Review Summary: Worship on your knees, or die standing up.
Think of the single most depressing moment in your life. It may have been a death in the family, a messy break-up, losing your job, or your life just fell into an unexplainable slump. Worship knows what this feeling is like, and they have crafted a musical masterpiece which portrays exactly the raw anguish which terrorises those who know what it is to be depressed. Not only does this album mean something to everyone who has or will listen to it, it serves the same purpose to the band. Max Varnier, or Fukked Up Mad Max, was the other half of Worship, along with The Doommonger (Daniel Pharos). The two man collaboration ended when Varnier committed suicide in 2000. Worship’s album Dooom, released in 2007 and the first LP following Varnier’s death, is as much as a sorrowful and meaningful album to Worship themselves, as it is to you or me. This is evident in the fact that Dooom is a mixture of new material and old material, written by both Varnier and Pharos. Recordings (vocals and drums) done by Varnier were also dug up, and have been included throughout the album. Pharos has written the majority of the stuff on here, but a lot of it has been built upon music and lyrics written by Varnier. The fact that Dooom contains Varnier’s voice, his lyrics, and his music, makes it a representation of the legacy that Varnier had left behind, and a monument to both his life and his death. Varnier is still as much a member of Worship as he ever was, and Pharos does not forget this. The usual band photo is in here, but it has a photo with 3 people. Pharos, is in the middle, and Satachrist (Martin Tapparo) is to his right. On his left however, is a hooded figure with no face, just a dark void where a man should have been. This figure is labelled as Fukked Up Mad Max, to let us know that Worship does not forget, and neither will you.
Aside from the sentimental value that Dooom holds, it is the
doom metal album of this decade, perhaps of all time. It was already apparent on Last CD Before Doomsday that Worship were on a completely different track with their music than other doom metal bands, and they have progressed that sound to perfection, to a state where it completely fits, where it becomes the material that will be remembered. To those who have listened to Last CD Before Doomsday, Dooom is no doubt the same band and same sound, but it is so much better, in every single way.
What do I mean when I say that this album completely ‘fits’? It’s something I’ll have to explain with the ideals and themes, well, idea and theme, that drives Dooom. Amon Amarth represent Vikings, honour, battle, and glory. Primordial represent pride, national identity, and the loss of one’s place in the world. Worship, however, have a completely different ideal behind their music: suicide. Despite the fact the album is a memorial to one and all people who have been lost to themselves, the music itself is the encapsulation, or more crudely, the soundtrack, to the end of your life. This is what every doom metal band aims for; to create music in such a way that it perfectly represents the painful and sorrowful themes that are behind the music. Some have partly succeeded, many have failed. Worship is the first to have really put me on my knees.
The first thing to note is that this is funeral doom. It is slow, slow, and slooow
. Dooom is even slower than a lot of other funeral doom. There are no accelerated tempos, no climaxes, no upbeat sections, nothing of the sort. What you do have is a 72 minute piece of music that is dreary, dark, heavy, and literally never-ending. You will be lost inside this album; it will suck you in, and not let you out. The first album was very-much guitar based, as opposed to something like Shape of Despair. Dooom is the same, but is much more diverse in the fact that it employs the lead guitars a lot more than Last CD Before Doomsday did. By this, I mean that over the crushing and weighted riffs, there is a lead guitar giving the melody direction, and shaping the song itself. This is the biggest reason why Dooom comes off as more melodic than Last CD Before Doomsday. This is not to say, however, that Last CD Before Doomsday did not use this technique; rather, Dooom just makes much better use of it. The rhythm guitars are slow, and are the backbone behind the lead guitar and vocals. Though most of it was written by Pharos, the recordings on Dooom of the rhythm guitar are done by Tapparo, the newer member of Worship. The drums are done by both Pharos and Varnier, and are absolutely minimal. The music is so slow that the drums are absolutely unnoticeable. Don’t come under the impression that they can’t be heard, they are very obviously there, but they are in no way as important to the music as the guitars and vocals are. They have been mixed at a perfect volume too, loud enough to be heard and take account of, but not loud enough to detract from the atmosphere that Dooom envelops you in.
Whenever I listen to the album, I’m constantly going through the booklet, looking at the pictures and just gazing unseeingly at the front cover. The music and the cover are very synonymous in the respect that they are both dark, and have a certain ‘weight’ to them. In regards to the music, this is entirely a result of the choking atmosphere that is thrown over you from the moment you press play. On my first few listens, I was so astounded at how dark and oppressive the album was. On a lot of doom, there is always that little feeling of hope, as if a tiny light was shining through all the grime, sludge, and despair. Dooom is so solid that it does not allow any sort of hope shine through; instead, it emits anguish in such a way that the music leaves a piece of its darkness inside you, festering, aching to get out. Varnier’s life was all about making this type of music, and Dooom succeeds in recognising this. Varnier’s death was intrinsically linked to his depression and to his music, and Dooom does justice in giving us a little peek into the mind of Varnier, and countless other people who were lost like him.
