Jan 19, 2010

The Wounded Kings - The Shadow Over Atlantis

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The Wounded Kings debut "Embrace Of The Narrow House" was a minor doom masterpiece in its own right so i couldn't to check out their latest "The Shadow Over Atlantis". The band started out as a 2 man project band but recently became a full band and have even done gigs with Lord Vicar and Gates Of Slumber. The new album is out on I Hate Records who has worked with Count Raven, Hellish Crossfire and Minotaur to name a few. So how does the new album compared with the first? This is darker, heavier, better produced and is more atmospheric than the debut and is already a early pick for the best album of 2010. Musically they still are within the realms of Candlemass, Saint Vitus and Black Sabbath but they have a natural ability to head off in more ambient directions which gives them a unique edge compared with most of the other "run of the mill" doom bands that have flooded the scene over the last few years. One look at the album cover and you are automatically ready for a doom experience and within seconds of the opening track "The Swirling Mist" you are transported into another world that leaves you inspired, mesmerized and focused on the glorious sounds you are hearing. Slow, Sabbath inspired doom blues is how i would explain the guitar work as it has notes that in turn blend into crushing chords and the vocals have a cosmic quality that takes your mind beyond what you are hearing. Melodic touches meets depressing guitar work and they do it all without sounding predictable as far as doom metal excesses are concerned. Its also a song that leaves you confused as to what to focus on, the entire band is smoking so with every spin of the track you find something new to blow you away. The last half of the track is partially brilliant where swirling organ turns to more sparse piano sounds before descending back to some serious doom blues. "Baptism of Atlantis" is up next and it too is a masterpiece of thick, heavy guitar work and atmospheric musical passages. The album follows a theme of the human race losing its spirituality and in doing so mirroring the demise of the Golden age of Atlantis but i was too much enthralled by the music on here to take any notice of the lyrics and more about them later. By the time the second track winds down you are already 18 minutes into the album but it seems more like 5, the music never drags or becomes bogged down.

"Into the Ocean's Abyss" is nothing more that a short piano interlude but this only makes the album seem even more bleak and dark. "The Sons of Belial" is another extended bleak crawling doom track with some incredibly powerful and dramatic chord sequences, once again the band knows just where to leave the spaces in the chord progressions. Like someone said once "its what you don't play, not what you do" and The Wounded Kings know that one all too well. "Deathless Echo" is another short interlude that drowns you in atmosphere, the organ seems to be oozing blood as it plays and while it just plods along the song is rich in texture and dramatics. This leads in the final track "Invocation of the Ancients" which simply crushes you for over 10 minutes, its a raw, haunting oppressive doom cut. The vocals remind me a little of Victor Griffin and i don't know if anyone else hears that but there is some real class to the vocal sounds. The sound is also a little on the low-fi side of things but that just seems to suit the oppressive nature of the songs. The band and album is total doom but there is also hints of post-rock sounds in there and i even hear elements of Dead Meadow in the songs although its in real small doses. The band isn't technically brilliant but their skill is in their ability to construct some of the most raw doom metal ever written but also add to that some elements of pure depression that is somehow beautiful at the same time. Most of the lyrics however i found a little predictable and underwhelming but the vocals sound great within the songs so it doesn't affect the overall listening pleasure of the album. Add to that two interludes that really add to the bleakness of the album rather than to just fill out the album's running time and you have a complete piece of work that is hard to match. If the album was a little longer (as it seems a little on the short side) and the lyrics were a little stronger then this album would be perfect but it still rates as the best album of 2010 so far. 9.5/10

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