Something beguiling and sinister must surely exist in the ether surrounding the UK, a malicious yet seductive trickster who is channeled into our physical realm more easily with the assistance of mind-altering drugs. How else could one explain the presence of so many tripped-out occult-focused Doom bands in such a relatively confined geographic area - bands like ESOTERIC, WITCHSORROW, MOSS, ELECTRIC WIZARD, and now THE WOUNDED KINGS.
It would be a tempting shortcut to compare this band and this release to the works of ELECTRIC WIZARD, for there is much that these two artists share stylistically. As mentioned, “The Shadow Over Atlantis” is a trudging, psychedelic work with occult subject matter. Likewise, there is a common penchant for protracted, meandering interludes that add ambience to the crushing Metal contained herein. However, to limit the description of this album to comparisons to another, more well-established act do would do a disservice to THE WOUNDED KINGS, for there is much here also that is their own.
This album places a premium on atmosphere, favoring it over the riff. Whereas ELECTRIC WIZARD do space out on a couple of tracks on every album, their signature characteristic has always been the heavy, fuzzed-out riffs that bludgeon one about the face, knocking the listener down to the ground before burrowing into and infecting his (semi-)consciousness. Not so THE WOUNDED KINGS, who on this album use the guitar as but one of multiple textures in the creation of a full and varied sonicscape, appealing to the ear on many levels. The atmosphere is Crowley-ish – psychedelic and esoteric. The guitar leads are meandering and trance-inducing, drawing attention away from what riffing does exist here. The vocals are hypnotically seductive. That this music is more enchanting than it is brutal should come as no surprise, as the song titles alone provide a powerful clue to the direction of the music. “The Swirling Mist,” “Into The Ocean Abyss,” and “Deathless Echo” all suggest, before the listener even plays this for the first time, that the music contains a droning, boundless, spellbinding quality to it.
As for the Atlantean concept for this album, the verbal component is decidedly minimalist. The lyrical content for the entire album contains a mere 45 lines. This is not to say that this facet of the songwriting process has been neglected. The brevity of the verbal component here actually contributes to the strength of the album, allowing the music to retain an organic, mysterious quality that would have been ruined by artificially injecting language where none was needed. That the lyrics still communicate so effectively is testimony to the band’s discipline and efficiency as writers.
THE WOUNDED KINGS have emerged as an entity deserving recognition within the realm of Doom. This album is not to be missed.
(Online December 10, 2010)