From the outside looking in, writing and performing music wholly based on a specific legend seems to the uninitiated a very easy task, but as members of Canada's doom rock purveyors Loviatar will tell you, selecting a legend is hard enough before embarking on a musical journey to link the two aspects together. This year's Loviatar
may be the band's first full-length effort, but it arrives a marker of culminative efforts spread across Loviatar's previous EPs, the real starting points for this group to try and spread/extend their wings in the world of doom. One thing which hasn't changed from day one of forming however, is Loviatar's collective liking for a myth or legend told in musical form, not particularly a surprise when you learn that the band's name is derived directly from the Finnish goddess of death and disease.
JP, the band's drummer, tells of how 'a song as big as "Stygian Wyrm" needed a theme that was equally gargantuan', the song in question being divided into three parts on the band's self-titled debut released earlier this year. "Blind Goddess of the Nine Plagues", the fourth and final track on Loviatar
is even more gargantuan, given its comparatively extreme length at nineteen minutes long. Whilst this point renders the album quite a mess, musically this really isn't the case. Opener "Nascent" seethes despite its somewhat gentle, warm progression through psychedelic and acoustic soundscapes, the riff work not inviting itself to the forefront until three minutes in. It sounds settling and comfortable, yet at the halfway mark comes a somewhat unsuitable vocal croon which, depending on how clean
you like your vocals in doom rock/metal, could potentially ruin your overall experience of the record itself.
"Discordant" and "Ascendant" are heavier, more threatening tracks despite both being completely different in terms of length. The former is a pacier, rawer assault on the senses whereas the latter thrives on an almost bombastic, epic rock sound, albeit still shrouded in some form of mystery. Both songs however still continue to relish in what is really by comparison a sub-par vocal performance, yet as said before, it really depends on your liking for clean vocals. The final track simply regurgitates all aspects of the band's sound explored on the tracks before it, and for that reason the nineteen minute length of "Blind Goddess of the Plagues" just doesn't seem justified. Instead, it borders on an unnecessary drone for the first half, leaving the second half to make up for lost time and complete the sound as it should have been a lot earlier.
What links these songs is of course a mysterious, seething energy and the strangely uplifting vocal melodies (which seem to owe quite a lot to Pallbearer's own vocal prowess), but that's evidently not enough because it still feels in the end like the album drifts away when it's only just begun. The heavier parts of Loviathan
are naturally more inviting, but not particularly helpful given how weary and listless the rest of the album is. Loviatar have embarked on a seemingly lengthy journey to get to this point, and if they continue with this particular musical direction hopefully there is a better sense of balance displayed in each song, because that is something the self-titled debut effort severely lacks.