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sweet bleak bliss - 85%

TowardsMorthond, July 28th, 2012

Slow-motion soundscapes of drifting, floating, dreamlike music, moving in gentle transitions to vaguely shifting perspectives of mood. Long compositions constructed of repetitive droning chords and constancy of rhythmic definition, a slow, simple beat that almost never changes pattern, keeping a steady flowing current of movement illuminated by haunting melodies somewhere between a nightmare and a lullaby, an ambiguity that sources this music’s trance-like enchantment through very little variation in structure, rhythm, and mood.

“This day travels within dense mist and
woke this clearer sight as the birth of the
night were seen... though my mind wandered
like a stream beside, caressing a sigh...
fading afar...”

Graceful like a mourning ballet dancer, this music is pure atmospheric mood, suspension of all concern and action directed towards assertive and practical living, lost in a dreamy haze of sound with no other purpose than a deeply concentrated immersion within its blissful detachment. Hypnotically ambient in form, the objective is to wash over the listener a wave of solitary emotions, with every element of its sound unified in a swaying harmony of melancholic reflection, a meditation of distance and solitude, never breaking the trance for a vain desire of something more, something beyond this beautiful moment of disconnection; in the moment of this experience, it is everything.

“Take me to another world, to another consciousness... away of this time”

Elegant keyboard atmospherics blend with eternal guitar melodies in a sublime quality of vastness in seemingly infinite compositions, tempting time and dictates of the finite realm while seducing the embrace of the most beautiful of deaths. Monstrous lead voice rumbles deep in passing observations and recollections of forgotten memories, accompanied by a choir of ghostly angels soothing the sorrow of fading light that signals the end of experience in a world incapable of sustaining its illusionary promise of an ideal state of beauty and truth, a painful realization from which this music sleepily drifts away.

Mixed Emotion - 91%

ImTheMosaic, June 23rd, 2008

I came to this album not being a fan of funeral doom, though I do enjoy the “prototypical” brooding doom bands such as early Katatonia and Anathema, and My Dying Bride. I only recently discovered Shape of Despair, and this album seemed noteworthy, so I gave it a listen.

Good gods! “…In The Mist” is an appropriate opener track, and it propels the listener into the rhythm and aesthetic that is maintained throughout the album. Indeed, funeral doom pushes for hypnosis and repetition, and this album begins in that vein. Occasional, ethereal synths background the drifting, hypnotic riffs. The tempo never changes – a very slow rhythm with a minimal use of drums at all, which is fitting for the overall aesthetic. The vocalist’s expression of torture is immense…he reminds me of a bear growling in perpetual torment. Though I find it hard to stomach the low, guttural vocals of this genre, the vocalist’s style is somehow convincing. He knows when to leave the songs instrumental, also, so the vocals never get tiring.

“Woundheir,” perhaps my favorite track, continues the musical theme. Indeed, the song structures vary only slightly, and the entire album does sound like one drawn out symphony. In this song, as well as the first track, there is a sense of progression that reels you in… your ears are damn curious to see where the melody will lead. Rather than leading to breakdowns or crescendos, there is a gradual layering of keyboard tracks onto the melody, adding an angelic and beautiful counterpart to the vocalist’s daimonic torment. Female vocals, panned and slightly echoed, suddenly appear, and they complement the songs perfectly. The songs drift away as the female vocals continue to reverberate, and it seems as though the tracks have no need to end, but will simply drift indefinitely…

The rest of the songs continue this theme. I first listened to this while sitting at a bus stop idly watching vehicles pass by, and suddenly, by the middle of the album, I tuned everything out and was completely absorbed in this album. The melodies floated through my head throughout the day. Simply heartwrenching, sorrowful, and beautiful. A rare gem among the countless bands attempting to express gloom.

Shades indeed - 90%

grimdoom, May 7th, 2008

Breaking the mold is never easy, but Shape of Despair did that with their debut album 'Shades of...'. For many (if not most) Funeral Doom bands, the idea of playing slow consists of the guitarist(s) striking one chord, waiting a few seconds/minutes then striking another one. With the drums following suite in that the bass, snare or hi-hats are struck in relation to the guitars plodding pace. Shape of Despair, on this album at least, have both guitar and drums moving at a constant pace. This release is nothing short of groundbreaking.

The production is alright, considering the members involved, it could have been much better (this doesn't detract from the music however). The guitars are melodic and open chorded throughout the entire release. There are distorted and clean guitars in every song. They play very dark and despair ridden passages.

