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While Heaven Wept > Sorrow of the Angels > Reviews
While Heaven Wept - Sorrow of the Angels

Keep On Weeping Because it Sounds Great! - 80%

Toggamsyx, September 18th, 2023

While Heaven Wept are a bit of a funny band to me. No disrespect intended, but just read the name of the band and their releases... dramatic much? But don't go away just yet! There's a lot more to these guys than just theatrics. This is much different than the things they'd go on to record, having a much doomier and melancholic sound, though some trademarks were kept (continuous sound, clean sections, etc.), so, if you're expecting anything resembling power metal, you're in the wrong place.

The band have a number of pre-album releases that are all worth hearing for a doom metal fan. They recorded a demo in 1994, titled "Lovesongs of the Forsaken" (later re-released in 1995 with some additional tracking and mixing), which was a bit of a blueprint for the material on this album, a death/doom (!) 7" that sounds very sinister and ominous and features growled vocals (if I recall correctly because Tom was frustrated with his cleans, however I don't actually know if that's true or not) and "The Mourning", a track recorded for the split with Cold Mourning (another great band) that would not be too out of place in the single, other than the clean vocals.

As opposed to the more straightforward (but overall heavier) sound of their earlier releases, this album is more orchestral and multi-layered. There's only 3 real songs here (and an outro), 2 of them being re-recordings which sound vastly different from their original versions. "Thus With a Kiss I Die" at 17 minutes is definitely an ambitious effort, right from the start the listener is hit with raw, genuine motion, with very sorrowful guitars that will wash away any positive feeling you could have at the moment, which are then backed up by slow but heavy drumming, a bass that complements the guitars instead of hiding behind them and keys that add a whole new layer of melancholia. I have to say, listening to this album again I never realized how much the bass stands out, never quite stealing the spotlight (other than a few key moments), but easily holding its own with lots of creative lines that supplement and enhance the music. Well, every player here is very talented with quirks of their own, but I love a band who knows how to use their bass player. Despondent doom riffs are played and repeated until about the 10 minute mark, where the band showcase their talent in a long, epic, instrumental section. It is a brilliant track, and probably the most emotional, however, my favorite has to be the second song, "Into the Wells of Sorrow". It is fascinating to see how they expanded on it from the 7" version (which wasn't even half as long as this one). This version is slower, which actually makes it better, in my opinion, and has a fantastic, even slower guitar solo, complemented by dramatic keyboards that build up tension, which is then released on the listener with the rest of the track. Absolutely eargasmic.

The other song, "The Death of Love", is, unfortunately, not as good or interesting as the other two tracks. The original version was entirely clean, while this one is a lot fuller, with distorted guitars, keys and more melancholia. It doesn't really do much to stand out but it is very fitting for the album and is by no means bad or a waste. You could also argue that "September" doesn't really add much to the album, being just a continuation of the outro of the last track, but I think it does its job. I'm a big fan of acoustic playing so I don't mind it at all, but it's not really a necessary inclusion. Now, I'm not sure if this counts as a complaint, but I think this album could've actually benefited from being slower overall. Seriously, try it out on YouTube, it sounds amazing, it's so much heavier and every feeling is further enhanced.

The production is perfect, it sounds clean but it is by no means overproduced or polished. Every instrument gets to be in the spotlight from time to time. The vocals are also great, sounding dramatic (but not to the point of pretentiousness), despaired and sorrowful, perfectly fitting for the music and doom metal in general. I much prefer these vocals to whatever he did on the next album, sounding much "fluffier" (as I saw someone on RYM describe them) and soft in comparison.

Sometimes I see this album being brought up as sort of a companion to Warning's "Watching from the Distance" and they definitely have a similar sound and foundation. The execution is entirely different, though. Whereas that record pretty much falls in the pits of self-parody and pretentiousness (with some saving moments), this one manages to strike a balance between drama and substance, having actual riffs and plenty of emotion, but never losing focus. This isn't nearly as much of a vocally-driven record as Warning's, but they still play a big role in achieving the desired atmosphere (and also aren't nearly as annoying). Regardless, it wouldn't really hurt to give that album a try if you like this one, maybe you'll find something in it that I don't.

Everything the band do here, they do extremely well and more people should check this one out. A lot of doom metal fans tend to hop off the WHW train with their next album, "Of Empires Forlorn" (which also seems to be more popular), however, this album is my stop. That record has some good moments that recall their earlier sound, but overall it sounds too far removed from doom for me already, with a much softer, generally faster, more symphonic sound (and the vocals are terrible, as I've mentioned). "Doom metal lite", as I like to call it. For someone who founded the "Circle of True Doom", the actual amount of doom releases in this discography are rather limited, eh?