2017 is already off to a good start doom-wise, with Pallbearer and Oceanwake dropping quality platters of mope and dope(smoker) on our collective shoulders. Now comes Novembers Doom‘s new opus de emotionale, Hamartia. The word “Hamartia” is defined as a fatal flaw in a hero or heroine which will ultimately lead to their tragic downfall. What better subject matter for another oversized dose of doom/death from Chicago’s finest? With the same lineup returning from 2014s Bled White, Hamartia is familiar in its overall approach, but marks a departure for the band. Where past albums focused more on the death metal end of the pool with a few morose pieces of somber depression appearing, this is the inverse – much more doom-based with a greater dependence on clean vocals than ever before. It’s still the band you know, but a gentler, more introspective version.

Opener “Devil’s Light” is a typical ND cut, leveraging Paul Kuhr’s deep, resonant death roars over mid-tempo chugs spiced with melodic harmonies ripped straight from the heart of a cold Finnish winter (i.e. any Before the Dawn or Black Sun Aeon album). It’s dramatic and heavy without being innovative or surprising. The top-shelf goodies arrive with “Plague Bird” where the band’s penchant for dark, dreamy melancholy is reaffirmed and made palpable by Kuhr’s morose, goth-rock vocals which split the baby between David Gold (Woods of Ypres) and Peter Steele (Type O Negative). The song’s grim energy comes from the juxta…ahem, abutment of the clean vocals to the death roars, resulting in an eerily beautiful song that sticks with you.

That in turn is immediately topped by album standout “Ghost,” which is a grand salami of rich, creamy doom with Kuhr’s plaintive singing mingling excellently with his death rattle for a stunning chorus full of pathos, despair and menace. This is Novembers Doom at their best and there’s a unique power to the writing and performance. It’s after this that things get more subdued, with a series of death-free sadboy tunes like “Ever After” and the title track, both of which are quite good and atmospheric, showcasing the doomier side of the band. The former has a big Woods of Ypres feel, while the latter has the same brooding intensity as the best Tiamat material. The band knows how to write harrowing, emotionally draining music, but the abundance of melancholic cuts likes these makes the album feel tamer and more restrained than past Novembers Doom outings.

Things close out well with the very Moody Blues-like “Waves in the Red Cloth,” and the lengthy emotional roller-coaster of “Borderline,” which is like the trippy, Beatles-esque stuff Trouble did later in their career mixed with the aforementioned Woods of Ypres. These concluding tracks are not particularly heavy nor deathy, cementing the album’s laid back nature, so those looking for more extreme fare may be left on the outside looking in.

Novembers Doom are known for excellent production jobs and Hamartie is another good one1. It’s clean and dynamic with a crisp, full sound. The guitars have a thick, hefty tone and Kuhr’s low-register growls and baritone reverberate powerfully. Though 57 minutes long, it doesn’t feel it. The fact most of the songs are in the 3-5 minute range helps immensely, and this feels less overstuffed than Bled White.

After 10 albums, Paul Kuhr is the sole original member. His vocals always defined Novembers Doom and never more so than right here. This is the most I can recall him ever singing on an album and though it makes for a lighter collection of songs, the album practically drips with emotion and desperation. The flip side to this is with so much clean singing, Kuhr’s limitations become more apparent. Though blessed with a great tone and timbre, he never really goes beyond his usual semi-spoken, gothy croon. This isn’t a major issue, but the relative absence of heavier, death metal moments results in a less diverse palette with a wee bit of monotony creeping in. The guitar-work by Larry Roberts and Vito Marchese however is first-rate. Though they have fewer opportunities to go really heavy or deliver Opeth-ish riffage, they still infuse their leads and harmonies with plenty of smart melodic hooks and acoustic flourishes and deliver emotive solo-work.

Hamartia is yet another high-quality album from a very unique and consistent group. I might quibble over the relative death and doom ratio, but the material is still gripping and as dark as a murderer’s soul. Whatever Novembers Doom‘s personal hamartia may be, it’s yet to be discovered and exploited, and I hope it remains ever thus. Novembers for all.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: The End Records
Websites: novembersdoom.comfacebook.com/novembersdoom1989
Releases Worldwide: April 14th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Done by none other than Dan “the Man” Swanö.
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  • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

    YES!!! This bands has yet to disappoint. Bled White was crushing/beautiful/sad/heavy and I’m sure this one will be as well. This band is SOOOOO good!!!!

