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Majestic Downfall : ...When Dead

Majestic Downfall channel classic Peaceville influences with aplomb, passion and craftsmanship.

Say what you like about Paradise Lost, and plenty have done on this forum after their recent and highly commendable attempt at clutching at past straws, but the legacy and influence of their early works cannot go unnoticed. As one of the chaps from Anathema once said, "...they started it all". The opening few minutes of Majestic Downfall's third full release is about as good an homage to the Yorkshire misery-mongers as it gets, and it doesn't stop there. As the album progresses, the sequences of power chords, lead work, atmospherics, and fast Black Metal passages soaked in rich, deathly vocals bring to mind more than one of those early Peaceville releases. But, Majestic Downfall are no one-trick pony stuck in a doomy time warp by any stretch of the imagination...and even if they were, it's all done with such aplomb, passion and craftsmanship they could easily be forgiven for it.

First track proper, 'Escape my Thought', blasts itself into existence in typically bombastic, blackened fashion and brings to mind...oh I don't know, take your pick really...Watain, Enthroned, any of the slightly more polished, revered exponents of the genre. The passages of Black Metal on offer here are great. You've probably heard it all before, sure, but there's an earnestness here, an authenticity which prevents one from reaching for the off button. Also, from a personal standpoint, not having listened to that much Black stuff for a while, it's rather nice to hear some again. Especially given the quality. It's when things begin to slow up however, that it really gets interesting. Traditional Death/Doom segués effortlessly into more mainstream Doom territory of the Candlemass variety, and back again, before cleaner atmospherics take things down a notch further, yet with those rich, death vocals ever present. It even starts to sound like 'Choronzon'-era Akercocke at times...which is no bad thing and such is the smorgasboard of influence woven into the work as a whole I reckon I even spotted some Sisters of Mercy riffage, albeit through a far heavier guitar pedal.

To my own private nod of approval certain tracks are finished off with short solos which help to accentuate the traditional metallic fury held within Majestic Downfall's own peculiar sounds. Not something every album requires, granted, but like I said there's a strong traditional element running through here and they do complement the rest of the sonic scenery rather well. The scenery in question is a wonderfully sublime fusion of styles under the principal banner of blackened Death/Doom and the proficiency in the progressive musical tapestry of the songs ensures that even when things start to chop and change, as they do towards the end of 'The Brick, The Concrete', at no time does the music come across as anything other than a seamless continuum of elegant emotion. The epic Metal passage leading into the solo on this track is an album highlight.

'Doors' is a more sedate affair overall, that is until it blasts its way towards an atmospheric conclusion, but the sedentary pace serves to highlight the passion, and effort that's gone into this release. It thunders and pulses along and also gives the vocal delivery a chance to really shine. Elsewhere throughout the album, the cleaner guitars (bathed in effects) give away a certain gothic influence, but it's merely a seasoning to the main dish, as the heavier workings are never far away in whatever varied forms they take. This is an album that is truly the sum of its parts and its influences, yet manages to stand up a tall and proud musical monolith with its own fierce independence.

If you saturate yourself in Death/Doom and Black Metal then this may not be an album chock full of too many suprises. However, that doesn't mean it should be glossed over. The musicianship, songcraft and production warrant giving '...When Dead' a good few spins and the clever blend of genres which give this release its knockout peculiarities may well see it find a home in your collection. It's an album that can quite reasonably take a well founded place in amongst a few of the classic predecessors that helped inspire it. Finally, if, like myself, you spend much of your time in other genres but love a bit of quality blackened Doom (with traditional leanings) from time to time then hesitate not. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. ...When Dead
2. Escape My Thought
3. The Brick, The Concrete
4. Doors
5. The Rain Of The Dead

Duration : Approx. 53 minutes

Visit the Majestic Downfall bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-12-29 by Matt Halsey
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