Review Summary: An immersive and elaborate doom album.
Blending elements of funeral doom with a large dose of death/doom, DOOM:VS is the brainchild of Draconian’s Johan Ericson. As a one man project, Ericson shapes and directs every element of DOOM:VS, and his first album Aeternum Vale
, released in 2006, is all the better for it. Seamlessly blending cold and sinister atmosphere with a strong and moving melody, Aeternum Vale
is a very listenable and well crafted doom album.
When listening to Aeternum Vale
, one can’t help but draw comparisons to Mourning Beloveth; both bands have a similar balance to their music, as well as a good grasp over melody. DOOM:VS is perhaps slower, sometimes bordering on funeral doom, and much more reliant on atmosphere, but the typical death/doom sounds and structures are here. ‘Aeternus’ starts off the album, and doesn’t waste any time in showing off exactly what Ericson has to offer. The track is an excellent showcase of what is to come later on; solid riffs, deep growls, excellent singing and a mournful lead melody, it has it all. Ericson’s voice is truly great; his gutturals are consistently good, albeit without much variation, but it is his clean singing which really takes the cake. Coupled with the melodious leads, his voice really leaves an impression. Moreover, there is a coldness to his voice which really contributes to the album’s overall sound. Moments where Ericson uses both his growls and singing are sublime. Take for example instances in ‘Empire of the Fallen’; strong gutturals add an element of aggression to the melody, while the solemn singing tints the song with despair.
As much as the melody is vital to ‘Aeternum Vale’, atmosphere also plays a pivotal role; more so than Ericson’s doom/death counterparts. There isn’t really any synth to speak of, but the production definitely leaves a particular glaze over the album which can only be heard when the music dies down. Nonetheless, these softer moments play a significant role in maintaining the album’s flow. Much like Mourning Beloveth, the faster and slower parts intertwine fantastically, albeit one big difference; Aeternum Vale
is far slower than anything Mourning Beloveth have ever done. It wouldn’t be completely correct to label DOOM:VS as funeral doom, nor would it be wise to expect them to sound like a typical death/doom band. Ericson’s project lies somewhere in the middle, and to be honest, it really helps distinguish it as a unique and remarkable album. The climaxes don’t really break any speed records, with Ericson keeping everything at a solid pace. The heavier moments, take for example the excellent riffing midway through and towards the end of ‘The Crawling Insects’, maintains a mid-paced tempo, without losing any ground in regards to the music. Strangely though, this album not only goes slower than most death/doom, but it has several moments which are as fast or even faster than your typical death/doom. The faster riffing and short lead break towards the end of ‘The Light That Would Fade’ are both punctuated by slower moments, yet Ericson makes it feel completely natural. Ultimately, it is this ‘naturalness’ that emanates from Aeternum Vale
which really makes it a success of a doom album.
Easily rising above the mold of most death/doom, DOOM:VS really pushes the boundaries on what it takes to make a good doom album. It retains a sense of despair and isolation, a sense of doom if you will, throughout its length, but turns the ends of its melodies up into what is perhaps a false sense of hope. Basically, it achieves the poise and naturalness that every doom album tries to have, and leaves you with what is an exceptional piece of work.