Imagine, if you will, a world torn asunder by racial and cultural intolerance. Entire countries are erased, and many religions are shunned, their followers persecuted or worse. Now picture, if you can, a united Europe acting as a new Babylon, a holy ground for those seeking shelter from the bitter storms of prejudice and hate, and bustling with diversity, all while impending doom is just looming over the amber horizon. Such a lofty world is given life on Seven Heads Ten Horns, the fourth album by Italian gothic doom sextet, The Foreshadowing.
We start off with a beautiful, lush instrumental in “Ishtar.” Bells, mandolins, and melodic hums all gel together to entice the listener into a majestic, magical world full of mystique and awe. The drumming by new drummer Giuseppe Orlando (ex-Novembre) intensifies, as if something horrible is afoot. That aforementioned something would be the following track, “Fall of Heroes.” Okay, “horrible” is a strong word, so we can replace that with “pedestrian,” “lackadaisical,” and “middling,” because all the promise built up from the preceding track is dashed by simplistic riffing, occasionally interesting drumming, and an amazing lack of what we call a “hook.” And then we have vocalist Marco Benevento, who could be best described as a cross between a bored Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode) and a post-nap Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity). His voice, while not technically bad, is so out-of-place on here that it’s distracting, and instead of elevating the music to levels of merely tolerable, they enhance the snooze factor to outrageous levels.
This wouldn’t be such a problem if “Fall of Heroes” wasn’t one of the stronger tracks on here, but yet there’s seven more songs and another 47 minutes on here that don’t quite measure up. “Two Horizons” begins with promise, reminding me of Funeral‘s amazing From These Wounds before Benevento starts yawning his way through the song. “17,” a story about a woman riding a beast with seven heads and ten horns, actually made me yearn for another song of almost the same name, featuring a young Kip Winger pirouetting with a bass guitar. But it’s the completely unnecessary, overly indulgent 14-minute closer “Nimrod” that condemns Seven Heads Ten Horns to eternal damnation. Overwrought vocal passages, build-ups with absolutely no pay-off, riffs that meander off to nowhere, and the sheer audacity that this song is fourteen fucking minutes long is just a big old pile of NO in my book.
Mixed and mastered by the Wieslawski brothers in Hertz Studio in Poland, Seven Heads Ten Horns is as professional-sounding as it gets. There’s a beautiful sheen to the keyboards, the guitars don’t bite too hard, and Benevento is front-and-center. This would be all fine and dandy if the music could match, but this is the prettiest-sounding middle-of-the-road album I’ve ever heard in my entire life. As a doom fan, this should be right up my alley, but after spending a week with this, none of it engages or sinks its fangs into me. It’s a beautiful painting you can’t touch, or a picturesque landscape you’re not allowed to step foot on. It’s just “there.”
And “there” is not a good place for a band on their fourth album with a history stretching back over a decade. The Foreshadowing need to engage the listener with better hooks, better vocals, better everything if they want to make a dent and be known as something better than a suitable replacement for melatonin. As it is, this is incredibly frustrating. At least the cover’s pretty.