It’s hot outside. Some might say too hot, but moaning is a favourite pastime of the British. What better way to bring yourself down than a decent slice of death doom. Nick Wallwork from the English black metal band Winterfylleth hit us up with his Top 10 albums of the death doom persuasion.
As always compressed youtube versions are certainly not the best way to listen to these, it’s meant more as a preview. Go out and buy the ones you like and support the labels and bands.
Quick disclaimer – Most of this list is not available on bandcamp so we’ve had to do youtube embeds – if any labels wish for us to remove the youtube embeds please get in touch and we’ll take them straight off.
Now that we’ve got all the legalities out of the way and without further ado we bring you:
Nick Wallwork’s Top 10 Death Doom Albums.
10. Decomposed – “Hope Finally Died…”
After a few demos and one EP, UK band Decomposed released this, their one and only album in 1993. One of the earliest releases on Candlelight (candle 003 no less), I first was made aware due to a name drop on the inner sleeve of Anathema’s “Serenades”. Looking at the cover art I was prepared for maybe another emotive melodic doom experience but what I got was very different. Again – this is DEATHLY doom metal of the highest order, boasting a great, honest, early 90s sound and has as much in common with the European death metal sound of its day as it does anything in the doom metal world. A forgotten gem that deserves resurrecting!
9. Ataraxie – “Slow Transcending Agony”
France’s Ataraxie (along with Indesinence and Disembowelment) definitely belong to the more deathly end of this list. I first came across them via their support slot on the Doomination of Europe tour alongside Mourning Beloveth and Morgion when I picked up their demo “The Other Path”. With a much stronger production than said demo, “Slow Transcending Agony” is a totally crushing doom / death metal album. The opening instrumental “Step Into the Gloom” very aptly titled before the cutting pinch harmonics of “Funeral Hymn” kick in. Album highlight “L’ataraxie” shows a rare melodic edge to proceedings but for the most part this is remorseless stuff.
8. Disembowelment – “Transcendence into the Peripheral”
A true oddity of an album, this early 90s release from Australia’s Disembowelment remains one of the heaviest and extreme records in the genre. The guitar sound is tar black, the blast sections are sudden and rife and the abstract imagery and atmospheres this record invokes are unlike anything else in the genre. Closer “Cerulean Transience of All My Imagined Shores” is a real highlight and the album’s bleakest point (a song composed on Christmas day I believe – lots of cheer that year then…). A truly cult record – the fact that it emerged on the death / grind obsessed Relapse label when it did only adds to its mystique.
7. Evoken – “Antithesis of Light”
New Jersey’s godfathers of the utterly crushing, Evoken again are a band where any of their albums could easily be in this list – such is the true consistency of their discography. The debut “Shades of Night Descending” is clearly indebted to the UK sounds of the early 90s (whilst very hot in its heels) – combined with the more obscure dirges of Finland’s Thergothon. However on “Antithesis” they had truly honed their craft and this is all helped along by an absolutely crushing and raw production that only adds to the whole claustrophobic experience. From the bleak opening of “In Solitary Ruin” to the sparse atmospherics of “Accursed Premonition” this is death / doom at its most oppressive.
6. Katatonia – “Brave Murder Day”
Much like PL, Katatonia found their feet with a batch of early releases that attested to something a touch more primitive yet still enthralling. However, it is on “Brave Murder Day” where their sound becomes truly distilled into a unique entity. Again, shades of what was to come later can be found throughout, from the constant, trance-inducing tempos to the first outing of Jonas Renkse’s croon on 3rd track “Day”. They would move on to even more despondent territory on their next album “Discouraged Ones”, but BMD remains their perfect more deathly output – helped in no small part to the oppressive roar of guest vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt who appears throughout.
5. Paradise Lost – “Gothic”
If MDB are the figureheads then PL are certainly the elder statesmen. Whereas the die hards will shout in favour of their much grimmer “Lost Paradise” classic debut, it was on “Gothic” that shades of everything that was yet to come for PL begin to rear their heads. From the use of female vocals extensively on the opening title track, the goth-rock plod of “Shattered” and perennial live favourite “Eternal”, this remains the perfect Paradise Lost experience.
