Review Summary: Abandon hope all ye who enter here
Multi-instrumentalist Lauri Laaksonen is one of the most prominent Finnish extreme metal musicians in recent years. His unholy death metal creation Desolate Shrine is among the most interesting projects the genre has spawned over the past decade. Lauri's cold, desolate style has become a hallmark that has progressively spread through the intricacies of the selective European underground circuit. The omnipresent oppressive atmosphere shaped by suffocating northern death metal textures and overwhelming vocals form the structural axis of his stylistic DNA, also being the common denominator throughout his music portfolio. This artistic axis is also present in his death doom project Convocation, which, as one would expect, intends to further enhance the atmospheric layers already found in Desolate Shrine, while also being the ideal stage for additional experiences that would have little room for maneuver in his main project. Just as Desolate Shrine, Lauri Laaksonen takes over all instruments, leaving the vocal duties and lyrics to Marko Neuman (Dark Buddha Rising), thus creating an intimate setting that candidly reflects the artistic collaboration between these two personalities. The bond between Lauri's projects is very much present in Convocation’s debut Scars Across
, which despite its doom signature, reveals some ties with Desolate Shrine, namely in the guitar tone and surrounding atmosphere. This closeness is not surprising since both projects orbit the same creative entity, not being too far apart from each other stylistically.
Something that grabbed my attention on the first single 'The Absence of Grief' was the guitar tone (which now deviates more from the usual chainsaw-esque signature) and its more wide-ranging, epic approach. It seems clear that the duo now want to explore new flavors and broaden their musical spectrum. The Floyd-esque section of the song is the most evident example of this metamorphosis, being the most ethereal and contemplative musical piece Lauri has ever written. This melancholic manifesto is reinforced by Marko's overwhelming vocals that sprout a bewildering miasma of agony and despair. The duo articulates symbiotically as if both were simultaneously on the edge of their own fragile existence. This Floyd-esque atmosphere is once again experienced in 'Portal Closed', which casts an aura of blackness and sorrow. The middle section of the song also has the peculiarity of carrying me into Dune's soundtrack, more specifically to 'The Trip to Arrakis', whose desolate soundscape fits perfectly within Ashes Coalesce's
ambiance. These two songs are those that carry Convocation to the most distant places, where synthesizers have greater predominance and imagination takes control. Although it is clear that Ashes Coalesce
takes a more atmospheric approach than its predecessor, we still sense a strong link with the past, much due to Lauri's tremendous songwriting personality, which is all over the place, just like a gigantic fingerprint. 'Martyrise's' contagious riff, or its epic ending, would fit perfectly into a Desolate Shrine song, for example. This sense of acquaintance is often present, which gives the album a somewhat linear and predictable artistic direction, despite the atmospheric contrasts already mentioned. This predictability may be seen by many as premeditated stylistic cohesion, however I feel the album would benefit from greater unpredictability at certain moments, some unexpected sparks that could shuffle the music by adding more irreverent tones to Ashes Coalesce's
musical palette. That being said, and despite this final remark, I cannot fail to emphasize that these four chapters do succeed in shaping the suitable soundscape to the album's dark, melancholic concept. And that's quite enough for me.
takes us on a journey through our own mortality, fragility and despair. It is a reflection of our own spirituality and fear of the unknown. And even if it doesn't lead us on a symbolic descent into hell, by listening to it I can't help but think about Dante's Divine Comedy and that inscription at the entrance:
“ Abandon hope all ye who enter here
I believe the message fits perfectly here.