It has been exciting to witness the growth in horror-themed Doom released in 2010, and while many of the acts choosing this direction have provided their own take via Death/Doom (see ACID WITCH, HOODED MENACE, and DRUID LORD), newcomers WOODEN STAKE have delivered a haunting Gothic Doom release for their debut EP, “Vampire Plague Exorcism.” Take note here, for though all vocals are performed by a frontwoman (as opposed to a frontman), the term “Gothic” shold not be understood in terms of its current (mis)use – a classically-trained soprano with powerful lungs delivering her vocals over top of melancholic melodies supported (to some extent) by symphonic instruments. No, this is a fusion of Traditional Doom with the spartan sounds of true Gothic music, as it was pioneered by bands such as BAUHAUS, THE SMITHS, and THE CURE.
A two-person partnership of vocalist/bassist Vanessa Nocera and drummer/guitarist Wayne “Elektrocutioner” of DECREPITAPH, WOODEN STAKE focuses on occult-themed horror Doom. Vanessa provides a chilling performance. Her voice is more than a little reminiscent of Stevie Nicks, and this timbre combined with her somewhat droning delivery give her a corrupted angel vibe. Furthermore, on tracks such as “13 Condemned,” she belts out some growls that are so feral as to frighten listeners into wetting their pants. The vocals alone set this album apart.
Yet it is in the combination of the vocals with the minimalist composition and sparse production quality that this release comes together as a strong whole. The sound is threadbare, just guitar, bass, drums, and an occasional keyboard, with no studio trickery. In the same manner, the sound engineering is hollow and spacious, causing the music to drip with atmosphere.
This is an encouraging peek at a new band that promises to be quite prolific with their output (at the time of this writing, two 7” vinyls have also been recorded, and work has begin on a first full-length). Doom fans and Gothic fans should get behind this one.
(Online February 6, 2011)