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Oceans of Tears in Heaven Drowning the Doom - 95%

bayern, June 14th, 2017

Doom metal is a tough proposition; unlike thrash, death and progressive metal which have a wide palette of riffs and rhythms to play around with, doom has to remain slow and officiant in order to satisfy its fanbase. Which brings this question immediately: how slow a band can be in order to be considered doom? And, does the band cheat when it incorporates riff-patterns above the mid-tempo? Fortunately, God (or someone else, I don’t know…) took care of this inconvenience by creating the funeral doom branch where such polemics simply don’t exist as there the more pressing question would be: how slow can a band play before every listener in the vicinity falls asleep…

Even the kings of the genre Candlemass started shifting gears early in the late-80’s by speeding up more than just occasionally (just remember “Ancient Dreams”) thus freeing the other practitioners from following unwritten laws that were dubiously stipulated in the first place. And when they inaugurated a whole wave with “Chapter VI” in 1992 the doom metal outfits could freely borrow from power and progressive metal resulting in several notable blenders (Memento Mori, Veni Domine, Memory Garden, Fifth Reason, etc.) some of them still alive and kicking in the new millennium.

And now after this gigantic digression we come to the band under scrutiny here. Peaking quite early on the colossal “Of Empires Forlorn” the guys, who are now a wholesome 7-man orchestra with a girl also featured, literally removed Solitude Aeturnus from the top spot of the US doom metal arena, and established themselves as premier providers of earthshaking, ship-sinking riffs from the other side of The Atlantic. “Vast Oceans Lachrymose” consolidated their premier position although it did give the epic doom metal formula a more versatile (read progressive, above all) palette to borrow from, after which producing another slow motion “apocalypse” for the future generations seemed like a somewhat redundant option. The album reviewed here was an important moment from the guys’ (and a girl) career since this was the time to prove how flexible they could be if they didn’t want to carry on with the safe tried-and-tested formula. In a manner similar to Candlemass again with “Chapter VI” they shift from the established pattern thus opening “infinite” possibilities before them. For a proven doom metal outfit in 90% of the cases this means speeding up, and here they are breaking the boundaries with “Hour of Reprisal”, a soaring power/speedster with some blast-beats incorporated even, a highly unexpected beginning with only Rai Irving’s superb emotional vocals reminding of the previous “Oceans”, the latter pulling out an absolutely ravishing performance soaring above the furious galloping riffs. One hasn’t shaken off the astonishment from this first “storm” yet when “Destroyer of Solace” hits, an epic power metal anthem ala Heavy Load and Omen with a great chorus and uplifting pathos-like rhythms which move towards more engaging progressive in the second half where one can swear he/she has detected moments from Fates Warning’s “Awaken the Guardian”...

This is by no means Doommetalland anymore, and it goes beyond said Swedish wave since those guys at least had the decency to slow down with respect to the good old… Yes, if there ever was a radar installed for doom metal-iness, it would have started beeping with all the squeaking passion it could muster. Not on “Obsessions Now Effigies”, though, a gorgeous elegiac doomster matching every single note from the preceding magnum opus, a spell-binding number recalling the immortal “The Drowning Years” except in the faster-paced, keyboard-infused twist. “Unplenitude” is a short lyrical ballad, and “To Grieve Forever” will make the fans grieve forever, but not for the loss of doom which this piece perfectly exemplifies even on the more romantic balladic sprawls and the gorgeous melodic developments towards the end. “Saturn & Sacrifice” is classic doom of the highest calibre, an enchanting opus with Irving’s mesmerizing tenor melting hearts and souls all over; expect a speedy escapade to consolidate the new path taken although in this case this is a momentary temptation. “Finality” is logically the final composition, over 11-min of the finest doom around the guys crossing the heavy riffage with more balladic respites and the obligatory at this stage more dynamic embellishments which give this saga a captivating progressive flair.

The template began to have cracks on “Vast Oceans…”, but those were sealed with doomy reverberations that saved the ship from “sinking” rather than the other way around. The wayward beginning of the album here drew new unexplored horizons, but the band wisely used them as delightful deviations rather than making them the ultimate guiding light. Again, this wasn’t full-blooded doom anymore, and like with the mentioned Swedish acts the genre had to bow to other styles if it wanted to co-exist with them. The faster tempos didn’t destroy its monolithic “physiognomy”; on the contrary, they enhanced its arcane stance and even made it more attractive for the masses. Honestly, I don’t know how the public would have taken another high-octane doom “opera”; yes, it was “fourth time’s the charm” for Candlemass, but it was the friggin’ 80’s, after all; everyone was breathing metal back then, no one was looking for potholes like repetition and staleness…

The band pulled it off with flying colours, to put it shortly. Having reached the culmination on their chosen path, it only felt natural to try and explore new territories by not forgetting where they came from, a mistake many 80’s and 90’s veterans made. “Suspended at Aphelion” continued up the road delineating the approach further from doom into a vast expansive progressive metal sound that was hard to classify with any smaller compartmental terms. A great work all the same, it also saw the angels crying oceans of tears in Heaven for not seeing their beloved doom in sight anymore… no reason for grieving whatsoever; they should rest assured that their salvation lies a mere heavy, antediluvian riff away.