Finnish Doomsters SHAPE OF DESPAIR return with their follow up to 2000’s “Shades Of…” album and behold, it is one of the greatest funeral doom albums ever created by man.
A quick introduction to those of you who’ve never heard of the band. SHAPE OF DESPAIR play highly atmospheric, ultra-slow funeral doom metal with tortured growls on top. Funeral Doom is one of the more extreme branches in Doom and revels in slower-than-slow metal. Add to that the usual set of grief-stricken themes and you pretty much know what you’re in for.
“Fallen” is just that. Ominous strings lead right into a monstrous riff and you’re set for the first crushing six minutes of “Angels Of Distress”. SHAPE OF DESPAIR excel at subtlety. Slight changes, layered keys and precise drumming keep this beast from plodding. The guitar work is kept at a stylish minimum. The right riffs are all in place, nothing flashy, just the way I like it. There are solo’s yes, but not overtly in front. You won’t find any guitar acrobatics here. Instead, solos are drawn across SHAPE OF DESPAIR’s movements like dying wails. The title-track “Angels Of Distress” opens with just such a solo. In the face of “Quiet These Paintings Are” however, that was just a warm-up. This 14 minute colossus is the core of this album. “Quiet These Paintings Are” is like an ocean of sadness. The riffs slowly was ashore like a tide of despair. Sorrow or grief, melancholy or gloom, you name it you’ll feel it. “Quiet These Paintings Are” has one the most devastatingly powerful verses I’ve heard in a long time. A true monument of the genre and most definitely the highlight of this album.
Well, after that, we are served with “…To Live For My Death”, another drawn-out Doom suite with female vocals and plenty of ambient sound scapes in between, but I must say SHAPE OF DESPAIR lost a point on this song. At 17 minutes, “…To Live For My Death” dangerously drags near the middle-part. Repetition is one thing, but it’s not going strong enough to hold attention throughout. Fortunately, a beautiful violin solo somewhat redeems this track at the last minute. And if these four mammoths of doom weren’t enough to drain your soul, there is “Night’s Dew” to squeeze the final drops out of it. “Angels Of Distress” is over. What a crusher!
This is essential Doom, simply put, but I despair to think this album will be lost to the majority of Metalheads out there. Doom Metal has never been the most popular sub-genre around it probably never will be. One can only hope this review lures a few unsuspecting readers in, but I suspect those of you who are reading this already own it. What more can I add? Go forth and spread the word, my fellow Doom brethren! :) (Online April 26, 2004)
Guest Reviewer Ben Meuleman