Review Summary: Innocuous, transitory modern metal that makes little effort to capture your attention.
Everyone has what I call a 'kryptonite' TV show when channel-surfing. Perhaps you're looking for time to kill before heading out for the evening or need something on in the background while you're cleaning. No matter your intention, a kryptonite TV show doesn't require your full attention. The same goes for films modified for TV, mostly so you can marvel at creative censoring ("Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal in his fist, in two weeks you'd have a diamond"; "I'm tired of these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane!"). My kryptonite TV shows are competitive cooking series like Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay. Learning basic culinary vocabulary and techniques is fun, and I'm not expected to know how to pronounce 'vichyssoise' or 'huitlacoche' or recapitulate what wine best pairs with a deconstructed grilled cheese (Boone's Farm circa 2005, maybe?).
In listening to hundreds of the celebrity chef/restauranteur critiques on these shows, common objections to contestants' final products include one ingredient overpowering the rest, flavor profiles clashing, sloppy plate presentation, and/or incomplete, under-developed ideas. Obviously, serving undercooked protein or human blood getting onto the bowl or plate is a significant no-no, but many of the judges' narratives emphasize that the contestants' meals should be visually appetizing, not just deliciously tasty. While not a three-course meal, similar appraisal can be levied against quasi-supergroup We Sell the Dead's debut Heaven Doesn't Want You and Hell is Full
: decent ideas but sloppy, disheveled presentation.
Comprised of Apollo Papathanasio (Spiritual Beggars), Niclas Engelin (In Flames), Jonas slattung (Drömriket), and Gas Lipstick (ex-HIM), Heaven
's backdrop is the Victorian era, with Jack the Ripper assailing the Whitechapel district in London. Thematically, the band cultivate a gloomy, enveloping atmosphere, not dissimilar to the doom of 1980s Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus, and the album is occasionally buoyed by some modern influences. While there's palpable gothic influence, the prototypical Gothenburg sound percolates in Engelin's guitars throughout, injecting Heaven...
with some much-needed melody in an album severely lacking in dynamics and memorable performances.
Ignoring album opener "The Body Market", a macabre intro that morbidly, albeit humorously sets the album's exposition as human appendages are being auctioned for sale, Heaven...
's eight tracks are banal exercises in frustration management. "Echoes of an Ugly Past" starts promisingly enough, with thick, sludgy guitars and Lipstick's rumbling drums before giving way to Papathanasio's vocals, which are decidedly more Firewind/Time Requiem in scope compared to his work in Spiritual Beggars. In other words, the power metal timbre Papathanasio opts for throughout Heaven...
runs counter to the album's plodding pace. This contrast works better in ballads like the piano-driven "Too Cold to Touch" or songs with soaring choruses like album highlight "Turn It Over", but Heaven...
's patchwork soundscape is emblematic of an identity crisis. On one hand, "Imagine" does an appreciable job coalescing clean, Gothenburg-styled leads with the heavier and more assertive rhythm guitars at its start, but doesn't stray far from what might be a discarded Siren Charms
B-side until the song's solo. Many of Heaven...
's songs are at their best during their outros, and respectfully, this is not in a "Because that means they'll be mercifully over soon" rationale, but because songs' closing moments provide some interesting variance for once in the listening experience. Closer "Silent Scream" is a quintessential example of this, while "Trust"'s latter half is arguably the best example of the three-parted doom/gothic rock/modern metal griffin legitimately sounding compelling.
Unfortunately, moments like these are few and far between on Heaven Doesn't Want You and Hell is Full
, a record characterized by decent songwriting ingredients thrown haphazardly and without clear intention into a slow-boiling cauldron of insipid broth. For approximately 40 minutes, the album slogs along at a lethargic pace, with disjointed, incoherent ideas. There is seemingly no interest in providing any semblance of intriguing dynamics or ensnaring the listener's consideration save for fleeting, intermittent shifts in ambiance.
Even then, despite its decent mixing and production, Heaven...
amorphously blurs together, making it difficult to differentiate one song from the next, just like marathoning a TV show as background noise. This suggests that We Sell the Dead's ceiling projects to be nothing more than a side project for its members and likely will not have any notable longevity, although the album's promo material (where Slattung alleges that Jack the Ripper would have chosen them to be his backing band if he were to time travel, as he did in the film Time After Time
) and atrocious animated music videos were ostensibly a harbinger of things to come. Unlike its source material, Heaven Doesn't Want You and Hell is Full
is inoffensive and emotionally vapid at best, so while it's possibly a welcome change-of-pace for its accomplished members and their typical duties, creating something different doesn't necessarily mean it will yield a digestible result.
"Turn It Over"