Album of the Month

The debut full-length from Greek band Automaton is weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection.
(Read more)

Random band

Initially a fairly straightforward Gothic/Doom band, Yaroslav's Sea Of Despair have subsequently become more theatrical and experimental, dabbling i...
(read more)

Shadow Suite : The Mysteries Of Autumn Told In Sounds (Video)

Besides a guest review of the video release of Shadow Suite's live tribute to Estatic Fear, this article also covers the full concert from which it was taken.

Editor's Note: Please be aware that the following article is not a standard review of the digital-only audio and video release of 'The Mysteries Of Autumn Told In Sounds', which is an excerpt from the debut Shadow Suite concert of 17/11/16. The release itself only covers their tribute to Estatic Fear with the first-ever live performance of the first two tracks from 'Somnium Obmutum'.
Despite the brevity of Estatic Fear's back catalogue, it has a deservedly classic cult reputation and a significant worldwide fanbase. We were offered a unique opportunity to present an extended piece covering not just the video, but coverage of the concert from which it was taken, alongside a separate piece elaborating Estatic Fear's history and influence, which can be found here.
Accordingly, this article is split into three sections: a guest review submitted for the video release, followed by two views of the full concert, the first by one of the promoters of the event, and the second from a member of the audience.
Although the broader views do include reference to the content of the release, and the guest video review contains the author's personal scoring, we do not consider it appropriate or possible to derive an aggregrate site rating score from them, and present them as submitted for interest and informational purposes only.
It is a long article, so links are provided to navigate more easily (use the 'top of article' links to return to the full page view):

Concert review by Artem Svobodin
Concert review by Eugenia Levitsky

Video review by Andrey Dombra

How is a quality musical piece made? Put your soul into music, colour it with inspiration, polish it with endeavor and skill, then implement it into a finalized form and send it traveling across the hearts of listeners. It seems that in this release the debutants followed this recipe precisely.

So, it has come true. Months of preparations, weeks or rehearsals, an hour of triumph on stage, minute by minute video editing and second by second sound mastering, and Shadow Suite's debut web-release 'The Mysteries Of Autumn Told In Sounds' has been presented for Doom metal fans' attention.

It's a bit unusual to write a report about a video release that has no physical carrier - however, in our times of universal Internet access and digital distribution this has become a norm, especially for new and indie performers. The release is spread freely on the web: it is a 34 minute long video consisting of two chapters - the acoustic lute intro 'Des Nachtens suss Gedone' and a half-hour long Symphonic Doom epic 'Somnium Obmutum', which corresponds to the original order of the tracks on Estatic Fear's album that Shadow Suite paid tribute to. The video is put together in a straightforward manner: general information about the concert and Shadow Suite's logo, the concert itself, credits, applause, end. Besides the video there is an artistically shot concert teaser including a cover of another Estatic Fear's piece, 'As Autumn Calls', available for watching online:

Shadow Suite - 'As Autumn Calls':

The video starts unpretentiously, with a minstrel performing his lute solo in the domain of shadows on the stage of a century old theater. Static remote frontal footage, a not particularly sharp picture, the small noises of a concert hall: this introduction gives very little idea of what a storm of sounds, images and perspectives follows it, however, it sets the necessary atmosphere, putting the listeners into a lyrical mood and evoking an anticipation of an ancient mystery, a sad and even tragic one.

The minstrel finishes the 'Des Nachtens suss Gedone' introductory theme and the musical narration immediately passes to the main piece, 'Somnium Obmutum'. That's where the light tech and cameramen's work begins – a blizzard of angles, zoom-ins, shadows, rays, flashes and highlights that build momentum and slow it down again, led by the dynamics of the song performed. Not all angles are shot well: due to technical issues, some of them look rather like blurry amateur footage. However, that doesn't spoil the general impression from the show because most of the video material was of a much better quality. Video editing gets a solid 4 out of 5. In spite of imperfect source materials and small issues it can be seen that someone put their heart and effort into it.

Most of Shadow Suite's members follow the canons of academic music (or gloomy gothic metal) for stage presence: they thoughtfully and with inspiration perform their parts, while, as for the frontman and the lead guitarist, they were actively engaging the auditory as a metal gig normally implies. The frontman was profoundly expressive - when performing the highly contrasting music and poetry of Estatic Fear, he was clearly living through them, transforming in turns into a maître in front of the keyboard and a roaring faun with a microphone, naturally accentuating the text and music with facial expressions and gestures.