  • AndySynn

    3.5? How dare you?

    Rest assured I will be writing a strongly worded letter to your superiors about this!

    • Blow it out your doom hole. I have no superiors!

      • Reese Burns

        Brehehe… doom hole..

        • Norfair Legend

          Oh cool, a music review site! I was just looking for a little morning fun to get the day started and was Googling “doom hole” when I was directed here.

          AMG sounds kinky, maybe I’ll stick around.

          • We’ll tear ya a nu hole.

          • Don’t use the n-word, it triggers my allergies.

          • Go to your safe space. Now sponsored by United Air.

          • Reese Burns

            That’s funny, reading all the news stories about what United Airlines did to that guy oddly reminded me of AMG’s HR department…

          • We handle their Passenger Relations and Accommodations Department. It’s a win for almost everyone involved.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            I booked this comment months in advance. You can’t get rid of me!

          • Prepare to be accommodated.

          • sir_c

            this really has become a drag

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          This thread is why I’m here

      • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

        So would you say this album has less “death metal” moments than their last several albums? Let’s say, all the way back to The Pale Haunt Departure? Your statement of “the relative absence of heavier, death metal moments results in a less diverse palette with a wee bit of monotony creeping in” has me nervous now. I don’t mind the mellower/clean songs, but I also don’t want them to be 80% of the album.

        • There are a few songs with death metal elements, but the bulk of the material either goes without or relegates the death vox to the background. It’s still plenty good though.

          • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

            Fuck. Ok thanks.

  • Zach Ward

    Good review for what I hope is a great album. April 14th can’t get here quickly enough. These dewds are gold consistently.

  • Levly

    Great review! I also wish there was more Deathdoom, but it’s still an excellent record, as the band always delivers. What really makes it stand out for me is the production curtesy of, who else, Dan “The Man” Swanö. Simply put, this is the best sounding record I have heard this year so far, pure bliss from beginning to end.

    • basenjibrian

      Yes! Beautiful sounds even in basic Beats earbuds.

  • Feytalist

    Love that cover.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Isn’t that the thing seen on Hail Spirit Noir’s recent album?

      • Jeff Manteiga

        It’s a plague mask; they were used during the Black Death…plague doctors would keep potpourri in the “beak” to prevent evil spirits from traveling up through the nose =]

        • Entirely correct. Also, these plague doctors have become increasingly popular on cover art over the past few years. Not surprisingly as both topic and looks are metal.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Yet they got sick from flea bites anyways…

      • Ivan E. Rection

        It also flew down from the Tower of the last Vulture Industries album.

      • Twisted Metal

        It looks like something out of Salt & Sanctuary (great game BTW)

        • Enrico Pallazzo

          Awesome game…you should try “Hollow Knight”.
          Be advice it will eat your life and soul.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Awesome cover.

  • Matt slatz

    God I miss woods of ypres….

  • Bas

    The embedded track sounds great. The drums sound good (not clicky..if thats a word).

  • rumour_control

    “Ghost,” which is a grand salami of rich, creamy doom…” — a hoot of surrealistic lunch time imagery

  • I got a feeling for these folks like they can never record an album that gets more than 3.5/5 not matter how good it is, something about their music that’s underwhelming for me.

  • Chris

    Good review, really looking forward to this one.

    They did a really unique take on a lyric video for “Zephyr” as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltP96NXpupA

    • My first thought when I caught it on No Clean Singing the other day as well. I believe I’ve seen something similar, but I’m not sure. Less dizzying than flipping/rotating cover art with sentences flying around.

      • RagE

        Paul said in an interview that he saw it in a different video a while back, and immediately thougth” i want to do that, just, more metal!”

  • Francois Rosec

    Heard the full album! It’s another masterpiece of melo doom!!!

