The 11th Hour // Burden of Grief
Rating: 5.0/5.0 – Possibly one of the finest records of the year.
Label: Napalm Records
Release Dates: EU: 30.10.2009 | US: 11.03.2009
When I started this review zine I had a friend who told me that I shouldn’t write in the first person on here. That as a reviewer I was to try to write objectively, like my opinion is fact and not simply a jaded metal guy on the Internet spewing his opinions about records. I think this is impossible for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that we all like certain things and dislike other things. I’ve been decried by readers for liking certain records that are apparently aren’t metal enough for them. Whereas others think I’m too hard on their favorite band. But this record proves my point that one needs to write from a place of opinion. See, I have never been the world’s biggest doom metal fan. To be totally frank, I associate a lot of doom with “funeral doom” or “drone doom,” which is a genre that I find to be incredibly boring. And honestly, I like bands that bring it with intensity and speed. I like staccato riffing and tight technicality and progressive approaches. I’ll make no bones about it, I normally associate slow and boring in my brain. That’s right, I probably have hated on your favorite doom metal band of all time at one point or another. So consider that when you’re reading this review and take it for what it is.
The 11th Hour is the side project of Dutch metaller Ed Warby of Hail of Bullets, Gorefest, and Ayreon fame. An avowed doom metal fan, Warby penned this record and played every instrument on it except for the death metal growls, which are done by Rogga Johansson (Edge of Sanity, Demiurg, Paganizer, Ribspreader). Burden of Grief, the combination of their efforts, is a concept album about a man with terminal lung disease reliving his past.
This record is heavy as a ton of bricks. The production is thick as molasses and smooth like it, too. Interspersed between the plodding riffs is a melodic narration given in two voices: Warby’s voice, clean vocals in a higher register and Johansson’s voice, the death metal growls. The clean vocals have sort of an Alice in Chains feel to them that I think plays perfectly in this milieu. They are eerily beautiful, while adding a great offset to the protagonist’s anger, the death metal growls. These two vocal styles play back and forth and melt into orchestrations, piano and all the textures that paint a beautiful aural backdrop.
Burden of Grief is a 52 minute and 33 second thesis on how to do doom effectively and excellently. The riffs are heavy, plodding but fresh; there isn’t a single moment on this record that overstays its welcome and the melodies, while not poppy, have a way of sticking in the back of your brain. Every note on this album is perfectly placed, every vocal is perfectly performed and the whole thing is just plain heavy. It easily follows in the footsteps of the masters of the genre, while feeling totally fresh and new. Despite being doom, a genre not known for moving anywhere quickly, the record moves smoothly and never belabors the point. Every song feels interconnected, but they all stand alone as excellent.
Honestly, this is the real deal. Thick, heavy and catchy. I knew it from the first listen because it excited me like few records do. The melodies here are strong, the song ideas are rich and intricate and the concept is fantastic. While the concept is maybe a tad too close to Black Sun Aeon‘s opus, that’s probably more serendipity than anything else (and I strongly suggest you buy both albums as they’re both worth the cash). Honestly, it’s so good that I’m kind of at a loss for words. If I couldn’t get across how excellent it was with my attempted descriptions, then I suggest that you just go and try to take a listen to the tracks at MySpace. If they don’t convince you that The 11th Hour is worth the listen, then you’ve got bad taste in music.