Funeral doom is a naturally progressive style of music, i.e. it has never been one for any sort of standard song structure, or any song structure at all. Dooom is of course no exception, but the song-writing and musicianship on it are superb, miles ahead of any of Worship’s counterparts. A lot of guitar heavy doom bands do not spice up their music with any sort of changes in mood, which ultimately results in their downfall. Dooom is an exception to this. There are many softer moments in the music, just as dark, but softer, which give a great balance between the intense, crushing atmosphere, and the more melancholic hopelessness that the album perfectly incorporates. Not only this, but there were many variations within the heavy music as well. The first track, Endzeit Elegy, has some amazing moments where the guitars will stop, then start up again in a matter of seconds. This variation is epitomized when Pharos utters a long growl, and the music comes to a halt, leaving Pharos and his voice all alone. It literally sent shivers down my spine. I also liked the fact that the piano was used a number of times. The more significant fact about this is the ending to the album, the last minute of I Am the End – Crucifixion Part II. As the guitars fade, a piano peers out of the gloom, and gives us a melancholic finish to what is an amazing album. What’s the significance? This piano epilogue was played by both Varnier and Pharos, during their very last session together. A ‘fitting’ end to Dooom.
The fact that Worship is so little known is atrocious. They have gotten a lot more coverage with the release of Dooom, but prior to its release Worship was literally an underground band with a small, devoted following. This is the reason that I am unable to find much information about the album itself, regarding the meaning and purpose of the lyrics. It is obvious there is a story behind Dooom, not only because something so brilliant couldn’t just be random, but also because it is stated on the album booklet: ‘Story by The Doommonger after an idea by WORSHIP’. I wish I could tell you what this story is, but the fact that I don’t know it stops me. It would also probably make this already bloated review far longer, which wouldn’t be a good thing. I can, however, tell you that there definitely IS a story (well, I’ve already told you), and the album artwork does shed some light on it. Those of you who have actually bought this album, you’ve done the right thing. The album artwork, and the actual album case, is a work of art in itself. The album cover unfolds four times revealing 8 different pictures, numbered, and obviously telling some sort of story. I won’t go into it much, and let those of you who buy the album see for yourself, but I will say that it’s nothing short of brilliant. It was a huge factor in my decision to label this album as a ‘masterpiece’.
The vocals on Dooom are done by, yeah you guessed it, both Varnier and Pharos. Pharos does the majority of the vocals, but you can still differentiate between the vocalists. Varnier is most often in the background supporting the other vocals. Obviously, the recordings from 2000 and the recordings done by Pharos and Tapparo in 2007 are not of the same mix, and will sound different. The production takes this into account, and seamlessly blends the old recordings in with the new. The fact that Varnier did a lot of the drumming on Dooom is completely unnoticeable, because the mixing is that well done. I’ll point out that the production is entirely credited to Pharos. Anyway, getting back to the vocals, both Pharos and Varnier have a very low, guttural growl, one of the best I have heard. I personally prefer Varnier’s on Last CD Before Doomsday, mainly because they are slightly more deeper, more raw, and more emotive. Do not think that Pharos’ voice isn’t any of these things, it most definitely is, but Varnier just had that little more which set his voice apart. There are some great spoken-word sections on this album as well, more memorably one that is a recording of Varnier, which you’ll find at the beginning of the last track. To be honest, I sort of wish there was something as frighteningly good as the vocals on a track from Last CD Before Doomsday, Solicide and the Dawning of the Moonkult. There are a couple of minutes in the song where Varnier growls over very soft, clean guitar, so soft in fact that his vocals are basically all that fills your head. There wasn’t something as mind-blowing as this on Dooom, which is really the only thing that bothered me about the album. Even still, this tiny problem does not have any real effect on my rating.
Each and every song on here is superbly done. There weren’t any stand-out tracks, because each of them is wonderful, and make for an incredibly cohesive album. This is something I look for in an album (cohesiveness), and it is something the majority of albums from any genre do not possess. All the songs blend marvellously, especially the cover of a Solitude Aeturnus track from their debut, Into the Depths of Sorrow. The track is Mirror of Sorrow, and is my favourite track on that Solitude Aeturnus album. It is a relatively slow song, but Worship has taken it and made it their own in such a way that it perfectly blends in with the album. As is the case with the other songs, the album has a faultless transition into and out of the cover. I was a bit curious as to what Worship would do with the guitar solo from the original, as it would seem very out of place on the Worship album, but I can safely say they did a great job of it. It isn’t completely removed, but there is a hint of it in the wailing lead guitar that I’ve already talked about. Simply brilliant.
I do feel as if I could talk for a lot longer about this album, as there is so much to say, but I’m going to stop myself. The only thing left for you to do now is to go and get your hands on this album, by any means necessary. It is a must-have for any fan of heavy metal, especially for anyone with an interest in Doom metal. There have been only one or two other albums that I’ve heard which can match Dooom on the strength of the album as a whole. No more talk, go and buy it.
: “One can't talk about Worship without paying some focus on "***ed Up Mad" Max Varnier. Max was both the vocalist, lyricist and drummer of Worship, who tragically leapt to his death in 2000. A pretty tragic ending to a man whose life obviously was quite tortured. Can you tell us a bit about Max as a person, his contributions to Worship and the circumstances related to his death? How did you feel when you first heard the news?”
: “Max was a nice guy and a tight bundle of anger, craziness, rebellion and energy. He was a very overdriven personality, honest, fun to hang out with, hard to control. He was clearly the engine and power behind our small band. He was always kicking me, because I was too slow and lazy. I still am. I am vision-driven, restless, and lazy, so I always have something to complain about, I am never really content or at ease. I can't say much about his death, I wasn't there. Of course it hit me when I heard it, and it made Worship unbearable for a long time. But as time went on, and people encouraged me to continue Worship, I realized that I want to go on, and I can! I have been sole songwriter, and played most instruments, I feel I have a right to continue Worship if I like to.”