We fearless writers of pomp and sinew will pluck a promo album to review for a great many reasons. Some will seek out established acts, eager to see what new wonders they may potentially spin into existence. Others are drawn by the siren-song of beloved subgenre tags so they may gluttonously feed their sad-core unicorn fetish. My selection criteria for choosing Blackborne Souls, the second album by German peddlers of doom Lord Vigo is childishly simple: I get to reference Ghostbusters II by including a “He is Vigo! You are like the buzzing of flies to him!” quote in a review. Now that I’m sated, we must get on with the task of determining whether this album is worthy of my time and yours.
I like doom, it’s a genre replete with crushing riffs, evocative themes (doom spelled backward is “mood,” after all) and one of the best examples to turn to when you need something spine-crushingly heavy. What it doesn’t do is respect your time. Over the years my love for the genre has waned as my patience for ponderously morose dirges has worn thin, a likely casualty of the ever growing burden of adult life. Doom songs typically have a long wind up and take an aeon to get to the point, if they ever get there at all. The music skulks and broods in self-flagellatory lamentation, plodding on well past the track’s expiration date.
I bring this up to illustrate the steep hill a doom album must climb to not only grab my attention but make me actively return for further spins. Bands like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Cathedral have earned my adoration for being able to write arresting, musically diverse slabs of music that have a knack for drawing you in at first blood and staying in your consciousness long after the song has ended. I’d love to say that Lord Vigo shares space with such rarefied talent, and although they make a valiant effort with Blackborne Souls it still stumbles into the pitfalls of so many other acts. I didn’t think so at first. In fact, I was rather pleased with what I heard from Lord Vigo, their homage to the classic doom of yore, ala Candlemass, was very easy to the ears. “When the Bloodlust Draws on Me” is a heady dose of nostalgia, blending chunky riffs with some delectable electronic organ that’s only topped by a brief but ripping solo at the 3:18 mark. Title track “Blackborne Souls” is decidedly weighty and epic, starting slowly with atmosphere and piercing howls, slowly building layer by layer through deft tempo changes to a beautiful mid-point quiet interlude that splices in a haunting spoken-word sound-clip before launching an achingly emotional solo. Vinz Clortho’s vocals are clear and powerful, his earnest but sorrowful bellows are reminiscent of Messiah Marcolin (ex-Candlemass) and Mathias Lodmalm of Sundown-era Cemetary.
But familiarity soon breeds contempt, and extended exposure to Blackborne Souls found my enthusiasm withering on the vine as I started to notice just how threadbare and repetitive the song composition was. Good tracks lose their shine as they’re stretched thin like taffy. Middling ones like “Great City in the Sky” and “Eternal Saviour” become downright claustrophobic and an absolute chore to sit through. At 56 minutes the album isn’t in “triple LP” territory but practically every song drags its heels souring any initial goodwill. It got to the point that I actively dreaded having to listen to Blackborne Souls as I knew it was an hour of my time that I would rather spend doing something else. Not a feeling an album should engender. Production-wise the overall sound further exacerbates the malaise. The dynamic range is commendably broad and the sound signature is richly sun-drenched but it’s obfuscated by a muddled haze that taints the music with an indistinct pall that makes the struggle to capture your attention all the much harder.
Blackborne Souls is a measured, old-school romp through the murky mire of classic doom, not ponderously turgid enough to veer into funeral doom nor is the pace in any hurry to quicken one’s pulse. Lord Vigo are not lacking in talent and their hearts are in the right place but the songwriting blunders too often and the music sticks around well past the point of politeness. I can’t in good faith recommend Blackborne Souls as anything more than an unfortunate misfire.