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Novembers Doom : Amid its Hallowed Mirth

This first Novembers Doom's bang has left a lasting impression on all early death doom fans. It deserves to be seen as a "classic" album.

Note by the admin: Since we got the idea to open a special section devoted to albums that we can with hindsight describe as "classics", the doom-metal staff has picked up a collection of older reviews, often written in the site's first years of existence. Most of these reviews proved to be outdated, or too short for the new role we want to give them, many of them also do not match the evolution of the bands they speak of anymore. Therefore we have found it appropriate to revise them and to complete them. These adjustments will be signed by both the contemporary as well as the original reviewer, whom we thank.

Originally reviewed for the site so far back in the mists of time that there was not even a date, just question marks, this was the debut full-length from Novembers Doom, first released in 1995. Since then, and since that review, it's had two major re-releases: in 2001, on Dark Symphony - which added the two tracks from the 'Her Tears Drop' demo - and in 2008, as a remastered version, through The End Records. The latter retained the extra tracks from 'Her Tears Drop', and also included the 'Scabs' demo material from the band's previous incarnation as Laceration.

Purists may object, but I'm going to cover the latest re-release here, partly because it has the extra early material, and partly because it's still readily available at a reasonable price - unlike the rare and expensive earlier pressings.

Of the pre-remastered version, the original review said, reasonably accurately: "Anyway, this album offers nine solid songs with great grunts. The production is not perfect, actually far from it, but it just adds to the bleak atmosphere. Songs like 'Tears of the Beautiful', 'Sadness Rains' and 'Chorus of Jasmine' are simply excellent. The guitars are slow and crunchy while the drums are sometimes tedious as they get repetitive throughout the album. 'Amid its Hallowed Mirth' shall not disappoint any doom fan. Thumbs up!"

Well, to be honest, remastering didn't add anything to write home about to the production: what there is has smoothed out some of the raw edges that can still be heard on the bonus tracks, but it still sounds authentically of the period. Low-budget recording, somewhat rough and ready, a little murky and with drums sometimes on the tinny side, in other words. That's not a bad thing: the unsympathetic glare of high-definition audio would hardly be an appropriate light to shine on material of this vintage.

Coming - as they did - some way behind the initial Death/Doom pioneers, the sound and feel of this debut owes more to the romantically-inclined UK school (inevitably, that of Peaceville) than the grim, resolute hatefulness of US contemporaries such as Winter, Thorns Of The Carrion or Dusk. So, too, does the intellectual and spiritual, sometimes quasi-religious, tone of the lyrics; laboured and contrived as they sometimes are, they - and the music - still conjure parallels with 'Serenades'-era Anathema and 'As The Flower Withers'-era MDB.

There's a certain amount of similarity in the male vocals, too, in the way they aim for the same style of constrained and artificial growl (...and in the way that would swiftly be dropped in favour of far more expressive and powerful combinations of clean and harsh singing for future albums). Other than that, what you get with 'Amid its Hallowed Mirth' is a quite familiar oeuvre of dark, crushing moods presented with a slow and deliberate pace, laden with massive heaviness: competently-written and well-performed, whilst largely without frills or technical diversions.

Novembers Doom do add something of their own stamp into the mix, though, with the occasional soprano vocals of Cathy Jo Hejna twining around Paul Kuhr's growling in a way that subtly enhances the atmosphere of both. The guitarwork, too, contributes a distinctive acoustic influence, in amongst the bludgeoning riffing that carries the bulk of the album. Between them, they lift the album tracks a notch of refinement above the raw, but energetic, demo material.

Despite that, this is more notable for delivering a well-crafted distillation of the strictest rules of the genre than for carving out any sort of a fresh niche. It was to be the last work of that incarnation of the band, with Hejna lasting one more album, and Kuhr the only long-term survivor of this line-up. So, whilst it can still stand as an exemplar of that early Death/Doom approach, it is not particularly representative of the more forceful and individual direction that Novembers Doom would take as they - and particularly Kuhr - stamped more of their own identity on proceedings. Still, an often-overlooked minor classic, you might say.

NB: The original site review, quoted here, was by Bojan Janjanin.

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Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Aurora's Garden
2. Amour of the Harp
3. Tears of the Beautiful
4. My Agony, My Ecstasy
5. Bestow My Desire
6. Chorus of Jasmine
7. Dance of the Leaves
8. Sadness Rains
9. A Dirge of Sorrow
10. (Nothing Earthly Save The Thrill)
11. (Seasons Of Frost)
12. (Scarification)
13. (Winter Solstice)
14. (Mammaliferous Earth)
15. (Crown Of Thorns)

Duration : Approx. 78 minutes

Visit the Novembers Doom bandpage.

Reviewed on 20/10/2013 by Mike Liassides & Bojan Janjanin
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