Review Summary: As much as the cover of the album, the music inside takes the listener to a bleak and desolate landscape.
While Heaven Wept is an epic doom metal band from the United States, who have nowadays evolved into a more progressive/power metal approach. While I don’t dislike their newer music, it’s certainly their first two albums that make for their finest material. Although some consider Sorrow of the Angels to be an EP (running 39 minutes), Of Empires Forlorn is the band’s sophomore album, and is also a short one, lasting about 42 minutes. With one of the songs being a cover, the album could have helped one or two more to round it up. Worth noting is also the cover featuring Gustave Doré’s bleak and desolate painting “Enigma”, which gives a very fitting first impression of the music to be found inside.
While this album continues the line of their previous one, there are also some elements that start to hint to the evolution to come, mainly in the vocal aspect. Most of singing sticks to classic While Heaven Wept mournful but powerful vocals, having a couple of growls in the track “Of Empires Forlorn”, but also some more power-oriented vocals in the tracks “Voice in the Wind” and “In Aeternum”. Considering this is the direction they followed after this album, it is not strange that they decided to get a new singer, because even though Tom pretty much nails the vocals in “Voice in the Wind”, he doesn’t really do very well in the higher notes in “In Aeternum”. The latter is definitely the weakest song on the album and I feel would have fit better on Vast Oceans Lachrymose and with Rain Irving’s vocals. The song is not bad at all though and towards the end features a very nice shift from slow to a more upbeat tempo, back to slow, then a nice solo.This kind of shifts is something they also did in their first album and is more traditional metal oriented, it breaks the typical doom metal album structure and gives a splash of freshness to the album.
There is also plenty of classic While Heaven Wept throughout the album. The first songs “The Drowning Years” and “Of Empires Forlorn”, as well as the crushing “Soulsadness” are all songs with heavy guitars and sucking, dark atmospheres. It is however the song “Sorrow of the Angels” that is most reminiscent of their first album (bet you didn’t see that coming…), and also one of the best on this album. The song is absolutely crushing and beautiful. The album also includes a cover of “Epistle 81” by Candlemass. While Heaven Wept play it faster here and with some added keyboards, which turns up really well. I also like how Tom’s singing fits in here. Being a big Candlemass fan though, I am probably biased on this one.
Overall the album is a very good piece of depressive and emotional music, being the length of the album and the vocals in the song "In Aeternum" its only flaws. The album ends with a quiet string instrumental that serves perfectly as a closing song, with waves on the background that mirror those in the beginning of the first song. You come from the sea, you go back to the sea.
The Drowning Years
Of Empires Forlorn
Sorrow of the Angels