Review Summary: A monolith of emotion.
It’s interesting that a band as monolithic and venerable in the Doom metal scene is a band I found so late in their career. Upon my first listen they brought to mind modern Katatonia, but with a slight Melodic Death metal edge to them. But that isn’t fair, is it" That I could undermine the influence that a band formed in the ancient eon of 1989 could have served within Doom metal, is it" This isn’t saying that this couldn’t pass for a Katatonia record at points. “Hamartia” works in the same veins as albums like “The Great Cold Distance”, with lyrical themes regarding lost hope and despair, and distant vocals with instruments performing at a (usually) sluggish pace. It can be rather formulaic at points, however it executes this formula with perfect precision. This makes the album consistently solid, sacrificing the potential of mucking up the album with a poorly done experimentation for something much restrained. Still, the album has occasions where it truly shines, this being during its most cathartic and “vibrant” moments.
Of course it doesn’t shine in a bright or peppy way. I wouldn’t dare to tell a Doom band they sound peppy straight to their face unless I wanted to received a powerful lecture on the futility of happiness and how I will never experience it. Jokes aside, this album is a deep, unabashed foray into the heart of Novembers Doom. Monotone vocals are paired with brooding guitar riffs and occasional inflections of acoustic and piano, adding to the dark, blunt sound of Novembers Doom. The lyrics show this just as well. “You can’t steal my thoughts anymore, crawling through these halls of misery” This is a line off of the title track, “Hamartia”. Some will scoff, thinking of all the Doom metal tropes a line like this fills, but some will see the honesty and realness in lines like this.
Of course, some people aren’t interested in lyrical content. For those people their is still much on display off this record. It’s resplendent with heavy, crushing riffs and some incredibly powerful tribal-styled drumming paired alongside some equally powerful gutturals. This is starkly contrasted by passages of somber acoustic and some rather dreary cleans. Take the track mentioned early “Hamartia”. It’s composed of only slow-moving piano chords, acoustic guitar and monotone vocals, and then compare it to, let’s say “Miasma” or “Zephyr”. Sometimes, the crunchy riffs, diverse drum fills and monstrous growls take precedent, yet sometimes melodic guitar arpeggios and ambient piano/acoustic passages weave their way into the record instead. It’s all of the sounds you’ve heard before, yet all of it is arranged in a way that each song feels fresh and new.
This continues straight until the final track “Borderline”. What’s by far the longest track (topping 9 minutes) is easily the most cathartic and well constructed track off the album. The drums are arguably as hard-hitting as they can be heard, and they makes the tracks build up to a level of euphoria unparalleled by Doom metal as a whole, if not most metal in general. If the album kept this level of strength in its entirety, this would have been a masterfully crafted album. What we have instead is an enjoyable record complacent in its simplicity. To be honest, i’m perfectly fine with that.