While I (im)patiently wait for Pallbearer to drop their next tour de force upon us, I find myself digging through the promo bins looking for other angst-ridden doom to while away the days. Thus I stumbled upon the first full-length effort from Boston’s Rozamov. The band recorded a number of EPs and splits over the past five years, but This Mortal Road is their first full-length album, and even as such only contains five songs spanning 41 minutes — and one of those cuts is a two-minute interlude. That means the other four songs are long — something we here at Angry Metal Guy can sometimes take offense with. The band boasts an intriguing mix of doom, sludge, and post-metal, but boasting is one thing and pulling it off is another.
The title track gets things off to a deliciously heavy start. There’s no pretentious buildup: the curtain rises and Rozamov lurch directly into crushing doom, as if delivering body blows with a maul. Heavy and plodding, yes, but with a distinct sense of melody as well. One-third of the way through the eleven-minute epic the rhythm section takes a break, letting Matt Iacovelli play a speaker-rattling progression on his guitar, along with what sounds like pops and static from a record player in the distant background. “Wind Scorpion” is even heavier and slower, almost Electric Wizard-like in its intensity, with unnatural stops between lines of verse, and layers of feedback-drenched guitars. The trio is musically impressive, with Will Hendrix laying down a thundering foundation on the drum kit and Tom Corino maintaining an impressive rumble on bass throughout.
Iacovelli and Corino share vocal duties, one with clean, anguished vocals, the other with harsh howls inspired by bands from Acid Bath to Neurosis. While neither would stand out in a battle of doom singers, they don’t detract from the songs at all. I can’t tell you who sings what songs, but the variety does make up for the pacing of the music, which borders on monotonous. “This Mortal Road” features clean singing, sounding as if the vocalist is in the background, while “Wind Scorpion” features harsh vocals, and “Serpent Cult” a mix of the two. “Swallowed and Lost,” the two-minute interlude, is a disturbing piece, acoustic guitar and piano playing a somber, haunting arrangement while unsettling voices mutter unintelligibly in the background. It’s a haunting break from the crush of the main songs, a brief respite before album closer “Inhumation” winds its way through nearly a dozen minutes of bleak hopelessness.
Production is bang on, with the heavy, sludge-tinged instrumentation sounding organic and balanced. The average vocals aren’t buried in the mix, and also aren’t in your face, but they are certainly the band’s weak point, and hopefully likely to improve over time. The other detraction on This Mortal Road, namely the monotonous pacing and song length, would be a major issue if not for the fact that there are only four songs: eight of this nature would test any listener’s patience. Rozamov wisely understands this and gives us just enough of a push towards oblivion that we’ll want more.
With This Mortal Road, Rozamov show they have the chops and songwriting skills to bring something interesting to the doom metal table, at least with an album of this length. It’s hard to say if they only had four good songs and just went with it, or if they wanted to keep their first album short and sweet. Hopefully the latter: it means the album isn’t infected with a sense of repetition a longer one would produce, and it would also mean the band has more fodder in the waiting for their next album — an album I’m looking forward to.