Review Summary: 'whalecore' is now unfortunately a legitimate genre label.
Any initial reservations that a well versed funeral doom listener such as myself may have about Ahab’s sophomore release are bound to be both hit and miss, much like the album itself. There is a great deal of development in the band’s sound in the three years since their debut Call of the Wretched Sea
; Ahab have not lost their monolithic feel, one which is explicably compatible with their oceanic concept, but along with the improvements in detail and texture, the album has a niggling tendency to drift into tedium. This is not, as one might suspect, a result of the album’s funeral doom style – insofar as the record retains funeral doom elements, Ahab toe the boundaries of the said style and it would be somewhat of a fallacy to categorize The Divinity of Oceans
as a funeral doom album. Under the guise of progression from their debut, the band have gone to lengths to make their music more accessible, and in doing so have left the cramped confines of the funeral doom camp and settled into the niche overlap between it and death/doom.
The critical issue that arises with The Divinity of Oceans
is the fact that in creating an accessible style of extreme doom by incorporating mellow passages and clean singing, the album loses much of its appeal and ends up somewhat lifeless in respect to its aims. What the aforementioned evolution of the band’s sound essentially does is curtail their strongest point, and that is portraying the crushing might of their subject matter. It’s not untrue that the abundance of softer sections fit in with the record, but ignoring the thematic continuity and merely focusing on the composition and its ability to hold the album together, The Divinity of Oceans
is not able to completely fulfill my expectations as a doom record. Asides from several exceptions, the lulls in brutality become increasingly tiresome as the record progresses, and do nothing more than add to its insipidity. This is both added to and diminished by Droste’s vocal performance; he is comfortable enough with his voice to sing, and rightfully so – he is by no means bad. Nevertheless, when the devastating power of the album dissipates and his voice comes out of the chaotic midst, a sigh of exasperation inevitably escapes me.
What Droste does to excel Ahab is largely in his guttural contribution. Anyone can write heavy riffs, and Ahab definitely are in no short supply of unsettling guitar lines, but for the most part it is Droste’s position alongside the music, with his monstrously low growls, which characterize the band. And it is ultimately this combination which makes The Divinity of Oceans
a passable doom album – the faster, crushing passages in tracks like ‘Gnawing Bones’ and ‘O Father Sea’, made up of weighty riffs, double kick and colossal gutturals, is the best thing about the record. It is unfortunate that the band cannot completely succeed with their amalgamation of calm and chaos. The attempt at profundity can be at least appreciated, but to take it seriously would require more than a little ignorance on my behalf. Here’s hoping that for the next slab of doom they record the storm and leave the still sea to itself.