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Epochal. - 98%

Empyreal, November 9th, 2009

Doom is such an enigmatic genre, with its fans being unusually close-knit and not receptive to change – even moreso than in other genres like Black Metal, which is the usual scapegoat for comments of that kind. So it is quite a cause for controversy when a band like While Heaven Wept and their fantastic sophomore effort Of Empires Forlorn changes things up and provides a different take on the standard sound. How so? Well, let’s take a look and bask in this album’s otherworldly glory.

It is just stunning how good this is, and how much it reinforces everything good about Heavy Metal as a whole. With a heavy base of sorrowful synths and piercing vocals, While Heaven Wept shatters the standard template for Doom and crafts something marvelously new out of it. Of Empires Forlorn is a passionate and emotional affair, made by veterans of the scene for people who share their love for the music. Every riff, every note and every synth build-up is crafted with a magnificent flourish of metallic pride. The songs flow like white water rapids, not at all afraid to stop the searing, massive guitars for a few minutes and just let Tom Phillips’ smooth, delicate voice carry the music until the guitars come back, never afraid to turn up the synths to add an extra dimension to the atmosphere at hand.

And while I’m on that topic, yes, this band utilizes keyboards more than others do. I know some people seem to find these too sweet sounding, but really, they’re just different – this band isn’t trying to be a part of some kind of higher order of Doom, they’re just playing unique, individualistic music that is completely captivating. Truly you won’t find many bands as honest and sincere as While Heaven Wept here. The synths and the guitars sort of run together to create a swirling miasma of humongous breadth and wistful honesty.

My only regret with this is that the album only contains seven tracks and only lasts forty-odd minutes. Just listen to the opening drops of melody in “The Drowning Years,” as they explode into an almost Pagan sort of stomp, with folksy vocal lines and a subtly heavy musical motif to back it up. The title track and the enormous “In Aeturnum” remind you that the band has not forgotten the riffing as they proceed to grind your soul into the endless sands that permeate their grand atmosphere. The poignant “Voice in the Wind” and the closing echoes of “Sorrow of the Angels” will break your heart, and album standout “Soulsadness” will scatter its ashes across the entire world with its enormous hooks and beautiful leads. Even the Candlemass cover is good, feeling more like an interlude between songs with the hymnal treatment the band gave it than an out-of-place cover song.

There is something unnaturally gorgeous and rewarding about this, made only paradoxical by the fact that this music is amongst the most natural and honest I’ve ever heard. Listen to While Heaven Wept and let their music capture your soul.