Review Summary: “From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.”
One aspect that has always allured me to H.P Lovecraft’s works is his penchant for total uncertainty. The human condition and its cerebral fragility are playgrounds for Lovecraft to explore that which is most terrifying: the unknown. Paranoia, psychological unrest, and the incomprehensible manifestation of horrors so indescribable, our minds couldn’t hope to achieve a morsel of cognition from the situation. That’s what makes Lovecraft’s works so enduring and timeless; everything is uncertain. Did our protagonist really experience those devastating terrors, or are these pages the written ramblings of a madman? Green Druid and their sophomore album, At the Maw of Ruin
, takes these themes seriously and makes a thoroughly engaging journey out of them. Sonically, At the Maw of Ruin
isn’t all that unique; the album is a very competently developed stoner-doom metal album which respectfully lends ideas from the pantheon of the stoner/doom genres (the guitars in particular are pure Tony Iommi worship), but it doesn’t necessarily push the sound into a new evolution. No, At the Maw of Ruin
takes its venerable influences and merely uses them as colours to paint a very vivid picture.
Every aspect of At the Maw of Ruin
has been made to uniformly represent its narrative, and the story being told here captures the heart of Lovecraftian lore perfectly. In fact, I’ll even go as far to say, I don’t think I’ve heard a metal album of this kind nail the approach so well. At the Maw of Ruin
burrows right into your psyche and tells a celestial tale that is both grounded in fiction, yet resonates with today’s sociological issues and how far removed we are from the soul and our own ignorance towards mortality. From the album’s opening track, “The Forest Dark”, where our character awakens from a dream and is attacked by a beast who echoes these themes, right through to the story’s end in “Threads” where the madness becomes overbearing, ending in classic Lovecraftian fashion. The vocals here are the hidden weapon throughout: their versatility creates a range of emotions, from the wrenching screams to the benign clean vocals that metamorphoses into lullabies for this questionable reality – they are always on point and convey the necessary emotions for the tale. By the time we get to the penultimate “Desert of Fury/Ocean of Despair”, Chris’ whispers form the voices in the listener’s head, questioning the possibility that, in fact, we are the character in this tale, only adding to the insurmountable madness being permeated thus far.
In typical stoner-doom fashion, this album is long. As such, it’s an album you’ll need to be in the right mood for. However, it’s apparent from the off that this record is superior to Ashen Blood
in almost every regard. The production is light-years more refined, dynamic and courteous to Green Druid’s vision, but the writing and singing also feels more maturely handled. A touch bloated at times sure, but At the Maw of Ruin
offers a great array of moods and sounds to support the motif being ran with here. While the vocal work succeeds with its endeavours, the instrumentals need to be commended for their palpable, descriptive vibrancy, also. The aesthetic here feels like you’re observing a cosmic-occult in the depths of a forest, in the dark of night. Its unsettling sensibilities stand to add to the authenticity here, and it’s hard to argue with the results. Like I mentioned earlier, the genre elements used are relatively derivative, but the overall presentation will make it stand out from its peers. It’s a peregrination that will latch on to you and will endure long after hearing it. If you’re looking for a concept-heavy metal record with an excellent production and great writing, look no further than At the Maw of Ruin
. For a year that has been full of stellar metal releases, this one sees off 2020 and sits comfortably in there with the best of them.