Review Summary: The ideal soundtrack to an (un)pleasant stroll through Dartmoor.
A passer-by may take a glance at Dartmoor and believe that it is a beautiful, charming land located in the south of Devon, but if one were to learn of the many myths surrounding this particular place, this belief would change almost immediately. This is because Dartmoor, among other places in the UK, has attracted stories of unfathomable horror over the last four centuries from villagers who claim to have been stranded on the moor at night, and sensed otherworldly presences there too nightmarish to even imagine. Perhaps this is the perfect place for a band as doomy and as mystifying as mesmerizing doom metal group The Wounded Kings to form, who themselves believe that “The human condition is way more chilling than anything in a horror movie”.
Such a concept isn't exactly anything fresh or new to the metal sub-genre itself, of course, but the band's recently released fourth full-length album, Consolamentum
(Named after a ritual closely linked to the Cathars), is undoubtedly original in its truest form. There are two particular things about the band's sound which makes Consolamentum
every bit as unique as every doom metal album should be. One is Sharie Neyland's beautiful, luscious yet at the same time hypnotic vocal delivery, enriched in mystical tones yet still made bleak by the surrounding music. The other is the consistently hellish, Gothic atmosphere which itself seems to emanate purely from Steve Mills' ability as the controller of the Hammond organ and keyboards. Both of these musical aspects introduce the album brilliantly, the powerful one-two punch of opener “Gnosis” and its erotic successor “Lost Bride” providing listeners with a retro vibe strongly accompanied by Gothic overtones.
Though the aforementioned songs stand out as the album's particular highlights, the rest of the album follows in a more or less consistent way. The three short interludes in “Elige Magistrum”, “Space Conqueror” and “Sacrifice” may appear to some as unnecessary and incomplete pieces of music, but what they do is build upon the momentum of the longer songs which are placed around them, so as not to make the album itself seem like a disjointed mess. Instrumentally these interludes are, if anything, either a doom-laden jam (evidently controlled by ultra-heavy guitar leads) or, like on “Space Conqueror”, an erotic, almost acoustic-led harmony which is both beautiful and creepy at the same time. The title track and “The Silence” (which shares its place with the album's opener as two of the longest songs in the band's career) also follow the same musical idea, inviting the listener into a cauldron of bleak, atmospheric sounds, so much so that it could provide the ideal soundtrack to a stroll through Dartmoor.
The instrumentation itself, particularly the rhythm section, is both the strongest and weakest point of Consolamentum
. For the most part the guitars, drums and bass all collaborate to offer the heavier side of the band's musical input, but there are times, as on the repetitive mid-section of “The Silence”, where the listener will be disappointed due to a lack of diversity. That's actually the only part of the album which suffers as a result, but it can safely be overlooked by considering everything else-The vocals, dark-tinged atmosphere, keyboard work-as pieces of excellent musicianship. Listening to “Gnosis” and the title track will safely confirm the band's musical output as anything but monotonous or uninspired. The bass work sometimes drives itself to the point where it seems to dwarf the guitar tone, specifically at various points on the title track and the softer, though no less bleak "Space Conqueror", itself mellow yet at the same time drenched morbid sound.
It may or may not be because the band formed in Dartmoor, arguably one of the more mystical places of the UK, but there really is something special about The Wounded Kings, regarding both the image and their sound. Consolamentum
, like the band's previous albums, is a strong contender for one of the more original doom metal albums of recent times, and considering the inspirations the band used to craft songs as sprawling as “Gnosis”, the listener will be interested before even pressing play. Definitively one of the finer doom metal releases of early 2014.