|The Howling Void's third full-length is an excellent piece of work.|
|There's something of a pattern emerging from The Howling Void's continued association with Solitude Productions: once again, with this third full-length release, taking on the look, feel and sound of an album hailing from the label's traditional stomping grounds of the northern European/Eurasian scene. Not that it's any the worse for doing so, just that it's a bit of a surprise to discover something so very Russian-looking – even down to the use of Nikolai Ge's classically gloomy oil painting 'Conscience, Judas' as cover art – originated in Texas. It's all the work of one Ryan (no last name given), showing a rather different side to his works with Grindcore/Noise veterans Intestinal Disgorge.
This side is cut from a now-firmly established Funeral Doom blueprint where the unique selling point is probably the extensive use of keyboards in amongst the massive, deep-enough-to-drown-in layers of sound. It's perhaps worth remembering at this point that it is a solo project, and therefore something of an achievement to create such an expansive musical landscape at all, let alone one so clearly and crisply mixed and mastered. It is, to be fair, the sort of quality we have almost come to expect from Solitude releases, but there's certainly no harm in continuing to draw attention to the professionalism in that.
It is, however, a truism that it is somewhat tricky to bring anything very new to the often-disparaged Funeral genre, and 'The Womb Beyond The World' is unlikely to win any prizes for musical innovation or boundary-shattering experimentalism. It sets out along familiar lines: 15-minute tracks slowly unfolding through repetitive, hypnotic, guitar-led sequences and dreamy, polyphonic synthesiser textures, underwritten by – thankfully, and with more flair than often accompanies such projects – real drums and occasional deep vocal growls. Appreciation of such monoliths relies upon a certain viewpoint that the journey is more important than the destination, and a certain willingness to be swept up along that journey, heedless of the fact that there is no apocalyptic revelation waiting at the end.
Taken in those terms, it is an excellent piece of work, following on naturally from the previous 'Shadows Over The Cosmos' with another series of cold and melancholy flights through spaces where light seldom touches and sadness reverberates through the empty ether. Despite the frequent grinding distortion of the guitars, there is little bitterness and no rage conjured here: this is no primal scream being let loose, but an impersonal and fatalistic weight of destruction - where the body of the album mourns amidst the ashes of endings and decay, until it culminates in the relatively short (8-minute), elegiac evocation of absolute sorrow that is 'Eleleth'.
With the increased use of keyboards to provide choral voices and sustained themes, there are moments when this sounds an awful lot like early Shape Of Despair: indeed, the languid, somewhat cool delivery throughout makes that not a bad comparison even when it isn't quite vividly bringing to mind 'Woundheir'. There again, it has already been noted that 'The Womb Beyond The World' is a refinement within the genre, not pushing out into new territories: it was bound to sound like a bit like something else. It might just as well be one of the best, in that case.
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1. The Womb Beyond The World
2. The Silence Of Centuries End
3. Lightless Depths
Duration : Approx. 60 minutes
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