Written by Mass
- Novembers Doom
- Nephilim Grove
- Dark Metal – Doom Metal – Death-Doom Metal
- November 1, 2019
- Chicago, Illinois, USA
- Highlights: Black Light – Adagio – The Clearing Blind – The Witness Marks – The Obelus
- Rating: 8.3
This Time Tomorrow, Our Story Will Be No More
Nephilim Grove marks the American death doom giants, Novembers Doom’s 30th anniversary. Indeed, an infrequent feat (at least these days) to celebrate. Thirty years of firm, ferocious and fanciful activity, breaking necks as well as breaking hearts. Having been released on November 1st, the album insinuates, all so subtly, the symbolic capacity that it possesses: the quintessence of the band’s career or their next step on their path… or maybe simultaneously both?
“Petrichor” kicks the album open. A previously-made-available single track of the album, for which a music video was created. Some eerie, cinematic opening right before the band’s trademark guitaring, hand in hand with Garry Naples’s drumming, grabs the listener by the collar and fixes them on a seat so that Paul Kuhr could land his vocal punches. And landing punches he does, albeit not all strong; but the musicianship, particularly the black metal drum frenzy and the striking solo, is captivating enough to glue you to your chair. “The Witness Marks” kicks up death metal elements a notch and more growls can mean a heftier track. Then the title track appears; it sounds promising at first, with its downhearted guitar intro, but fails to leave an impression as it is soon rendered mundane. Not much differs once the album hits the fourth track, What We Become, but the fact that clean vocals sort of drag on and, were it not for the emotive late-1990s-Anathema-like soft spoken and lyrical break followed by a redeeming guitar solo, the song would be the trough of the album.
But despair not as “Adagio” comes to the rescue. It is a robust doom song on which Kuhr puts one of his best performances on this album; just a fine dose of his clean singing is added to his deep growls to yield the album’s second best vocal composition. Dynamic and diverse drumming, accompanied by a riff which borders on melodic in part, creates a transition toward the superior half of the album, in addition to being one of the highlights. The only piece that towers “Adagio”, as far as singing is concerned, is its ensuing track. Tilted heavily towards death metal, “Black Light” is the stage upon which all members shine brightest. Vito Marchese and Larry Roberts have come up with a soaring riff and befitting yet short solos and Mike Feldman’s bass momentarily finds room to express itself. Once again, Garry Naples’s drums permeate and relentlessly leave nothing more to wish for.
Following is “The Clearing Blind”, a song very much in a similar vein as Katatonia’s later works. It is somewhat melodic and to an extent progressive and this is what has caused this resemblance of sound. “Still Wrath”, on the other hand, is more vigorous but less impressive since clean singing is dominant. It is saved only by a growling break and an OK guitar solo. Then to our surprise, the closing track is a melodic (one might even call it melodic death) piece which is again musically top-notch, in particular drumming is forceful and tops other musicians’ performances, bearing the final highlight of the album.
It would be brutally unfair to conclude this review without mentioning the exceptionally stunning artwork of the album. It is done by Pig Hands and it delivers the very essence of Novembers Doom in itself: dark, evil and foreboding yet detailed and artful. It is unquestionably one highlight of the artworks this year.
All in all, and despite the album’s symbolic significance, it fails to epitomize the American Death Doomers’ 30 years of activity with the highest quality. Be not mistaken, though. It IS Novembers Doom, but it is not the best the band have portrayed to date. Still Nephilim’s Grove is a rock solid album and has a first-rate death doom soul, not to mention its corporal excellence owing to the competent musicians. It is the trusty Novembers Doom, but it is just not their finest work.