Ahab has been the proud flag-bearer for funeral doom during the last ten years, with three full-length releases fleshing out a decade which has seen them achieve great popularity for such a niche genre. The AMG ranks are infested with attention-impaired sodomites who don’t understand the genre, but Steel Druhm deservedly credited their third album, The Giant, with a strong 3.5. The German whale-meisters maintain their trend towards nautical literature, this time drawing on William Hope Hodgson’s The Boats of the “Glen Carrig,” a survival-horror turned adventure tale. The creeping tension and monstrous beings provide fitting inspiration for the oppressive doom presented here, and Glen Carrig continues the musical developments made on The Giant.
As was the case with its predecessor, Glen Carrig is funeral doom but less dirgy and at a marginally less glacial pace. Indeed, “Like Red Foam (The Great Storm)” is the fastest song Ahab has written. They expand on the post-rock and progressive influences integrated into The Giant, with ambient passages and greater diversity from their core doom style. This dynamism is demonstrated as the album’s moves through phases of heaviness and subtlety uncharacteristic of an often-overpowering genre. There’s a greater mixture of instrumental and vocal textures in the Glen Carrig repertoire than ever previously, and it’s certainly an interesting listen which avoids the typical funeral doom caveat of musical homogeneity. All this is evident on the four long songs, omitting the comparatively short “ Like Red Foam.” A variety of guitar tones are used, as is the case with Christian Hector’s vocals. His growls are typically excellent but he exercises his cleaner tonsils here, accompanying the atmospheric quiet moments with somber and emotional chants.
Upholding the vocals are the riffs. Considering the relative pace of this album among its peers, the guitar work largely impresses in and of itself rather than just contributing to a wider atmosphere. They make a strong impact such as that at 3:37 of “The Thing that Made Search” and the opening lead on “Like Red Foam.” However, these riffs are strung quite thin when most tracks exceed ten minutes. There is a lack of melodic and technical development on the guitars as the songs progress, grinding promising work into banality. This isn’t a slight against the guitarists’ abilities, rather the song-writing. I enjoy a long song wherein a core lead is retained but evolves: this feels more progressive and cohesive than artificially extending a song by stitching together multiple riffs. However, only the highlight, “The Isle,” consistently demonstrates such development. “Like Red Foam” also updates an earlier riff at the 4:20 mark with an additional melody which heightens the mood.
If I’m harsh on this aspect of the song-writing it’s because Ahab has improved in another: these guys are increasingly utilizing more complex and compelling compositions. Each track has sections in which the harmonies pull together brvtality with melody, offering pleasing milestones as the listener advances through the length. The layering of guitar tracks providing rhythm, leads and shredding is great at the aforementioned moment in “Like Red Foam” and in the last four minutes of “The Weedmen,” to name two examples.
Referencing this layering of guitars, Ahab favors a large production job. Despite the huge sound intrinsic to the genre, the audio quality is quite clear, bypassing dirty or fuzzy productions preferred by others. The quiet moments almost glisten. I don’t mean this as a negative however, as the instrumentation is clear and strong in the heavy moments and delicate in the subtle ones. It may not be cvlt with such studio work but it’s powerful. My only complaint on this front is that guitar solos could be mixed better. I get that the clean shredding tone isn’t typically a part of funeral doom, but they’re almost superfluous since they’re so far back in the mix.
Overall, Glen Carrig is a strong marker of progression in Ahab‘s career. It continues from The Giant but has improved in the harmonies constructed and production utilized. The issue I take with the riffs does let it down, but this is a solid choice for doom aficionados. Journey into the unknown with these seafarers.