Review Summary: Should your doom metal be adventurous, let this album grow inside you and prepare to be amazed.
The more people drive themselves into hard copy or digital sites in order to find new and exciting music from underground outfits, the more prevalent it becomes that there is an ever increasing cluster of excellent bands lying in total obscurity and patiently accumulating strength to reach their critical mass, day after day, concert after concert, album after album. One such act is Universe217 a female-fronted doom metal outfit from Athens, Greece. The band made a credible fuss within the Hellenic metal circuit with its eponymous 2007 debut album, as the latter presented a highly intriguing flavour of doom metal complemented with a fresh instrumental perspective and the intimate female vocals of front woman Tanya.
Concerts that took place within Greece further disseminated the band’s potential upon the land, a potential that felt rather restrained within the “laboratory” environment of a recording studio. Their second album Familiar Places
, issued in 2011, saw Universe217 being further liberated from the universal ethics of doom metal, whereas some fans and press outside Greece began to take hold of what was the real deal with this band, gracing it with raving reviews and comments. Vague whispers and sparse updates in local press message boards had it that the band had commenced work for a third album, an album that would reach the face of the earth within a shorter time interval than the 4-year period that intervened between the previous two. That wait is over and in all honesty, the new Universe217 album, titled Never
, was worth waiting for.
The album starts with Tanya’s voice emerging from nothingness and gradually rocketing itself towards the stratosphere in the album’s majestic doom metal opener “Mouth”. Two things become instantly clear; the sound production has finally met her vocal abilities in full, whereas optimal depth has been finally granted to the rest of instrumentation. The second is that Tanya’s voice is devouring planets, hands down. When her pitch goes over the top, her sound is a non-trivial combination of several performing styles, with Geoff Tate’s otherworldly vocals in Rage For Order
, Johan Lanquist’s monumental work in Epicus Doomicus Metallicus
and Melanie Bock’s aggressive performance in Megace’s underground tech thrash gem Inner War
being some representative references. On certain occasions (“She”, “Never”), her tone comes down to earth and becomes mesmerizing and somber, only to gradually build tension for her future outbursts. Overall, her ever fluctuating dissonant performance carries a substantial load of angst, on par with the desolate and abstract nature of the lyrics.
Tanya’s vocals are allowed to settle in an equally intriguing instrumental substrate. Nominally, the music files under the doom metal moniker, yet Universe217 draw a handful of aces out of their sleeves in order to differentiate themselves from the norm. The placement of the songs in the album is one of them. The more “monolithic”, epic/majestic doom metal anthems are placed at the start (“Mouth”) and at the end of the album (“Electrified”, “Never”) and they are evidence of a band acting like a tight hand grip disallowing each finger from entering the spot light premises. In “Mouth” for example, the piano notes are seamlessly played, as they are homogeneously infused into the rock instrumentation. The same applies for the lead guitars, even though they are liberal in terms of adopted melodies. The latter extend from traditional doom metal to post-rock (“Never” among others – first Red Sparrows album comes to mind).
In the remainder of the songs, the band is shown to be way more volatile in terms of content, form and spectrum of transmitted vibes, with doom metal being seamlessly blended with oriental influenced/up-tempo heavy, post- and psychedelic rock. Some of these songs (“Stay”, “Harm”) will initially seem as half-finished interludes. With the exception of “She”, in which Universe217 succeeded in making an awesome 10-minute psychedelic doom metal song sound like a 3-minute affair, this is a conduct on their behalf, initiated with some error in Familiar Places
and near-perfectly implemented in Never
. Instead of fully adhering to the inherent doom metal song writing ethics with the overly long temporal length per song and the stale repetition of similar music themes, Universe217 keep their narrative process short and concise like a screenplay for a short film, where the plot has to unfold in a fast pace, maintaining the reader’s interest intact. Oddly enough, their patent works great and gives high replay value to their material, a situation not so often met in doom metal.
When all is said and done; Never
is undoubtedly a serious step forward for the band. The intimate, yet flawed song writing conduct adopted in the second album is further refined, while the band has shed a different light upon its numerous drives. If anything, this album deserves to be heard by as many people as possible, as Universe217 is an act on the rise.