Question: Where on earth is the good doom metal this year? No, seriously. The last few years have all been such strong years for doom and this year simply isn’t stepping up to the mark. With the new Moss album being the equivalent of someone taking a shit in a bong, and the new My Dying Bride being good but pretty passable, it’s pretty depressing to think that they’re the two most prominent releases this year when the years prior we had Profetus, Esoteric, 40 Watt Sun, My Dying Bride (again), Monolithe…but I digress.
It was for the above reason I went into Lycus really, really wanting to fall in love with it. I knew very well that the first EP didn’t impress me much, but hey, not every band sounds great on their debut; and yes, this is certainly an improvement. It’s slow, brooding, and grim and has an absolutely fantastic production job – being just the right balance of airy and heavy, allowing the album to crush and resonate in equal measure. Asunder and Aldebaran really come to mind, but this has a much more spacious, reverb-soaked sound and less tendency to stay slow. Joint with the great artwork and nigh-on flawless performances around the board, this album has a hell of a lot going for it. Sadly, it doesn’t really deliver because instead of building on a great foundation they simply rest on their laurels and come away with a very average record.
Song writing isn’t this album’s strongpoint by any stretch. It’s very standard doom fare with slow-moving pieces and a mournful atmosphere interweaving rougher growls with occasional cleans hidden beneath the mix. None of these tracks really pay off or do anything to hold your attention, they’re just there and come and go without much of an impression [Thereby sending the attention challenged running to the moss peepery — Steel Druhm]. They do attempt to change it up with some black metal-like blastbeats and more furious moments, but they seem haphazardly tacked into the songs without any real ear for decent transitions and that makes it all for naught.
This doesn’t necessarily kill the album dead though, the production and performances alone do warrant some attention. The vocals are great and the weaving of the solemn, buried cleans amidst the resonant growls accentuates the atmosphere perfectly. The really subtle violin that occasionally pops up does the record a lot of favours, and they wisely avoid overusing it and making it seem gimmicky. The guitar tone is thunderous and thick, but I can’t help but feel the riffs they play simply aren’t memorable. The final, self-titled track certainly fares the best of the three, but still leaves something to be desired considering I felt most engaged by the outro which was simply ambient noise and resonance from the instruments.
The biggest issue is that despite being aesthetically pleasing in almost every manner doom can be, it still feels as if I’m appreciating it from the outside rather than actually becoming immersed in it. When the album is over I can’t remember a single riff or moment, regardless of how hard I focus. There’s absolutely nothing distinct about Tempest’s construction, style or sound, and where innovation isn’t necessarily key in music like this, I can’t pretend that Tempest doesn’t ring hollow despite being well performed. It ticks all the right boxes, but it takes no steps to transcend aside from the occasional blastbeat to spice up the mix. That’s not nearly enough.
The fact Tempest has all the right elements (great artwork, production etc.) makes it even more frustrating that they can’t surpass mediocrity. It’s an aesthetically pleasing set of sounds that fails to carve itself a niche or foothold. It takes more than following your forbearer’s footsteps to make a memorable record.