A listener unfamiliar with Estatic Fear's works might be surprised by the opus's length of 32 minutes: after all, there are many metal albums which aren't much longer than that. I can assure you that the piece will not seem dragged on or monotonous, as the themes constituting it change elaborately just as in an excellent symphonic suite. Each theme is charged with its own feeling and altogether they intertwine into a one-of-a-kind emotionally saturated composition. When you're listening to it half an hour will fly past, provided you are a Symphonic Doom metal fan. I'd grade Shadow Suite's performance with 5 out of 5 for precise transferring of the emotions and atmosphere of Estatic Fear's original composition.

If you compare Shadow Suite's arrangement with the original, you'll feel that the musicians took arranging the piece most seriously: it's almost note-by-note precise, even the female voice timbre and extreme male voice techniques were picked perfectly. The cover's metal parts sound a bit deeper and more modern than in the original, while the lute and classical guitar parts are a bit weaker and rougher, which is definitely an expected issue for a live recording of acoustics over a microphone; the flute and keys sound just as flawless as the vocals. The tracks’ audio mastering was made thoroughly and professionally. The concert's musical component gets 4.5, because of the problematic sound of the acoustic guitar and several other minor rough spots understandable for a live performance of extraordinarily complex material.

Review conclusion:

Was the cover of Estatic Fear's 'Somnium Obmutum' played worthy of the original? Definitely yes. Shadow Suite performed it perfectly, and not as a mechanical copy but as a top-notch interpretation.

It's an ambitious, honest and most professionally prepared debut scoring 4.5+ out of 5 in total. We're looking forward to hearing Shadow Suite's own music, it should be quite interesting considering their solid approach to music-making.

As for some other covers performed at the show (Katatonia, Empyrium, and Merula), they are planned to be released later in Summer-Fall 2017. Although they debuted with a live tribute to the masters of doom metal, Shadow Suite would like to emphasize they do not intend to be a cover band.

Top of article
Concert Review by Eugenia Levitsky

Concert Review by Artem Svobodin

Shadow Suite: Art for the sake of art (a subjective concert report from 17/11/2016).

Each sub-genre of metal music has its legends acclaimed within a very small auditory, the 'kvlt' rarities. These are albums gaining little popularity, achieving no commercial success, released in quite insignificant number of copies, however they are totally revered by their scarce fans as a quality standard, a fruit of pure art and musicians' inspiration.

Within Symphonic Doom metal, the '96 and '99 releases by Austrian metal band Estatic Fear can be considered as such. And it was the former of these that was paid tribute at the debut concert of St. Petersburg's Shadow Suite project on 17.11.2016.

The high spot of Shadow Suite's setlist - performed right after an acoustic intro piece, also written by Estatic Fear, 'Des Nachtens Suss Gedone' (The night's sweet delight) played on an impressively ancient and complex archlute - was the 32 minute long epic 'Somnium Obmutum', a track with highly sophisticated internal structure, heartfelt neoclassical melodies, soul tearing wailing of doom guitar, and thunder-like metal parts.

On that freezing autumn evening the majority of people in the hall came to the "Opera" club to hear this song especially, and the quality and precision of delivery was exactly as announced. The audience was not numerous, but its degree of elation totally compensated for that. The very first melancholic sounds of 'Somnium Obmutum' summoned the tide of listeners towards the stage, where eight professionals, eight talents, were weaving the tapestry of the sombre Austrian interrupted dream (that's how the title translates from Latin). Vague fear and winged ecstasy - ecstasy and fear - intertwined like vines through this medieval metal saga, weaving their paradoxical harmony. Perhaps owing to the club's very architecture and entourage, the performance had the air of a theatre...or a temple. A mysterious show of shadows, images, and sounds, a Symphonic Doom metal Mass. On the left hand, there were two infernal metal guitarists clad in darkness (bass and rhythm), then - in the central spot – the penumbral 'metal deacon' conducting the mystical metal service from his keyed "CME" ambon: the vocalist, keyboardist, arranger, he shadowed the female vocalist standing by his side like a marble statue of an antique muse (soprano, keyboard), behind them sat the drummer's hell's kitchen, delivering fierce blastbeats and orchestral percussion parts in turns; on his right hand was the acoustic guitarist performing the neoclassical and baroque motives with demure academicism; further right was the flute-player, sitting like a pensive naiad soothing the listeners with dreamy tunes interwoven into pastoral patterns with the guitar, keys, and vocals. Yet further right and closer to the listeners was the solo guitarist, conjuring his contrasting magic. As for the lutenist and the cellist with viola da gamba, they came to the stage later, to perform the metal arrangement of T. Merula's 'Canzonetta'.

