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While Heaven Wept : Vast Oceans Lachrymose

Well time passes really fast after all. Six years have passed since 2003 the year when 'Of Empires Forlorn', by the Virginia, US based Doomsters While Heaven Wept, was released, and to me it is like just yesterday. We are now on 2009 and, yes, we all have waited for so long for the follower 'Vast Oceans Lachrymose' album. Its release was announced almost immediately after the release of the 'Of Empires Forlorn', followed by many specific details given by the band's main man Tom Philips that made the agony for the final musical result greater and greater. This agony came not just from the statement that While Heaven Wept would follow a musical path that is slightly different from before, adding a more powerful meanwhile progressive touch into their music. It came mainly from the fact that the standards of this band were very high already and everyone deep into their music was anxious enough to hear what more this band could do to better their already released masterpieces.

Six years have passed and it seems that after a long period of silence While Heaven Wept are back releasing their best album. Before I turn the focus onto the music I would like to go on a little flashback, back to June 2009 when the band announced their new singer, vocalist Rain Irving (formerly of Magna Carta/Roadrunner recording artist Altura who released a progressive metal classic entitled 'Mercy' back in 1996). I was left with a little bit of anxiety after reading this because Tom Philips vocals was something like a trademark for While Heaven Wept. After this announcement the agony for the album was bigger than ever. But now it is over...

I think that musical terms are a bit useless when we are referring to bands like While Heaven Wept. The artistic level of this band's music is so high that any attempt to trap their music within a simple term would be meaningless. 'Vast Oceans Lachrymose' is released and now I get to sit down and turn into words all this river of feelings and emotions that flooded my entire existence when I heard this masterpiece. Well, I'll at least try.

First of all I must make it clear that this is the most powerful album the band has ever released. I will not do the album any justice at all if I merely mention the music trapped in here as Doom Metal. Within the album we can hear all the melancholy, the emotional ecstasy, the heaviness and the melody of Epic Doom Metal. We can hear complex and technical meanwhile memorable Progressive Metal parts blessed by this little sophisticated touch that someone can find in Brave's music. We can hear pure and straight into your face Metal musical parts carrying the tradition of the Classic Heavy Metal and the strength of US Power Metal. We can even hear some lesser Black Metal storms waiting to overtake us. We can also hear those beloved acoustic parts that were so familiar to all the While Heaven Wept fans. And finally, we can hear the voice of Rain Irving, bringing new power and fresh melodic air into While Heaven Wept's music.

But, most importantly, all the new music found in this album still carries ALL the trademarks of While Heaven Wept. The characteristic guitar melodies of Tom Philips are here, the melancholic keyboards giving emphasis to some parts of this musical heaven are still here, the interludes and epilogues we all loved in While Heaven Wept are present, and even in the more powerful and faster parts of the music there is still the wandering spirit of melancholy that sometimes turns into anger. So to those who have expected to hear a different band, the point is simple: 'Vast Oceans Lachrymose' re-presents While Heaven Wept in a more powerful and Progressive way while they are keeping ALL those features that made them one of the biggest favourites for many of us.

The album begins with 'The Furthest Shore', the song will take you by storm from the very first second with its pounding riffs and skull crushing guitar melodies. Soon the keyboards and the guitar leads will remind you that you are still in While Heaven Wept's world and the clean acoustic guitar melody that follows will make you feel safer than ever. Soon enough you will have the chance to hear Rain's vocals for the first time and then realize that they fit perfectly with the pounding riffage, keeping the classic While Heaven Wept vocal melodies. "Desolate I have succumb to the seas of Sorrow" he sings, making us realize that his voice is something more than suitable for While Heaven Wept. A wonderful keyboard and guitar lead follows after the second chorus, then a storm of Power/Prog. riffs and guitar melodies come just before another vocal crescendo. I am in real ecstasy... The pause in the middle of the song will make you hold your breath while the music is gathering strength, because a new guitar and vocal storm is coming. Well it is a fact: While Heaven Wept have gone wild and a little sophisticated the same time... But wait a minute, I catch myself playing air guitar. This is the metal I like. The next acoustic melody is soon covered by keyboards and once more the lead guitar makes me close my eyes again... They remain closed as I am readying to dive in the next crescendo, which is blessed by classic While Heaven Wept Doom riffing and some more beautiful leads... Rain has a WONDERFULL voice. I am leaving my existence to wander in the sea of melodies as the song nears its end. (Listen carefully the last three minutes, yes this is the musical magic of While Heaven Wept).

