NOVEMBERS DOOM produced two of the best albums released during the last few years with “The Novella Reservoir” and “The Pale Haunt Departure.” With these two releases, Paul Kuhr and company transitioned to an aggressive Death/Doom sound, while at the same time pushing the lyrical content into what for many would be uncomfortably personal territory, setting the new standard for emotional impact in Doom. Their latest release, however, breaks no new ground, and in some ways takes a step or two backward.
Spinning this for the first time, the listener immediately detects the similarities to the previous two albums. The clean, bottom-heavy production quality, courtesy of Dan Swäno, is present again, establishing this artist/producer collaboration as the benchmark for sound quality. Likewise, the sound is still dominated by guitarist Vito Marchese’s punctuated, aggressive riffing, and by Kuhr’s vocal performance, which continues to deliver some of the best Death growls in Metal, interspersed with some better-than-average clean vox singing.
Yet below the surface lurk changes to the one element of the NOVEMBERS DOOM sound that should be tampered with only after careful consideration: the lyrics. Paul Kuhr is perhaps the bravest lyricist in Metal, sharing with listeners the most intimate details of his personal life and exposing the darker regions of his own psyche. More incredible still, he has repeatedly done so without degenerating into the maudlin that traps so many of his Doom peers. “Into Night’s Requiem Infernal” steers away from the insecurities that were laid bare on “The Pale Haunt Departure” and “The Novella Reservoir,” replacing them instead with a heaping dose of anger. The title track, as well as “Eulogy For The Living Lost” and others are more outward-directed than inward-looking, lashing out rather than reflecting in. Kuhr is at his best when he is most vulnerable, and while anger is a legitimate emotion to find its voice in this form of music, Doom is filled with other artists who do this well. This shift has detracted from what makes NOVEMBERS DOOM so special – the visceral pain that listeners experience. Fans will miss the catharsis that was provided on previous albums.
Of course, it is an unfair criticism to merely point out that which something is not, especially when the comparisons being made are to the artist’s previous work. “Into Night’s Requiem Infernal” is a fine album, and deserves to be recognized for the accomplishment that it is. It has a fantastic sound and some tight performances. In the future, though, the band should be careful not to give slight to those qualities that make them truly one of a kind in a very crowded field.
(Online October 31, 2009)