Feb 28, 2012

Pale Divine - Painted Windows Black ...

If there is one band that defines the Maryland doom scene, it would be Pale Divine. Since forming some 17 years ago, they are still underrated by many but they are worshipped by many doomsters and rightly so. They are also far more of an influence that most people will ever know, inspiring countless bands, especially traditional doom-metal outfits. Looking back at their career, they have never made a wrong step. Their first recording was the magical 'Crimson Tears' demo back in 1997 which was followed by the incredibly good 'Thunder Perfect Mind' in 2001.

After a three-year wait and they released another excellent full length in 'Eternity Revealed' but it was their 2007 album, 'Cemetary Earth' that proved to be their masterpiece, at least to my ears anyway. Last year they were featured on a split with Spiritus Mortis but apart from that, it has been 5 years between albums for the band. Pale Divine are your "classic" trad-doom band - a band that doesn't try to reinvent anything because in many respects, they are the inventors so they don't have to. Of course Shadow Kingdom Records reissued 'Crimson Tears' in 2008 because it was thought the band was over and done with.  But the band made a triumphant return at 2011’s Days of the Doomed fest in Wisconsin and it was obvious that this band shouldn't go anywhere - the doom scene needs bands like this one!

Most of the 68 minutes of 'Painted Windows Black' is typical Pale Divine and you wouldn't want it any other way with a band as genre defining as this one. What grabbed me when I first listened to this album is it sounds soooo Pale Divine - so recognizable, so them and there are very few bands in the traditional doom scene that have a sound that is uniquely theirs. Bands like Candlemass have it and maybe a few others but Pale Divine are one of those rare bands that stand out on their own and this album further reinforces that fact. What is also true about this album and ALL albums from this band is they always manage to make the old trad formula sound fresh. It never sounds old, tired or recycled and this album is no different.  This album is full of infectious hooks, catchy riffs, classic 70's hard rock elements, great melodic leads and hypnotic atmosphere. The album's opening instrumental, 'Nocturne Dementia' is over 6 minutes of finely tuned musicianship that is deceptively complex. The track is faster than anything else on the album but in terms of atmosphere, it perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the album.

'The Prophet' is up next and it is the start of 7 perfect, almost flawless songs that grab your imagination and never let go. 'The Prophet' is still over five minutes long but it is the albums shortest track and what sounds like the most simple offering the album has but it still sounds epic. The songs are incredibly well-crafted so even the 9 minutes plus of the following tune, 'Angel of Mercy' keeps your attention right up to its dying seconds. So gifted as songwriters is this band that they know exactly when something has run its course so there are tempo changes at just the right time and some of the riff switches are so precise and well-placed, these songs never get dull. I could rave on endlessly about how good songs like 'End of Days' and 'Black Coven' are but honestly I would just start repeating myself. Song for song, this album is relentlessly good but there are no real surprises either but like I already pointed out, you wouldn't want that to happen anyway.

If there is a downside to 'Painted Windows Black' it is all the best songs seem to be in the first half of the album - not that there is anything wrong with the albums second half but it does seem like the most memorable tunes end with track four - 'End of Days.' The highlight of the album's second half without a doubt is 'Shadow Soul (The Awakening)' which is unfairly placed so late in the albums playing order. This track would have made the perfect opener in my mind. What makes this album work though is the cohesive song construction and the flawless playing. There are no dull passages, no moments where they just mindlessly plod along and it is captivating at all times. The musicianship is majestic, epic and full of grandeur and class and the production is near-perfect also. I rate this release second only to the 'Cemetery Earth' album but I know many people will hear this as their best work yet. A must-have for 2012...9/10.

Official PALE DIVINE website

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