Metal philosophy for beginners. With a band name like THE DROWNING, we already have a pretty good hint that these Welsh lads do not play the happiest music on the planet, right? Then add to that song titles such as “Soulless Harvest”, “In Sufferance” or “Flowers Of The Fallen” and you have a very good indication of what this band actually plays. Doom/Death is the chosen poison and with that they stand in best tradition of many of the doomy and gloomy greats hailing from the island.
Now the good thing is that this quintet does not just monotonously drag along, but also nicely shakes things up with adding double-bass to avoid rhythmic boredom, and while they obviously concentrate on growls and an overall depressing atmosphere, they will not automatically pull you towards the closest razor blade to slit whatever you feel needs slitting at that particular moment in time. It’s kind of amazing to see how England continuously produces the melancholic masters, MY DYING BRIDE, PARADISE LOST, ANATHEMA etc. etc., is it the grey and rainy weather the country is known for, their mourning over the often extremely trend-ridden scene or as Ralf had written in his review of their previous effort the rather bleak outlook when it comes to the British “cuisine”? Be it as it may, these miserable bastards make for very enjoyable music nevertheless!
Mentioned “Soulless Harvest” definitely bears traces of MY DYING BRIDE in the rhythmic and riff department, just that James Moore’s voice seems to be dripping with more venom than Stainthorpe’s, but it lends the moody music a certain edge that makes THE DROWNING more than just mere acolytes to the genre’s greats. Sure, originality is not the strongest suit, but this particular sub-genre has such narrow confines that I rather see a band concentrate on writing good, atmospheric and cohesive songs than try to be different by hook or by crook. Now as I had mentioned, the guys try to loosen things up, but of course there is a good part of relative monotony to be found, which, I have to add, is one of the characteristics of this style, so if you need constantly changing rhythms and tempos, you’re reading the wrong review anyways.
10+ minute eposes such as “In The Fields Of Solace” indeed do somewhat resemble a lava stream, able to draw a ghastly shadow across your good mood, with these trademark melancholic riffs leading the way, working perfectly on a cold, foggy and snowy day such as today being a pretty good sonic counterpart to the drab and desolate atmosphere outside. Contrary to many younger bands out there trying their luck on this style, though, THE DROWNING stay away from Gothic leanings, delivering more of a traditional feel, and their ability (or willingness) to put some unpredictable elements or sections into their songs (“Forever Fall” is almost upbeat) is a great benefit to achieve something of an own identity, however hard this is to actually successfully manage.
And it is these details that make “This Bleak Descent” such an enjoyable album within this style, despite some of the songs being a little too repetitive at times (yes, it is a very narrow edge that bands like them are walking), and it should definitely not disappoint the genre fan, because you get a pretty complete package.
(Online January 12, 2009)