As I write this, the UK general election results are coming through. Never fear, concerned reader, we aren’t getting our politics on; however, the result was quite a surprise given the direction opinion polls were going prior to the end of voting on Thursday. And this provides me with my tenuous yet topical segue into this review: Succubus Irons have also provided me with quite a surprise. Appearing seemingly out of nowhere, the band hasn’t fannied around with demos or EPs, instead launching themselves with full-length The Gorgon’s Lullaby. Billed as progressive doom metal and originating from Québec, I anticipated something both quintessentially Canadian-weird (you know what I mean) and long. But no sooner had I finished applying the gravy to my poutine and the record ended. I know that it takes me precisely 32 minutes to make poutine – what on earth is going on? A half-hour prog/doom album? What is this, the 70s?
Well obviously not, and neither is this a 70s throwback album. Though naturally influenced by Black Sabbath, The Gorgon’s Lullaby sounds far more like an 80s release, sitting somewhere between Candlemass and Trouble. These influences are blended with some classic heavy metal to result in a sound comparable to more recent epic power/doom bands like Doomsword. The prog aspect is interesting: seven songs (plus intro) in thirty minutes hardly screams prog epic, and indeed the song structures and riffs are relatively traditional. I would hesitate to call this progressive doom, but in terms of harmonies and (more obviously) instrumentation, the prog influence is certainly there. Alongside the standard distorted guitar, bass, and drums, Succubus Irons employ acoustic guitar in an unusually prominent role. Often this is simply textural, but it occasionally thrusts into the foreground with a prominent melody. This instrumental blend gives the album a unique feeling (heavy and mournful, but with some lightness) and combined with the melancholic and occasionally dissonant harmonies sometimes reminds me of Novembers Doom, or even Still Life era Opeth.
Dominic St-Laurent’s singing is another highlight. He employs a different vocal style here than in his main band Doom’s Day: the languid melodies are delivered in a soft, mildly nasal style that suits the record’s atmosphere down to the ground. A little more variety in the delivery would have been welcome, but the rich harmonies are a very nice touch and contribute to the record’s individuality. Unfortunately I’m less sold on the guitars. While the performances are note-perfect and tight, they lack feeling, often sounding monotonous and deliberate rather than expressing the emotion in their melodies. This particularly affects the single note tunes, which should flow but instead plod.
The production, too, is not quite right – though I’m now into nitpicking territory. Fistbumps are due to John Guillemette, who created a wonderfully dynamic mix and master, and did a good job of balancing the heavy and the acoustic guitars while allowing room for the strong vocals to shine. My complaint is that the mix in general, and drums in particular, sound too dry for this style: doom deserves epic reverbs, and the lack of this treatment here means the atmosphere is not as well-developed as it could have been. This also exacerbates the deficiencies in the guitar performance, especially when combined with a guitar tone that lacks body and crunch.
That said, Succubus Irons have still produced an impressive debut. The short songs are a little underdeveloped, the riffs not massively original, and there are some performance and production issues, but overall The Gorgon’s Lullaby is a really enjoyable and distinctive listen that is sure to entertain doom fanatics. Even better, it successfully distracted me from politics and inspired me to make poutine. Pas mal, hein?