Almost a decade ago, when I had only gotten my head stuck in the alluring crevice that is metal for a few short years, I stumbled upon a little-known atmospheric doom metal band called Black Math Horseman. I hardly listened to any doom, nor bands with female vocalists at the time (I wouldn’t develop a taste for it until years later) so the album, titled Wyllt, never really stuck, but the concept intrigued me nonetheless. Now, many trials and tribulations later, I find myself back in the loving arms of Sera Timms’ haunting cry with a different band by the name of Ides of Gemini. With their new album Women, which seems to loosely be a concept album about the women of history and myth, they hope to take the lance to the rapidly inflating female-fronted doom metal scene.
Although Ides still resides in the country of doom, it’s a different province altogether from Black Math Horseman, shifting from ghostly atmospherics towards the riff-driven Black Sabbath school, although never joining the tired masses. At their most stompworthy, the guitars (courtesy of J. Bennett, writer for Decibel Magazine et al) trace blueprints left by Castle, but a more sinister fog still creeps around the edges. Timms’ impressive vocals are the main poltergeist in this haunt, drawing from the same well as Kroh but taking more to the astral plane with the help of a mild reverb. Her longing siren wail gives the tracks their character, and as solos are not prevalent, the band rallies around her pipes and places the spotlight there. Rounding out the line-up are Adam Murray, providing a steady churning bass from the back, and Scott Batiste, whose tom-heavy style of drumming recalls a threatening rumble in jungle vistas, lending an ominous cadence and anchoring gravitas.
The tracks are constructed with precision, infused with an organic urgency that combines romance and malevolence. “Mother Kiev” kicks off with squealing immediacy, fully utilizing the weight of the bottom-end. It’s the fastest track on the album and well-placed as an opener, but the strongest material holds the center. The grinding “Raft of Medusa” precedes Women’s eye of the storm, the slow build of “Heroine’s Descent.” Starting off with open chords loosely trickling down and a sighing chorus of Norns weaving wind, the track builds on Timms until her voice can fill a cathedral. Although the song stops short of real catharsis, its placement ahead of the pummeling, predatory “Swan Diver,” which has peeked into the dressing room of The Vision Bleak once, prevents blue-balling. The album winds down on the cold melancholy of “Queen of New Orleans,” a mournful track for whoever died in the House of the Rising Sun (or so my overactive imagination tells me,) which might even have benefited from an absence of percussion, but remains relatively subtle nonetheless.
Variety is the weakest link in the strong, cast-iron chain here. As powerful as Timms’ voice is, a more diverse delivery would be welcome, as her voice pierces the fog of quiet and pummeling songs alike in similar fashion. The tempo likewise varies little from song to song, all sticking around mid-paced material with occasional dips up or down, and though it never reaches the depths of rote songwriting, most of the songs adhere to a fairly simple structure. Occasionally this reaches a problematic point, such as on sophomore track “The Rose” which tends towards the dull. However, the guitar manages the burden of alleviating this issue, morphing from the ragged squeal on the first notes of “Mother Kiev” and the acoustic touches on “Raft of Medusa” and “Heroine’s Descent” to the ominous thunder on “The Dancer” and the lurching “She Has a Secret.”
As such, the qualities are major and the demerits minor. The production certainly helps: a darkly dynamic master supported by a clear mix with a marvelously thick rhythm section that contrasts well with the airy vocals. If I call the voice a tad heavy on reverb sometimes, think nothing of it but a personal preference. Anyone with a heart for dark female-fronted material light in complexity but heavy in atmosphere should check Women out. Although none of the elements are altogether unfamiliar, they come together organically with a luscious sheen of romance and tragedy to form something distinct from its influences. Be sure not to miss out on this.