By Natalie Zed
Sound is an imprecise science, an every-changing alchemy, and Novembers Doom have been in the laboratory lately. Into Night’s Requiem Infernal and The Novella Reservoir were definitely experiments in adding a more distilled, intense death metal sound, aggressive and violent, red in tooth and claw. On earlier albums, the band experimented with a heavier, more lugubrious doom sound. This can be tricky: too much doom struggles and strangles under its own weight, too heavy to display nimbleness. By contrast, death metal can be too mindlessly aggressive, opaque, all rending limb from limb. Novembers Doom avoids both of these fates with Aphotic. This is an album in balance. The energy level is high, sacrificing no agility for muscle and no volume for tenderness. Whatever the precise distillation of elements, November’s Doom have managed to create something golden. My favourite two tracks on the album are “Burial,” which mixes just the right dose of doom into a vicious, grinding march of a song, with thunderous drums, and “What Could Have Been,” featuring ex-the Gathering singer Anneke Van Giersbergen and Paul Kuhr’s rich, clean vocals against pure acoustic strings. The songs vary greatly, in terms of intensity, but the tone, the theme, is consistently strong enough to unite all the elements into a cohesive whole. The word “aphotic” means lacking light, specifically outside of the range of sunlight, like the abyssal depths of the ocean floor. But there is light here, a strange, phosphorescent light — this album shines. There is no compromise on any of the elements that Novembers Doom incorporate into Aphotic. The death metal vocals are soaked in tar and blood, while the acoustic strings are pure and plaintive. None of the individual elements are watered down — they are so skilfully combined that everything fits, every bit of heaviness and ugliness elevating every bit of tenderness and light.
(The End Records)