  • Thatguy

    Thanks, SD. Great review, excellent music. No whinging today.

    • This is a special moment. Hold me.

      • Hulksteraus

        His band photometer would produce around the score too I reckon. Have been listening to ND since “amid its hallowed mirth”. They are a pretty solid band and have a certain emotional gravitas to their music. Paul Kuhr writes some excellent lyrics.

  • Ivan E. Rection

    You were juxta few keystrokes away from using a forbidden word there.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I read the definition of the word hamartia and instantly wondered what Steel Druhm’s fatal flaw would be.

    • Unconditional love of 80s metal, a major sweet tooth and a fondness for hobo wine. Take your pick..

      • Drew Music

        That and editorial oversight.
        ‘Hamartie,’ eh? Twice, EH?
        HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?! If I can’t trust viking gorillas to uphold the sanctity of the English language, who can I trust?

        • Eh, it’s a new word. We’re still breaking it in.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Unconditional love of 80s metal doesn’t count as a flaw but it could surely lead to one’s tragic downfall

      • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

        I, too, have the unconditional love of ’80’s metal. Screw Bevis & Butthead… I still love Winger and their last two albums rock; especially their album Karma.

        • Tofu muncher

          Yep. And Warrant doing metal with Metal Bridge… hubba hubbba

    • Here’s Johnny

      Jorn is his fatal flaw, of course! silly question

  • Soooo excited for this release. A very classy band that always satisfies.

  • Wilhelm

    ND has been around almost as long as My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost, Saturnus, etc. yet I can’t really say I’ve ever been head over heels in love with their sound/style. I like the melancholy, the doom, the atmospherics and the lyrics but there’s always something I find missing in the structure of the songs and the odd vocal stylings. Boring wouldn’t be the right word, but sometimes the compositions are not that exciting.

    I’m always willing to give them a shot though, and I always like their outputs – the above track sounds about standard for ND; quality doom/death.

    • I know what you mean – I like this band, but want to really LOVE them. I think he could use some harmonies in his vocals more often. I’ve enjoyed Aphotic far more than their other albums, perhaps because it has some of their best melodies…

      • basenjibrian

        You know…I’ll throw in a contrary opinion. I am really liking the cleans here. I especially like how he enunciates the vocals .

        • Yeah, after listening through the whole album a few times now, this is definitely one of their better albums. I like the cleans, just find his melodies a bit lacking – which is why I was thinking some harmonies might spruce it up a bit. In fact, there’s a duet on the album with a female singer that does exactly what I’m looking for…

          • basenjibrian

            Ah. Fair comment indeed!

    • Paul VH

      Yep, I agree.
      Not many bands get me as excited at a new release and then underwhelm as much as ND.
      Like a cross between Omnium Gatherum and Woods of Ypres without those bands hooks.

  • After reading about Kuhr’s medical woes on wikipedia, it’s impossible to ignore its influence in his cover art and lyrics. Saw the band’s output in a whole new light after that…

  • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

    This album is a MASSIVE letdown.

    • I think you need to listen to it more than once. It’s a definite grower.

      • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

        Dude I could listen to it 100 times and it won’t change. WAY too big of an emphasis on clean vocals for my liking. Great music, but not nearly enough death metal vocals. I need my death/doom albums to have a sufficient portion of “death”. I really do like The Pale Haunt Departure, The Novella Reservoir, Into Night’s Requiem Infernal, and Bled White. Quite a bit. Not this one though.

      • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

        Have you ever listened to the band EYE OF SOLITUDE, specifically the albums “Sui Caedere” and “Canto III”? Some of the best death/doom you’ll ever hear. Outstanding guttural death metal vocals to go along with the slow crushing doom music.

        • basenjibrian

          EoS IS awesome.

  • Hideous destructor

    Getting a much more my dying bride vibe from the clean vox than ever before. Not that that’s a bad thing. Liking the embedded track.

  • Caio

    Did anyone else noticed that the color palette from the cover is similar to that of Paradise Lost’s “The Plague Within”?

    • Danny

      I did now

  • sir_c

    exactly my thoughts, it’s the upbeat version with its brighter colouring :-)