Heaven Grey - Manuscriptum - (7.5/10)
Published on July 24, 2016
Rarely does a band get defined by a single song as Latvian doom metallers Memory River. “Upe”, off their second demo Memory River was omnipresent in the band’s discography and live shows, with many people forgetting that over the course of the years the band had two full-length albums as well (including an eight-year break between 1999 and 2007), the latter of which actually featuring the song again… 2016 now sees the release of their third album Manuscriptum and ever since their inception, one of the band’s trademark elements has been the inclusion of a cello, giving their doom metal sound that little extra touch, together with the semi-rough vocals.
Guitarist Vjačeslavs Nikitin is the last survivor of the original line-up and it is obvious that he has been the driving creative force in Heaven Grey because even though Memory River is 20 years old this year, the style still is unmistakeable the same. Keyboard-supported doom metal with cello and a deeper, at times a little rougher voice that drips with melancholy and evokes images of an old town in dense fog at night or at twilight. Artūrs’ voice switches between deep and clean on the one hand and a bit rougher on the other (no growls, though), which at times gives the feeling that this is not as far as they could get the song, but especially when knowing the band’s past, it fits in with their history.
But Heaven Grey are not one-dimensionally slow, no, they also loosen things up with faster passages as on “Drown in My Shade”, which adds a few well-placed double-bass, which works wonders for the song’s dynamics. The Latvians’ bread and butter, though, is the melancholic elegy that is doom metal, their use of keyboards has them cross the border into the gothic/doom metal realm every now and then and all of this together (including the cello) actually gives Heaven Grey a semblance of originality in a sub-genre that usually does not allow for a whole lot of variation.
“When the Mist Falls”, while holding all trademarks of the band’s sound, brings in a little faster tempo, but maintains the melancholic foundation, tying it in with the rest of the album, but “False Trust” is one of the album’s definitive highlights with a beautiful doom riff layered over nice atmospheres and here Artūrs almost exclusively relies on his deep, clear voice, which is just the right finishing touch for the song.
While not necessarily being able to compete for the (gothic) doom metal throne, Heaven Grey’s Manuscriptum nevertheless is a good doom metal album that courtesy of the cello especially gains points on the creativity scale.