'Somnium Obmutum', the elegiac-dysphoric legend resurrected on this stage, carried the listeners across a sea of intense emotions, through squalls and calms, through dreams and nightmares, storms and sunlit serenity, and the auditory responded with uttermost liveliness to its waves, all immersed into a musical catharsis.

By the efforts of Shadow Suite, this half-decayed Austrian tapestry was woven all anew, and with a surgical precision - in slightly brighter colours, even, owing to a clearer and more distinct sound output than Estatic Fear's studio original. Even the most sophisticated intoning and varied manners of shrieks and growls were delivered perfectly, while the academic female vocals sounded slightly richer than in the original. There were certain rough spots in the acoustic and solo guitar parts: at times there were some sound issues (basically, those found at any live shows). However, to summarize the impressions of the interrupted dream: despite the technical difficulties right at the beginning of the show, this was a genuine triumph of music, a new flight of a phoenix, long since burned to ashes, that no one could have anticipated. One could sense the enormous effort made to prepare the concert and feel the sincere inspiration that the performers drew from the original piece, as well as the refined professionalism of the musicians. I cannot wait for the mastered recording of the show [*], to live through all this again. Somehow, Shadow Suite's arrangement even managed to expand my perception of the original 'Somnium Obmutum': an album I've played to death during the 12 years since I first discovered Estatic Fear.

[*] Editor's note: This has now been released, in both video format as 'The Mysteries Of Autumn...' and as a free mp3 download with bonus tracks available on Mediafire.

Although that was the centrepiece of the night's programme, Shadow Suite performed a number of other songs that evening. These comprised:

A 3-minute metal improvisation with oriental chords and a meditative drum rhythm that was played while the technical issues with keyboard presets were being resolved. It turned out all right, and was professionally performed; perhaps it could serve as the draft for a full-fledged song.
'La Clameur du Silence' - a Dark Sanctuary cover. High art, pure neoclassics, an elegy with no dark metal edging. It was performed by two musicians - keyboards and female vocals - played very close to the original. By the eyes and movements of the musicians one could tell that they were putting their very souls into the song, all immersed into it.
'With The Current Into Grey' - an Empyrium cover. The "metal deacon" vocalist demonstrated that his clean sensitive singing capabilities matched his outstanding extreme metal ones. It was a pleasant existential metal ballad.
'Brave', by Katatonia: an energizing old school piece, given an excellent juicy and sparkling performance for some serious headbanging.
'Canzonetta spirituale sopra la nanna', by T. Merula, arranged by Shadow Suite. A most curious baroque piece, music-wise, it seemingly contained a rocking riff even in its original form, and it rocked hard in this metal arrangement. Acoustic sound picking from the lute and viola da gamba was rather weak yet sufficient, the baroque vocal was beyond praise, as it was during the whole show; the metal parts reverbed with medieval acoustics in harmony.

Another two planned covers had to be omitted because of the technical problems at the beginning of the show that had stolen time from it: these were 'Whatever That Hurts' and 'The Ar', by Tiamat.

We feel that Shadow Suite's debut was a total explosion of quality music. To achieve Estatic Fear's level of musicianship at first attempt, to touch that eternity and bring the fans of this contrasting and rare music to ecstasy, to record the performance to be released for free spreading over the Internet - these were unprecedented steps on the road to success in the Doom metal scene. It's hard to anticipate any commercial success for such a niche project, but - come on - the main thing is these amazing feelings which this music invokes in the hearts of the fans of this subgenre of metal! And that is Shadow Suite: art purely for the sake of art, where fans perform their favorite music for other fans.

(A Russian language version of this concert review was originally published at VKontakte.)

