Review Summary: Colosseum must have pissed off their muse, because instead of new songs they've simply recycled their first album... lucky for them their debut was good.
I love the doom genre but it will definitely never become known as a genre full of innovators and progressive thinkers. It seems that most doom bands are incapable of progressing beyond the sound of their debut album (unless they forsake the genre completely). How many times have you thrown on a band’s second or third album only to have it sound almost exactly like their debut with only minor refinements, at best? With the release of Colosseum’s second album they can now be added to the large list of doom bands that have turned out to be one trick ponies, having done very little to their sound or songwriting approach from one album to the next.
It only takes a few minutes into the opening track, “Numquam” to experience a very strong sense of deja vu. The main riff is basically the exact same simple, slow-chug riff that was prominent on almost every song from the debut. Also, the vocals are still the exact same guttural, unintelligible death-growl. The only minor enhancement over the debut album is that the keyboards seem to be a little higher in the mix and their melodies seem to be a little more refined. Later songs on the album do little more than the opener to stand out from the debut. Sure, there is a little more going on dynamically with the occasional use of silence and clean guitars, but those elements are too few and far between to really be a dominating factor. Also, when it comes to song arrangements the band is still perfectly content with the “slow build up to an eventual finale” formula that has always figured prominently.
Since everything from this album is nearly identical to everything from the debut it could have spelled disaster for the band if the debut was horrible, but it wasn’t and neither is this. The sound on this album is still huge with a thick, crushing bottom-end and excellent production. Also, the band’s ability to slowly build to a crescendo through the ever-increasing use of keyboard and guitar melodies has actually become better overall, allowing for a more consistent listening experience. The guttural vocals are still as they always were; simply another instrument that is mixed perfectly so as to not drown out the main focus of the album - the music. The song writing itself has a flow that is uncommon with funeral doom, meaning that it actually does feel like it has some movement due to the layers of synth that continuously change as the songs progress. What this album lacks is any sort of huge standout song such as “Aesthetics of the Grotesque” from the debut. So, while the overall consistency has increased, the peak in quality has also lowered somewhat.
I have no qualms in saying that this album was an initial disappointment. The first few run-throughs had me more focused on the fact that it sounded like a direct extension of their debut rather than on the music itself. Once I got past the fact that the band had basically chose to plagiarize themselves I was able to enjoy the album for what it is. This is a crushing funeral doom release that is definitely near the top in terms of songwriting and production. It features an undercurrent of heavy riffs and guttural vocals that provides the bottom-end for layers of keyboard and guitar melodies. All of these elements combine to create dark, ominous songs that lethargically move towards an eventual climax before simply fading away. The biggest hurdle people are going to have towards enjoying this album (provided you like this type of music) is looking past the fact that these songs all sound like they could fit on their debut with no problem. Maybe their next album will show signs of innovation and progress, but for now this will do just fine.