In a month where Pallbearer dropped an irresistible doom monstrosity on us, an unheralded act is quietly sneaking out a release that could easily slip through the cracks and escape notice unfairly. The Order of Israfel is a project put together by Tom Sutton (Church of Misery) and Patrik Andersson Winberg (Doomdogs) and their Wisdom debut is an addictive fusion of classic Sabbathian doom, 70s hard rock, The Obsessed and the Cathedral school of mega heavy riffs. While this kind of thing has been done in various forms before, the music here is well conceived and executed, loaded with memorable moments and a few huge barnburners. It’s also a fairly diverse platter, with a plethora of styles all managing to sit comfortable alongside each other in a way that keeps the listener guessing, but engaged. While it’s far from flawless and there are some bumps, it’s one of the more interesting doom albums I’ve heard this year.
They play it coy on the lengthy opening title track, opting to show only a few of their cards in what is a pretty straight forward mixture of standard doom with weighty riffs and chanty, Ozzy-esque singing. It doesn’t break any barriers, but it’s a rock solid doom tune with some wickedly jamming guitar work, searing leads and enough tempo shifts to keep the listener on task. If this was all they were about, they would be yet another competent doom act without distinction, but as “The Black Wings a Demon” quickly demonstrates, they aren’t a one trick pony. This one is gloriously raucous power rock with minor doom undercurrents, not far removed from acts like Fireball Ministry, Superchrist and Orange Goblin. It’s a riotously good time and makes me want to swig cheap booze and toss someone through a window.
The rest of the album lurches back and forth between these two extremes, with “Noctuus” sounding like a cross between Cathrdral and Saint Vitus as it lumbers and plods with class and loads of character and you can’t beat lines like “he had the eyes of a rat and the wings of a bat, so whatcha think about that?” Elsewhere, “The Earth Will Deliver What Heaven Desires” is a weird mix of doom and hippie rock like Hexvessel, full of chanting, 60s acoustic rock and psychedelic riffing. It’s oddly effective, emotional and definitely beyond what most doom band attempt.
The album’s back-end is loaded down with super long epics like “Promises Made to the Earth,” which at 15 minutes will push anyone’s attention span. Thankfully they stir in some different elements and incorporate groovy, highly tasteful guitar work on the back end that staves off moss peeping and shoe gazery (barely). Better is the more up-tempo and rollicking “Morning Sun” where the band revels in their loose jams and trippy solos like vintage Cathedral.
Downsides? There are a few. As good as the writing and playing can be, a lot of these songs suffer from chronic Metallica-itis and there is no self editing to be found. With songs hitting the 9 and 15 minute marks, trimming obviously could have been done without hurting the songs (especially “Promises Made to the Earth”). Also, the extended reading of the Satanic Bible, Necronomicon or whatever during “The Vow” goes on too long and reaches the point where it loses it’s eerie, sacrilicious impact. I also would’ve loved more supercharged tunes like “The Black Wings a Demon.”
The individual performances here are worth noting. Tom Sutton’s vocals are quite effective, ranging from a droning Count Raven-esque approach, to biker rock bellows and every stop in-between. Imagine a young Ozzy with a slightly more intimidating voice and you’re right there. The riffs from Sutton and Staffan Bjorck walk the line between 60s and 70s rock and standard doom weightiness, and the solos and myriad of acoustic and electric jams are highly enjoyable. They get the biggest props for adding some much needed diversity to a genre perpetually in danger of becoming a snoozefest.
The album’s sound belies it’s DR 6 rating and I was rather shocked it scored that low. It has a pretty warm, open feeling and I have no issues with the mix. The guitars have enormous eight and the backline gives things a suitably deep, low-end rumble.
I’d love to hear more from these guys, and I hope they dial up the rock and groove jamming aspect next time around. They have the talent and template to carve out a unique niche in the doom genre, if they seize the opportunity. In the meantime, this may make Cathedral fans feels less lonely in these dark times of no Dorrian.