Way back in 2007, a friend told me to check out a three-piece doom/death metal band called Lo-Ruhamah. Upon hearing “As We Walk” on their home page, I purchased The Glory of God and found it to be an interesting blend of Opeth‘s darker moments mixed with the doomy atmosphere and musical color of Morgion. Having been wrongly labeled as a Christian band1, Lo-Ruhamah nevertheless garnered quite a few curious ears with their interesting take on progressive doom metal mixed with esoteric spiritualism. But then, they went inactive for almost a decade. Now, with the members spending time between the States and Estonia, they return with their long-awaited follow-up, Anointing.
With that much time away, Anointing reveals a major shift in both songwriting and style. Gone are the 10+ minute sprawling epics that comprised The Glory of God. The longest song, “The Corridor,” still rides in at under six minutes. But the biggest shift lies in the fact that Lo-Ruhamah are swimming in blacker waters. Most of the doom elements that made The Glory of God such an enthralling album are jettisoned for more French-inspired black metal. Now, before you start thinking these guys are riding the coattails of Deathspell Omega and their ilk, Anointing instead captures the atmosphere of DsO and absorbs it into their formula. No angular tremolo-picked shenanigans or overly long seances that go nowhere here, just black metal with some progressive overtones.
Part of what separates Anointing from their contemporaries lies in the vocals of bassist J. Griffin. He mostly sticks to a death metal growl, but starting with album highlight “The Corridor” on forward, he alternates between growls, crazed black metal shrieking, and maniacal chanting. In the last case, “Coronation” finds Griffin doing his best Mark of the Devil (Cultes Des Ghoules) impersonation to astounding effect, rattling off incantations that would make Proscriptor McGovern (Absu) seem tame in comparison. “Lidless Eye,” the album’s most animated song, is enhanced with Griffin’s shrieks and guitarist Matthew Mustain’s trance-inducing riffs.
Production-wise, Anointing retains Lo-Ruhamah‘s penchant for warmth and dissonance. Harry Pearson’s drumming never sounds artificial or lifeless, and Griffin’s bass lines add to the warmth. Mustain’s riffs and melodies never overpower his bandmates, instead, blending perfectly to build a thick atmosphere. But I can’t help but feel a bit let down compared to The Glory of God. Anointing took literally half the album to get interesting, whereas Glory was oozing with interesting hooks throughout (seriously, check out 8:33-8:50 of “What Lines Reveal” for proof). Lo-Ruhamah captured an awesome sound on Glory, and instead of traveling further down that path, it feels like they are veering away from it to journey towards well-worn black metal territory. Thankfully, because of this, the iffy clean vocals found on Glory are non-existent, instead relying on Griffin’s chaotic screaming and rambling. I’d like to hear more of this on the next go-around.
Anointing proved to be baffling to score. On the one hand, I’m happy to see a new Lo-Ruhamah album in 2017. On the other, though, they lost most of what made them unique and exciting. While there are flashes of brilliance on Anointing‘s B-side, they come at the cost of a greatly diminished color palette. Maybe when their next album drops (hopefully before 2027), it will make a bit of sense. Right now, though, I feel a bit let down, knowing what these guys are capable of.