Review Summary: A death/doom metal odyssey for the five stages of grief
The emerging Italian death/doom metal quintet returned with their most ambitious project so far. Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
is an immersive, 38-minute odyssey that blends multiple styles into one sullen trip. The album is inspired lyrically by the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief model and its multipart, recurring themes reminisce Kauan’s output. Despite certain similarities, the production here is grittier, closer to acts such as Paradise Lost or Pallbearer for example. Thankfully, the track flows quite smooth, its structure and mood shifting repeatedly throughout. From the windy sound scape and mournful violin introduction, we’re thrown directly into this bleak universe, where a trudging main riff slowly burns and melancholic clean vocals are backed by raucous growls. A morose atmosphere sets in fast and accompanies you for the entire duration of the album.
An urgent second part kicks in a number of minutes later, swapping the growls with visceral, high-pitched screams. There was a lot of thought put on the vocal layering, since front men Mikko Kotamaki (Swallow the Sun), Thomas A.G. Jensen (Saturnus), Martina Lesley McLean (Enforces) and Elisabetta Marchetti (Inno) all contributed to enrich the experience as much as possible. Everyone brings something different to the table, thus keeping things interesting. Halfway through this epic, the music is allowed to breathe more and expand a bit as well. Piano touches are introduced, whereas glimpses of previous movements are reprised. Also, this is where the slightly lighter tone we witnessed shifts back to a more unsettling detour, courtesy of the dissonant guitar leads added in the mix. Riffs soon become slower and heavier as the clean vocals give way once more to the harsh ones and spoken narration. Towards the end, the band builds up to a grandiose finale with epic progressions and powerful singalongs. As ‘Beyond the Shores’ ultimately dwindles to the opening riff and violins, you are suddenly cut off from the story by the sound of menacing thunders and severe winds. It’s a nice feature that manages to snap you out of this elegiac journey crafted by Shores of Null and their guests.
Overall, it’s great to see the group wandering sonically and using their strengths in a more expansive fashion. There are small bits that could have been developed differently, especially during the middle section. I believe the instrumental should have received more room to develop or at least have a longer, subdued break. This way, the dynamics would have been more striking. Meanwhile, the differences in volume and placement in the mix between the main, clean vocals and growls are a tad high. The former are at times losing impact being overtaken by the guitars, while the latter are dry and too up front during certain moments. Nevertheless, these subjective observations don’t have to derail from listening to this strong LP. This is Shores of Null’s most interesting and encompassing effort yet.