4. Indesinence – “Noctambulism”
And now for something much darker. Being one of the very few more recent bands in the UK death/doom collective, Indesinence are pretty much out on a limb all on their own, whilst also being one of the finest exports the country has. Definitely putting the DEATH back into the proceedings, this isn’t romantic music from the Yorkshire moors, but extremely oppressive, suffocating death from the heart of the capital. Not afraid to up the ante in terms of speed either, their long, expansive tracks can take in shades of Celtic Frost, the haze of Esoteric (witness the end of epic “Flooding (In Red)”) as well as much old school death metal homage you can shake a stick at (not surprising for a band featuring members of Grave Miasma, Cruciamentum and Binah amongst others). A sparse discography – their recent album “Vessels of Light and Decay” could just as easily be in this list, but this is their mission statement, perfectly encapsulated in opener “Dusk Towering Forth”.
3. Mourning Beloveth – “The Sullen Sulcus”
After the initial batch of releases from the UK Peaceville collective in the early 90s, the UK doom scene seemed to take a more psychedelic, groovy turn for the worse and it fell to these Irishmen to bring back the weight, heaviness and moroseness of their earlier forebears. In all honesty, any of their albums could make it into this top ten but it is on their second album where they truly began to soar. Much like “Serenades” above, the album wastes no time in hitting you in the face immediately with mammoth opener “The Words That Crawled” – making great use of the vocal interplay between vocalist Darren Moore and guitarist Frank Brennan. The album contains many of their finest tracks and as all good albums should – reaches a true climax in the closer – “Anger’s Steaming Arrows” – which mildly picks up the pace from a sluggish crawl to something even approaching uplifting through its use of melody. An absolutely essential album.
2. Anathema – “Serenades”
Of all of the “Peaceville 3” Anathema were the one band who took the largest steps in sound between each release yet still retained a core of truly emotive song writing that others could hope to reach. Whereas they were already drifting off into more ethereal realms on “The Silent Enigma” (thanks in no small part to the influence of “Into the Pandemonium”), it is their debut “Serenades” that remains as the finest example of their early death/doom sound. It wastes no time in going for the emotive jugular, and as soon as the melody alongside lyric “in fields where grass grows tall” hits – on opener “Lovelorn Rhapsody” – you know that this is something very special indeed. The morose, slow pace persists throughout, with the exception being the now classic Cure-inspired “Sleepless” which can still be heard – on a good night – in their live sets today.
1. My Dying Bride – “Turn Loose the Swans”
Arguably the true figureheads of the UK death/doom sound, My Dying Bride’s second album is where it all comes together and remains the standard in their vast discography. Although maybe not as death metal fuelled as their earlier output, on this album they eased off the gas considerably in terms of speed and death metal vocals to encompass a much wider tapestry. Martin Powell’s presence comes to the fore here and right from the opening ominous keys of “Sear Me MCMXCIII” to the closing weeping violin of “Black God”, this is still the worst, rainy hungover Sunday afternoon in Bradford you could possibly imagine.
Winterfylleth are currently working on the writing for their fourth as yet untitled album. Their third and latest studio album “The Threnody of Triumph” is available now on Candlelight records, along with their two previous releases.
Winterfylleth have the following upcoming live dates:
15th Aug 2013 – Summer Breeze Festival, Dinkelsbuhl, Germany – with Enslaved, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and many many more.
25th Aug 2013 – Candlefest, Camden Underworld, London – Headline show with Mael Morda, Wodensthrone, Cnoc An Tursa, Eastern Front and Falloch. This is part of a 3 day Candelight Records showcase at the Underworld. More info here.
30th Aug 2013 – ArcTanGent Festival – Bristol – with Dragged Into Sunlight, Bossk and many more.
13th Sept 2013 – Asylum 2, Birmingham – headline show with Saille (Belgium), and Hordes
14th Sept 2013 – Cockpit, Leeds – headline show with Saille (Belgium), Acolyte, and Ninkharsag. More info here.
Official Winterfylleth website here.