As Doom Metal bands go, WHILE HEAVEN WEPT are just out there. The loudly cosmic cover art says it: it's not one of those Stoner Doom type covers with a lot of '70s Psychedelia either, it takes the familiar (for doom) image of the downcast human face and throws it out into a fanciful galaxy of colours. There's no retro conventions to be found visually or aurally with them, doom is just the starting point for a wildly eclectic yet keenly focused channelling of emotion via Doom, Heavy, Power, Epic and, I'm sure, a bunch of other Heavy Metal derivations. It shouldn't surprise you, after hearing this, that Rain Irving counts FATES WARNING among his favourites, as do Scott Loose, Jim Hunter and, of course, Tom Phillips.
With its obsessively pristine and calculated BIG production, this is awesome to play loud, particularly what is probably the best opening trio of songs I have heard yet this year. “Hour Of Reprisal” wastes no time in getting going, straight into double-bass drumming and blastbeats complimenting the dramatic vocals. No intro or slow build, just pummelling Metal incorporating everything from blasts, tremolo-picked riffs and grooving swirls of downtuned guitars into the knife-edge between utter depression and cathartic uplift that the band has struck upon. All clear during the very first song, and it's not even that long - then at under three minutes, “Destroyer Of Solace” adopts more traditionally Doom-like vocal melodies, at least until its incredible Power Metal chorus. Best of all, these first three kings run into one another, making for what seems like one eleven-minute epic that mercilessly batters you with one emotion-charged lead and crashing synth backdrop after another. The pinnacle of this epic is “Obsessions Now Effigies”, a triumphant march of gunning guitar motifs and trawling drum patterns, with Rain Irving sounding lost, broken and stunningly powerful all at the same time.
The second "half" of the album, or rather the last two thirds, takes its time to get going - but still doesn't advance to the same level of eclecticism and energy present in that opening three triumphs. “Unplenitude”, I believe, is an older song, as I've seen it crop in demo form on collections of music by WHW that I, regrettably, do not own. It doesn't really do much here, with a rather saccharine piano thing going on, a repetitive chorus (despite its presentation in Irving's fantastic voice) and general lack of substance. Never mind, its function is to set the scene for “To Grieve Forever”, which completes the mid-album relaxation before the chugging Doom and double-guitar march of “Saturn And Sacrifice” and the closer. “Finality”s eleven minutes features a mixture of Metallic thrust and emotionally fragile passages, which gives the preceding twenty-six minutes of this diverse platter some of the context and wholeness it needs.
One remarkable thing about the album to mention is its length. It's barely thirty-eight minutes long, five minutes shorter than its predecessor. For a sound this huge and with such grandiose concepts afoot, the vinyl-friendly run time is... totally bloody refreshing! Anyone else sick of overblown, flabbily conceptual overkill albums spinning out into hours of thinly-stretched material? Personally I'd rather be left wanting more than thinking, fuck, should I bother trying to find the bits I liked and put those songs on my iPod, or just forget this whole thing? Neither! I should listen to this album.
Despite some wavering in compelling-ness in the middle, this album is wonderful as a whole and gets me more pumped than any power metal I've heard in a while, plus it’s more aptly depressing than any doom I've heard in a very long time. This is by no means as flawlessly perfect as its predecessor, that's all. Play this right after “Vast Oceans Lachrymose” however, and the resulting hour-twenty of material, bookended by complimenting epics, is very satisfying - not to mention, over before you know it. This band has hit upon the most successful combination of ambitious melody and emotional Doom Metal since MY DYING BRIDE's “The Light At The End Of The World”. Forget all those hundreds of millions of HELEVORNs and MAR DE GRISESes, their overwrought Melodic Doom melanges have only been pale foreshadowings of your discovering WHILE HEAVEN WEPT.
(Online November 1, 2011)