One thing in Funeral Doom is that there typically aren't bass players; this isn't the case with Shape of Despair. The bass surprisingly does its own thing for the most of the album. The drums are very simplistic utilizing the bass, snare and hi-hats for at least 90% of each song with the odd fill here and there. This actually works with the music well.

The keyboards are prominent in the beginning, mid or end of any given song. They enrich the already bleak atmosphere the guitars provide.

The vocals are the only drawback to what would have otherwise been a near flawless CD. They would be better suited to Black Metal or perhaps another fast type of Metal. They sound forced and augmented by an effects processor.

This album is recommended to all who want something different in the field of Funeral Doom as its anything but standard. This album is very organic and is constantly in motion. This is worth your money!

Breathtaking - 100%

UntilYouReform, February 17th, 2008

Safe to say, this is my favorite release out of the entire funeral doom genre. Such power and emotion conveyed throughout the duration of the disc is unmatched in the metal world.

Slow, plodding riffs with REAL instruments (along with keyboard arrangements) dominate this album. Songs such as opener "...In the Mist" have waltzy feels with 6/8 rhythms, though I don't believe anyone will be waltzing to this.

The male vocals on the album are very powerful, a more voiced version of fellow countrymen Skepticism with a slight nasal quality, shared with very gentle, soaring female vocals. The lyrics written for "Shades Of..." are profoundly sad, telling of a traveler who is banished from his town and is doomed to walk the Earth for eternity, unable to die. Speak of "[his] frozen feet" add on much to the rich, despondent atmosphere displayed through the cold folky-orchestral arrangements and wall-of-noise guitars and slow, plodding drums in the backgrounds.

Rhythm does not vary from song to song, which might turn many away, but I view this 5-song masterpiece as one piece of music divided into 5 movements, like, say, a Dream Theater CD (though I would never even think of comparing the two).

This is a very good introductory album for someone who wishes to get into funeral doom metal. The many melodies that occur simultaneously, though slow, are very catchy and clutch you in their icy grip, not letting go until the cd is over, and you still want to hear more.

Favorites (though each song is amazing):
...In the Mist

Night Descending - 75%

Cheeses_Priced, December 24th, 2006

Perhaps it is only because I am an elitist curmudgeon, but for my money the best Shape of Despair album is the first one, for sure.

This album's sort of notorious in its insistence on using three-count beats... it's all 6/8 time and triplets and sounds a tad waltzy. What's up with that? I guess it just sounds trippier or floatier, or maybe more mysterious. I think it complements the sound fine, as the album occupies a trippier, floatier, more mysterious space than most other death doom.

Although the production's a little distant and faded, particularly compared to the jacked-up production on Angels of Distress, we still get a decent wall-of-sound effect. The music mostly sticks to a steady, upbeat tempo (awfully fast for music labeled "funeral doom") and sets about generating atmosphere with slowly weaving guitar, bass and keyboards -- there are basically no real "riffs" in the usual sense, and so much the better. The death vocals are above-average and the female vocals, though restricted to "ooooh aaaah" sorts of sounds, are inoffensive, though a bit overused at points. The quality could be a little more consistent -- the melodies get a little goofy on some of their off tracks -- but it's generally pretty good, the opener and closer being the stand-outs.

It's interesting to wonder what might have happened had the band chosen to progress towards a denser, more layered and subtle sound, but they went for bombast and simplicity instead.

Simply Amazing - 95%

AngryChains05, December 7th, 2004

Words can't describe the feeling you can get from listening to this album. The atmosphere it creates, the sound it amplifies, you just can't describe it. I don't want to describe the album song by song, because it is more one long song than it is 5 individual songs. The slow-as-can-be distorted guitar just gives off a great sound. The keyboards add so much to the atmosphere as well. Being funeral doom, the band is basically all about atmosphere. Pasi's vocals are great as well. The slow, agonizing, depressing growl of his is quite amazing stuff. Very talented man this guy is(note - Amorphis, Ajattara, etc) and I personally think this is his shining moment. This is definately my favorite doom band seeing as how it is the first I heard, and has just continued to remain my favorite. Not many bands can totally change my mood by the end of the first track like this band can. It's really hard to describe the presence of the music, that atmosphere it creates, to someone who hasn't heard much. To anyone wanting to listen to doom for the first time. Go outside on a gloomy, cold night. Either take a walk, or sit out on a porch or something, and listen to Shape of Despair's Shades Of... or even Angels of Distress, on your portable cd player, or something with headphones. Just relax, close your eyes and listen to the music. Listen to the atmosphere it creates, the aura of amazing sound. This is truly a beautiful, wondrous piece of music that i recommend to anyone who wants a feeling of despair and ecstasy all at the same time.