Its been a long time since I’ve been impressed by a doom metal record. You would figure it would be a pretty easy thing to get the hang of, if you think about it: create an atmosphere of (circle one: sorrow, solitude, deep introspection) utilizing well-timed (female vocals, violin, acoustic guitar) passages before (crushing ruthlessly, lamenting sadly, turning loose some swans). Yet somehow, at best, recent doom releases have given me a feeling of “meh,” and at worst, eliciting some unintentional chuckles. Eye of Solitude have a few things going for them: they’re young (only been around since 2010), they’re UK-based (and they KNOW their doom metal over there), and they’re hungry. Canto III, their third album, not only has given me hope for the genre once more, but they also have a serious contender for a Best of 2013 record.
Some synths and timpani drumming kick off “Act I: Between Two Worlds (Occularis Infernum),”followed by some morose riffing (think Solinari-era Morgion) before the sub-guttural growls of Daniel Neagoe launch the song in earnest almost three minutes in. Already, there’s a suffocating feeling of dread and despair, further punctuated by near-Gregorian chanting at the 4:08 mark, Neagoe’s growling in Latin, and the intro guitar riff played solemnly again by bassist Chris Davies until, at 5:18, it turns into a doom-metal equivalent of Bolt Thrower. You can go back and read that sentence again. I’ll wait. Blast beats and flourishes (expertly played by Adriano Ferrano), tremolo-picked rhythms, alternating low/mid growls… and not once does the feeling of despair diminish via tempo change or insane aggression. When the song finally ends, you feel like you’ve just got your soul sucked out of you.
And they keep up this feeling throughout all 66 minutes of Canto III. A large part of that atmosphere is achieved courtesy of keyboardist Pedro Caballero-Clemente. His tasteful piano playing sets up the standout “Act III: He Who Willingly Suffers”; not overdone, frilly, or cheesy at all, it’s a simple-yet-effective melody which conveys the mood better than any overwrought orchestral patch could ever do. Between Cabellero-Clemente’s melodies and the drums of Ferrano midway through the song, it keeps the it engaging even before the tremolo-picked madness by guitarists Indee Rehal-Sagoo and Mark Antoniades resumes. “Act V: I Sat In Silence” slows the overall tempo down just a hair (note the “overall,” as it’s still got its fast moments), with a beautifully sung passage midway through the song, and a solemn, heartrending keyboard outro.
If there’s any knocks on this record, it’s mostly the production. It can be a little bit too suffocating at times, most notably on the fast parts where it feels like it blurs together. However, that also works to the album’s advantage, as the suffocating feeling adds to the overall atmospheric package. Also, some of Neagoe’s vocals can be a bit too overdramatic (the Latin growling in “Act I…,” the faux-crying in “Act III…”), but he’s an impressive growler and singer, so that’s really nitpicking.
So, Anathema, My Dying Bride, and Paradise Lost finally have a little brother worthy of continuing their storied lineage in UK-based death doom. Eye of Solitude impresses on Canto III like a group of seasoned bards, and this is only their third album and third year of existence. If they keep up this trend, their name will be said in the same hushed, respected tones as their predecessors. Definitely worthy of owning [And that’s quite an awesome cover too! — Steel “Art Critic” Druhm].