Review Summary: A dark and brooding piece of atmospheric doom metal.
Doom metal is a very sensitive genre to dabble in, and in many cases can be done very badly. A lot of doom albums rely on a choking atmosphere that drowns you in darkness and chaos, and creating this sense of emotion can be very difficult. I’ve listened to quite a few doom albums, and very rarely have I found doom metal that is as well done as Shape of Despair’s Angels of Distress
. It is funeral doom at its best; solemn, nightmarish and extremely dark. The music has weight
; you can almost feel it.
Musically Angels of Distress
is very complex. Very much unlike raw and stripped doom, such as Last CD Before Doomsday
by Worship, Angels of Distress
is a layered and involving composition, utilising conventional metal instruments such as guitars and drums, along with keyboards, female vocals and orchestrated instruments. The entire album moves along at a slow pace, with several climatic moments, which are then laced through and through with ethereal passages that give the album it’s dreamy, almost heavenly feel. However, I use heavenly in the loosest possible sense, as it is not the best adjective to use in context with Angels of Distress
. Words like foreboding, chaotic, or sorrowful, are far more appropriate.
As mentioned before, the album contains a large variety of instruments which allow for an incredible listening experience. For example, the beginning of the third track, ‘Quiet the Paintings Are’, is a melancholic piano accompanied by the usual orchestra of violins etc. Such sections are common in the album, and make it the perfect album to put on, close your eyes, and fall into your own mind. A lot of doom metal fanatics might be put off this album due to the lack of emphasis on the guitars, but I think that the way Angels of Distress
is constructed is excellent. The guitars are simple, and merely back the keyboards and orchestrated instruments. There are occasions where they take the lead, but generally are pushed down in the mix. The drums are also very simple, and very slow. There is not much technicality in the album, besides the composition. Overall, the Finnish group create an excellent atmosphere, which does not show any signs of weakness.
The reason why the album is so layered and involving may be in part due to the fact that album has 6 members plus additional members, all of which play very different instruments.
Pasi Koskinen – Harsh Vocals
Natalie Koskinen – Clean Vocals
Jarno Salomaa – Guitars, keyboards
Tom Ullgren – Guitars
Sami Uusitalo – Bass
Samu Ruotsalainen – Drums
And on this album,
Toni Raehalme – Violin
Each member, even the session violinist, holds their weight and makes significant contribution to the album. No single member dominates, rather they all come together to create a cohesive and strong doom album. The production on the album is also very excellent, which would be required for such complex music. It all sounds very clear and clean, the distortion is not messy, and each instrument sounds very good. The vocals are also very well done, and sound brilliant in some part due to the production.
The two separate vocalists make the album, and band, very diverse, and both vocalists are excellent at what they do. I think they are related, due to the same last name, but Pasi does the harsh vocals and Natalie does the clean. It’s quite common in doom metal for the harsh vocals to be used more than the clean, but this is not really the case for Angels of Distress
; both vocalists get a fair share of the vocals. Pasi does deep growls which in many instances are quite layered. This creates a great effect though, and the vocals sound very evil. These are then contrasted by Natalie who simply has a beautiful voice. It oozes with melody, and is perfect for the melancholic moments on the album.
Overall, the album is very well made, and creates an excellent atmosphere for anyone who has the patience to listen to it. This is a hindrance to the album however. Being funeral doom, it takes a lot of patience and willingness to get through the entire thing. If you’re a fan, it’s not so much a problem, I relish putting the album on and losing myself in its tranquility. Still, it’s not everyone’s idea of good music, and a 6 song and hour long album is not easy listening. In conclusion, Shapes of Despair have really made an excellent album, and if you’re looking for good, atmospheric funeral doom, you need not look any further.