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Blessed Realm : Doomography 1993 - 2002 (Compilation)

Blessed Realm's rough demos, remastered as far as possible, total up to a genuine unpolished diamond.

Ok, let's see. The early nineties was a golden age in the history of UK Doom. This we know. You can bleat on about how you don't like Paradise Lost's 'rough sounding' debut, or how Anathema only came of age after Darren White left. You can even knock Cathedral's eclectic sense of musicality and their personal struggles with a major label. But for those of us who were there, watching the musical landscape change forever at the hands of a relatively small bunch of bands, the time will be fondly remembered as one when heavy music was still evolving with abundant creativity, and Grunge hadn't quite managed to kill everything else off, as so many would have had us believe.

Judging by this retrospective, Blessed Realm were clearly immersed deeply in the practices of such Doom back then. Wearing their influences - from Sabbath and Pentagram all the way through the likes of St. Vitus and Trouble to contemporaries like Candlemass and the aforementioned Cathedral - proudly on their sleeves, their music blends much of all the good shit that made those other bands revered in the ways they were. A couple of years ago, (backstage at the Doom Over Edinburgh festival), an old friend of the band, Sealey from UK Trad Doomsters Iron Void, instigated a plan to have the musical legacy of Blessed Realm finally see the light of day. Scottish label At War With False Noise got involved, and James Plotkin gave the songs some additional mastering. It has to be said, seeing as there were no 'master copies' to speak of, he's done a pretty fine job.

Of course we are dealing with the bands demos here, and this is Doom-metal.com, not Kerrang! So, if freshly polished fare is your thing then this may be a mite tricky on the old lugs. That said, if Doom be the very essence of heavy metal (and I strongly suggest that it is) then this CD may also be concocted from the very essence of Doom. An uncut diamond it may be, but a diamond it is none the less. What we have here is a musical tale. A band's evolution from humble origins and nervy first steps through to more confident offerings that very nearly saw them recording an album proper.

'Red Dawn', the opening track, effectively crystalises everything this compilation is really all about. Quality of song writing, decent musicianship, and those unashamed influences shining through a rather murky production. (I personally found a pair of decent headphones with the bass turned all the way up worked best). As far as a debut recording goes, the 'Redemption' demo (the first two tracks here) from 1995 is simply bursting with potential. The only sticking point might be with the vocals, but, as we'll see, they don't remain an issue for too long.

Unfortunately, the band saw themselves without a drummer for a spell during the mid nineties, which means that tracks three and four come resplendent with a drum machine. I'm not a fan of drum machines in rock per se, ('Floodland' by The Sisters of Mercy might be the sole exception) but, in the context of 'Doomography''s lo-fi approach, they pretty much get away with it. 1996's 'Chasing the Dragon' demo is more of the Candlemass/Trouble hybrid Doom we got from the opening brace of songs, but with a slight hint that the singer is begining to find his feet.

1998 saw the release of the 'Return to Zero' demo, which might as well have "now we're talking" as its sub-heading. Clearly the regular gigs were helping to tighten things up a notch or two and a 'real' drummer back in the fold gives some much needed feel to the songs. Perhaps this particular demo showcases the two standout (but by no means only) sides to Blessed Realm. The slower elements of Sabbath, Candlemass and St.Vitus coupled with the bluesy riffage and metal of The Obsessed and Trouble. On the subject of The Obsessed, final demo 'Crawl' from 2000, has got the greasy signature delivery of Wino all over it. No bad thing in my book, no bad thing at all. By now, the overall sound of the band is leaning heavily in favour of the US Stoner end of things whilst final offering 'Spiritual Solitude' backtracks on this theory and throws a slower bit of Trad back in the mix; the band and vocals all sounding tight, confident and well seasoned. What a shame that album never surfaced.

So, what happened then? Why are we listening to a collection of demos, and not the re-issue with expanded packaging of Blessed Realm's debut album? Well, I could tell you, but it would be better if you checked out the interview accompanying this review. Vocalist Kat gives a far better account of things than I ever could, and you'll get a wonderfully candid look back into the history of one of the UK's hidden treasures of Doom. As far as underground Doom goes though, this is about as good as it gets.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
'Redemption' Demo 1995
1. Red Dawn
2. Where Winds Whisper My Cry
'Chasing The Dragon' Demo 1995
3. Lost Horizons
4. Circle Of Misery
5. Wasted (Rehearsal '99)
'Return To Zero' Demo 1995
6. Bleeder
7. Black Hole
8. Two Time Loser
'Crawl' Demo 1995
9. Crawl
10. Jezebel
11. Before My Eyes (Rehearsal '99)
12. Spiritual Solitude (2001)

Duration : Approx. 79 minutes

Visit the Blessed Realm bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-09-24 by Matt Halsey
A Dream Of Poe - The Wraith Uncrowned
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