Good day, class, today’s lesson is about Australian Doom Metal. Now how many of you can name bands of this country and style right now? Myself? Go ahead! OK, let’s see what comes to mind right away…AVRIGUS, ENCHANTMENT, THE ETERNAL, sometimes VIRGIN BLACK. Yes, but there are more, even on “The Metal Observer”, such as DISEMBOWELMENT, ELEGEION, INSOMNIUS DEI or RAVEN BLACK NIGHT.
Now we can add another band to this, a quartet from Sydney that goes under the name of RITUALS OF THE OAK, which adds an element of surprise and distinction, which is the voice of Sabine Hamad, I don’t think that any of the above-mentioned bands had female vocals through and through. Now which kind of Doom do we get on “Hour Of Judgement”? It is somewhat epic, but does not have this “Oh my God, I have to slit my wrists right now” kind of depressive edge, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope within the gloom, so a little different from what we are usually treated to.
Sabine’s vocals are the probably biggest asset, since she has a strong, expressive voice, not the often-found soprano, which draws a few fond memories of unfortunately long-lost LEFT HAND SOLUTION (nine years since their epic “Light Shines Black”) and thus helps RITUALS OF THE OAK to have this refreshing twist that enhances the mentioned musical light-in-the-dark feeling and injects some different character into the otherwise fairly traditional music, since Doom is not the most variable music style out there, not that you would really expect that anyways, so any little bit that makes a band stand out can definitely help.
The two extremes, so to say, can be viewed in the two framing songs, opener “Hour Of Judgement” and “The Spell Of Doom”, coincidentally also the two longest tracks, with the former showing the traditional Melodic Doom side with the already mentioned strong vocal performance and the latter dipping down into the really sloooow realms of Doom, with extensive instrumental passages that can get very minimalistic at times, but still effective at what it is doing to the listener.
“Hour Of Judgement” is not a new revelation in the Doom Metal genre, but a more than just promising debut that took me by surprise and if RITUALS OF THE OAK can build on this one, then the next effort could be a breakthrough album for the Australians, make sure to check this out, though, if your mind is on the melodic side of Doom.
(Online October 15, 2010)