophobia has been the vocals of Letaliis. They have a unique feel to them. They are the high scream normally associated with depressive metal but as I've said in the past they are not the annoying kind that turns people away. Actually they are quite welcoming and this is one of the features that gives Photophobia’s music a distinct sound which is easily recognizable. I also find the drumming of U.Morbid to have improved on this effort – much more interesting this time around. They drive the music steadily and highlight the other aspects of the music. Of course one of the biggest changes has been the addition of Deimos on the keyboards. Simple and subtle atmosphere comes up big on this release. As I previously mentioned it’s added so much more interest and depth to the overall sound. I like that the keys don’t try to do too much and work in compliment with the wonderful guitar melodies (also performed by U.Morbid). Just to quickly touch on the guitars, they are a little crisper and cleaner on this new album. The softer sections are softer which adds to the melancholic feel.

Musically The Seven States of Mourning can be described as a melodic, atmospheric album. From the first song to the very last, it’s a very easy album to listen too. The melodies are pleasing to the ear and dare I say catchy while the keyboards and steady rhythms of the drumming create a somewhat dreamy effect. The song structures and overall sound is reminiscent of Humana Fragilitas but I think they have improved enough in every department to make this new album fresh and interesting. It’s funny because with so many bands attempting this style of music I get numb to all of it. The imagery, the lyrics – all of it I find takes away from the music. Most of it is forgettable but Photophobia is a band that doesn't over do it and I can honestly say that I can listen to them on a regular basis. This gives me hope that this area of black metal isn't all a waste of time.

Highlights of the album include In Oblivionem Ire, Gazin’ Up at the Moon, and Drowing in the Memory of a Cold Embrace. I’ll just quickly go through these. The steady, melancholic rhythms and melodies of In Oblivionem Ire slowly progress to a really great ending. Gazin’ Up at the Moon as it reaches its climax just after the 4 minute mark showcases a little opportunity to get that head banging and a really cool arrangement, the best on the album in my opinion, takes the song home. Last but not least the soft, emotionally charged keyboard intro of Drowing in the Memory of a Cold Embrace really sets the mood for the rest of the song. I just want to acknowledge quickly the Burzum cover En Ring Til Å Herske. Photophobia does an excellent version of this great song though I must still give the edge to Varg in this instance. It is a great tribute nonetheless and a worthy cover.

Overall impressions of The Seven States of Mourning are good. Very good. Photophobia once again prove that they are the real deal as they continue to put lesser depressive black metal bands behind them. Actually, that leads me into my next thought. I think The Seven States of Mourning is an album that should appeal to all fans of atmospheric metal out there and not just limited to the usual depressive metal crowd. I highly recommend this album.

- Review by Midwinter Fires (www.midwinterfires.com)