Top of article
Concert review by Artem Svobodin

Concert Review by Eugenia Levitsky, Estatic Fear's devoted fan since 2005

Is there any music that you love to such an extent that you feel jealous when it's played live by anyone else but the original performer? Have you ever heard a young band that play covers of a famous band's songs - and how many of these proved to be good enough?

Within my recollection, excellent covers have been very few, and the announcement of a concert dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the legendary first album of Estatic Fear - a band I adore so much - evoked mixed feelings, including curiosity. Previously, no one had ever heard this music played on stage. Moreover, there are no scores, no tabs, no materials one could use to perform either one of these pieces. That meant the musicians had to pick all the notes by ear. I have picked snippets of 'Somnium Obmutum' and other songs many times, but to do the whole suite is a really enormous job involving different instruments, and Shadow Suite literally challenged the author with that!

My decade-long love affair with Estatic Fear's music, my curiosity and doubt, a skeptical mood: these were the feelings I had while getting through the snow and rain (which certainly contributed some flair to the event). And then I entered the doors of the 'Opera' concert club. The atmosphere inside was mysterious: reddish light, high ceilings, dark walls and cathedral-like acoustics. All this caused a thrill and built my interest for the performance that I proceeded to observe from the balcony.

Familiar music commenced playing in the half-darkness, it was the lutenist who starting making his sorcery, performing 'Des Nachtens suss Gedone'. At that point I assumed that I might have been wrong to doubt the musicians, so I bated my breath. And it was worth doing! Yes, indeed, because as soon as the lights went out, a guitar started singing hoarsely in the arms of Evgeniy, other instruments joined in, and Roman (the vocalist), as if in a state of trance, began the cantillation in Latin. I really wanted to find faults in it, but I was unable to – all guitars, keys (played by Irina), and vocals, all merged into one unified body of music, and Valeriy (the drummer) was its heartbeat.

I can't help but mention the flawless sound of the keys, since I especially adore their gentle play on 'Somnium Obmutum', as well as the vivid - yet at the same time, soft - transitions to heavy metal riffs. The flute needs no introductions, its gentle twitter seemed as though it was constantly spilling light onto this gloomy orchestra - it felt like the sun coming out to shine after a cataclysmic hurricane.

The acoustic guitar was warbling like a mountain stream, it sparkled like transparent drops caught in the flute's sunbeams. The hall's acoustics added a special charm to the performance, with a slight echoing that resonated in the walls and the ceiling, giving the sense of volume and extra depth. Sometimes it felt as though the music wasn't produced on the stage but, rather, it was omnipresent, all around us and inside of us, that we were the music itself.

Irina's voice differs from that of Marion, who performed the female vocal parts in the original recording - however, I would never have doubted Irina, as I had heard her singing long before the concert, that's why I wasn't surprised that her delivery gave me the most pleasant sensations. Whereas Roman did surprise me with his extreme vocals: a couple of times I even caught myself thinking: "How can such a slim young man produce these demonic deep-chested sounds?" But he could, and he did it masterfully.

We should do justice to the lighting technician for great lighting in the hall, especially during the "heavy" dynamic parts. And the spectators fully responded to the music, headbanging to it, flapping their hair; The Helmet [a metal concert reporter wearing a toy Viking helmet] deserved especial appreciation - his wild horns were constantly flickering in front of the stage, adding to the mood and the drive of the show.

Overall, I got extremely positive impressions from the concert. Being a jealous Estatic Fear fan, I take my hat off to Shadow Suite. Of course, there were some minor issues, but they would only be concerns if you're really picky - don't forget that the concert was entirely organized and funded by the musicians themselves. I can confidently say that the performance was highly professional and emotional, and this new band made a statement about itself as a Doom metal orchestra capable of working productively and seamlessly.

Should you attend Shadow Suite's possible future gigs? My answer is clear: yes, it's a must! Just watch their concert video of November 17, 2016, and see for yourself: YouTube.

Top of article
Concert review by Artem Svobodin
Concert review by Eugenia Levitsky

Click HERE to discuss this review on the doom-metal forum.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Des Nachtens suss Gedone
2. Somnium Obmutum

Duration : Approx. 34 minutes

Visit the Shadow Suite bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-06-25 by various guests
Advertise your band, label or distro on doom-metal.com