It should be fairly apparent by now that I loves me some doom. As of late, I’ve been on an almost exclusively doom-rich diet: death-doom, blackened doom, even “esoteric doom.” I’m beginning to think it might be high time to cut down; after all, a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. But, as always, I’m suckered in by that one last bite… This particular tender morsel comes to me in the form of Americans Cardinal Wyrm and their third release Cast Away Souls, and as it happens, it’s deceptively filling. There is a school of thought which lambastes a reviewer for relying too heavily on comparisons. If you’re that person, look away now, because Cast Away Souls is an unabashed love letter to all spectrums of doom. So pull on your waders, because we’re about to trudge through some seriously viscous riffs.
The album borrows extensively from luminaries, Candlemass, St. Vitus, Cathedral and even Type O Negative. Whilst we are all waiting for the new Candlemass album not to be disappointing, and I’m busy solving the mysteries of alchemy in the small eternity it takes Solitude Aeturnus to bother with new material (Concept of God does not count), I was more than happy to be e-slapped with the promo for Cast Away Souls.
“Silver Eminence” ignites things with some gothic organs and a ritualistic, Gregorian intro. The track eventually begins proper, with some mid-paced riffing courtesy of guitarist Nathan Verrill, sure to get the neck moving. “The Resonant Dead” picks up the pace a little with the album’s most Epicus Doomicus moments, boasting a memorable chorus and layered vocals — it’s clear already that this is a riff-centric release. Drummer and lead vocalist, Pranjal Tiwari, affects an odd combination of Johan Langqvist and Peter Steele, although sadly without the power or presence of either. The vocal department is a particular focus throughout the entire record, oscillating from moribund narration, to melodramatic leads. Souls also sporadically features some black metal backing rasps and, occasionally, rather delicate female vocals from the subtle pipes of newcomer bassist, Leila Abdul-Rauf (Vastum and Hammers of Misfortune), who classes up the joint no end.
“Lost Orison” slips in at the midway point as something of an oddity; mostly acoustic and boasting haunting trumpet lines, conjuring, in my heathen Englishman’s brain, images of the American Frontier. Its folksy nature fits Tiwari’s less than stellar singing well, and works as a refrain from the weight of the album. Speaking of weight, we’re soon treated to an all-out doom-a-thon from the deliciously titled “Soul Devouring Fog” – this 11 minute oaf lurches with the gait of mountains, wearing the proto-funeral of Forest of Equilibrium era Cathedral proudly.
Although it’s hard to complain about any of the music on Cast Away Souls, its Tiwari’s vocals that become increasingly grating as the record continues. Of course, this is a minor quibble and comes down to personal preference – but hearing him attempt to mimic the gothic orations of the late, great Peter Steele and mid-range diatribes of Scott “Wino” Weinrich, all to insipid result, is just annoying.
The unsung hero of Cast Away Souls is, undoubtedly the restraint displayed by Nathan Verrill. “Silver Eminence” and particularly “Grave Passage” both feature verse riffs which border on thrash, curtailed by genre restriction and the dutiful rhythm of the drums. These brief frenzies lend some of the better tracks an urgency, which manages to keep the all-out doom tribute from becoming passé. A rather tasteful, dissonant solo graces “After The Dry Years,” and I can’t help but wonder what extra dimensions Souls would have, had Verrill allowed himself more freedom to maneuver. Although the sound of the guitars is muffled in reverb, my only wish is that the reverb had somewhere to go, as the dynamic range leaves more than a little to be desired. A release like this surely needed some breathing room instead of a claustrophobic mid-range.
I enjoyed my moonlit dinner with Cardinal Wyrm, and to pretend anything less would be a lie. Its flavors weren’t subtle; nor were its seasonings intricate – but the love which clearly went into the creation was honest and robust. Doom aficionados, like Cardinal Wyrm themselves, will wolf this down and although the memory won’t exactly linger on the tongue, it will, most definitely, serve to keep those waiting the long wait for the genre’s more prominent releases, hale, hearty and, for a time, satisfied.