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Monolithic Doom Masterpiece - 100%

Papyrus11, April 17th, 2012

This is one of the albums often considered to have launched the funeral doom genre, and upon listening it’s easy to see why this monolith still stands tall and why its influence has been so far-reaching and enduring. As soon as opener ‘Everlasting’ begins you’re introduced to a character and peculiar intensity that is not heard from many other bands. There’s the slow, lurching guitar sound that seems to reach out to infinity with each somnambulistic chord; there’s the mournful chanted vocals mixed with low, drawn out death growls that sound like someone expiring; there’s the strange keyboard sounds creating a bizarre and warped atmosphere along with a sense of dismal melody; overall there’s a strange lulling feeling of being dragged down when listening to this album, of possibly being taken somewhere desolate, terrible and alien.

Although they are considered funeral doom, it is important not to forget the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos upon Thergothon:

‘enormous buildings of slimy black stone
built by hands not similar to man.’

You can imagine no more appropriate soundtrack for the city of R’lyeh, the depths of sound matching the vastness of the structures and the creatures that dwell within. Indeed for all of the bands who are influenced by Lovecraft, and enjoy creating the soundtracks for his unique visions, Thergothon are the band who hit closest to the mark. The slow rumbling riffs bring Cthulhu to mind, stirring beneath the sea and sending up his subliminal lures to those susceptible. The desolate nature of the compositions create images of things lurking beyond where the eye can see, things overwhelming in their hugeness and grotesqueness, in landscapes untraveled by man.

This could all be incidental; these things occur to me when I listen to Stream From The Heavens but for others it may not be so. There’s a mountain of potential imagery and emotion to find in these songs. One thing is for certain though: this album cannot simply drift into the background when played. Some bands play songs that you enjoy, that you can headbang to before moving on to the next band. Not so with Thergothon: their songs take over your mindscape, becoming part of your mental architecture and altering it indefinitely. Again, key here is atmosphere; so atmospheric are the songs that the walls seem to drip with menace and melancholy, much like the towers of R’lyeh.

Potentially there are some problems with the album. Yes the production isn’t perfect, the guitar sound lacking the pure weight of funeral doom bands to come in their wake; yes the keyboard sounds could be considered dated; yes its unending slowness doesn’t make it an album for all places and times. But for me these things add to its unique character and power rather than detract from the overall quality. The sound and production are of its time and work very well to my ears, can’t complain about that too much. Personally I really like the keyboard sounds and atmospheres; they are unique and we’ll probably not hear anything quite like them on an album again (much like this album as a whole). And as for being an album that will probably only be listened to in certain places and times, and when the listener is in certain moods? Well, that’s funeral doom: one of the most extreme, melancholic, desolate and challenging metal genres there is, and if you’re at all interested in it you’ll know that it isn’t the kind of music to listen to when cruising in an open-top car near the beach or something.

So a perfect score for this album. Does any album really deserve a perfect score? It’s debateable, but in this case I can’t give any less, considering how much this album has meant to me over the years, and to the extreme metal scene as a whole. If you think of an album in terms of originality and influence, added to its quality as a piece of work in its own right then I think ‘Stream From The Heavens’ is pretty much perfect. It originated a sound (with a few other key bands), it influenced and inspired countless other bands and musically it is a masterpiece of depression, melancholy, atmosphere and just pure heaviness. In a way it is too bad that the band broke up before this album was even released, making it their only one, but in another way this is good. It stands now as a monolith, unending and undiminished, its desolate magic there for those who will listen, eternal and never to be repeated.

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