Review Summary: Irish doom metal exponents, Mourning Beloveth, express atmospheres of gloom and melancholy via a wall of dense and melodic guitar riffs.
The Sullen Sulcus, by Irish doom metal outfit, Mourning Beloveth
, is one of those rare albums that seem to sound better and better with each spin. The replayable nature of this album cannot be reduced to any single factor, but is an outgrowth of several key elements that are either done well or very well.
Firstly, this album does not stray from its description as doom metal. At no point is it anything other than doom metal. It neither slows down to earn the tag of funeral doom, nor does it accelerate towards the realms of melo-death. Despite the length of the six songs, all of which hover around the ten minute mark, there are no ambient post rock interludes, no folk acoustic moments. There are no pianos, violins or synths, so often employed by their doom partners in crime, My Dying Bride
. Mourning Beloveth
have identified the brand of doom metal they are going to play and they never stray from it. If the songs were poor, of course, this could result in a monotonous dirge of repetition. Instead, Mourning Beloveth
have established a dark tone that acts as an ideal framework for some superb song writing.
Secondly, the vocals are excellent. Darren Moore provides the growled vocals, which are the staple here, as well as the spoken lines. In these, the Irish lilt to his voice is quite marked and is part of what gives Mourning Beloveth
their distinctive sound. It is, however, guitarist Frank Brennan that provides the clean vocals. Brennan’s midrange voice has a rare melodic timbre that really offsets and contrasts Moore’s deep, resonant growls, creating moments of real beauty. This is uniquely accomplished on “It Almost Looked Human” where Brennan and Moore alternate sung and growled vocals every two or three words: “Down here you may hear a sharpened scream, forming featureless, enfettered states that have me tearing the walls of danger, down here all is dark and dazzling.” Just over seven minute long, this is the shortest song, but is the ideal track to get hold of if you are looking to get a feel for this album. It truly is dark and dazzling.
But it is the dual guitar attack of Frank Brennan and Brian Delaney that really define the tone of The Sullen Sulcus. Down-tuned (obviously) with more than adequate levels of overdriven, distorted heaviness, both guitarists meander around the fret-board with wonderfully melodic riffs, working together to produce a glorious melancholic density. This is exemplified in the centre piece “Narcissistic Funeral.” At thirteen and a half minutes, it is the longest track, but for me it ends too soon. Multiple riffs are developed and layered. It is as though a crushing and stifling sadness is searching for catharsis, ultimately finding it amidst the dark pain and rising triumphant.
Neither the drums nor the bass are dominant, but they are nevertheless an ever present backbone keeping each track rolling remorselessly forward. And this is one of the reasons that I find this album appealing. Sure, doom metal is never going to be violently headbanging in nature, but Mourning Beloveth
will keep your head nodding and your feet tapping throughout – albeit quite slowly.
The depth of The Sullen Sulcus is enhanced by the lyrics, which are not exactly simplistic. My dictionary tells me that a “sulcus” is one of the valleys that you find in the contours of the brain. Whether these lyrics are brilliant or pretentious is of course open to debate, but let me just say that the lyrics are about as convoluted and depressed as a sullen sulcus, and leave it at that.
quite effectively shake all the My Dying Bride
comparisons. In fact, here they have the clarity of production and tone that puts them closer to Finnish doom/death metal exponents Swallow the Sun
on The Morning Never Came. It should, however, be maintained that Mourning Beloveth
with The Sullen Sulcus have placed their own unique stamp on the doom metal genre. Highly recommended.