'To Wander The Void' begins with a mysterious intro with a focus on melody. Soon a slightly technical yet catchy guitar break guides you to the main riff; straight and strong, and with even more passion in the vocals of Rain. Basically this is the 'straight into the face' track of the whole album. Pure and inspired Steel with many Power Metal touches and some moments of magnificent and mysterious Epic Doom Metal. The song's epilogue bring some great melodies as well.

'Living Sepulchre' and 'Vessel' are the songs to follow. The storm gains momentum; the pounding riffs on 'Living Sepulchre's beginning could have belonged to a Black Metal band, but the vocals of Rain and the guitar leads are here to bring all the melody that is needed. The music keeps up this force until the first acoustic calm. An enigmatic melody touches another beautiful lead guitar theme, which guides the listener to the next song, 'Vessel', and its first pounding riffs, played the While Heaven Wept way. The chorus that follows is simply one of the most wonderful musical parts of the album. It is touched by heavenly melodies both from the vocals and the guitars. 'Vessel' is one of the most passionate tracks of the album; it carries a secret flame, it carries the strength of every new beginning, it carries that secret power of Faith... Have faith without fear, open your heart, breathe and believe...

The 'Vast Oceans Lachrymose' song prepares us for the epilogue of the album. The song is nothing more and nothing less than an epic, melodic anthem, filled with music that only While Heaven Wept can create. The music speaks by itself in here and if you listen carefully you will hear the narration of the deepest, most mysterious and most wonderful story. I really enjoyed the small piano fillings in here. This song is with no doubt a piece of fine art.

The 'Epilogue' drives us on the final calm through the musical waves of the While Heaven Wept sea. The journey is over but with a simple press of the play button it can start again...

Yes listener, on the next listening you can pay more attention to the lyrical concept of the album. Follow the weeping heaven upon the waves of oceans unknown...

It is fact that the band has spent hundreds of hours in the production room. No one has told me anything about it, but I've paid attention to the crystal clear and heavy production of the album. A production that leaves enough space for the rhythm section (which is much more than important in the case of While Heaven Wept's music because it is the heavy base that all the rest of the music is built upon). There is also a solid sound wall of heavier than ever rhythm guitars yet while keeping enough sound space for lead guitar themes and vocal melodies. On the matter of emphasis the keyboards, and the little symphonic parts, they are in total sound harmony with the rest of the instruments. 'Vast Oceans Lachrymose' is for sure one of the best produced records I have heard lately.

I have already written that Rain Irving is the new power of the band, a band that would be nothing without the vision of Tom Philips, the composer, guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist (he still does some vocals) and main man of While Heaven Wept for 20 years. It is his Vision that guided While Heaven Wept to where they are now... Of course, it is this magic axe of Scott Loose, the brilliant keyboards and vocals of Michelle Schrotz, plus the heavier than the final destruction rhythm section of Jim Hunter (bass) and Trevor Schrotz (drums), that empowers this Vision musically. The result of this union is the masterpiece known as 'Vast Oceans Lachrymose'.

"What the hell this album is made of?", might someone ask after all. Well is made of the Epic Doom of Solitude Aeturnus in its slow and most pounding moments, the skull crushing Steel of Twisted Tower Dire, the ecstatic Prog. musical moments of Pink Floyd, Rush and Brave, the apocalyptic Black Metal of Arcturus with all its symphonic parts, and, not to mention, the whole musical pantheon of While Heaven Wept's past. It is made of faith and dedication, it is made of agony and sorrow, it made of a very special kind of emotional ecstasy and it is made of passion for Metal and Music in general.

Make your choices…


Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. The Furthest Shore
2. To Wander the Void
3. Living Sepulchre
4. Vessel
5. Vast Oceans Lachrymose
6. Epilogue

Duration : Approx. 42 minutes.

Visit the While Heaven Wept bandpage.

Reviewed on 03-11-2009 by Chris Papadakis
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