While Heaven Wept // Fear of Infinity
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —Top quality doom that falls short of past masterpieces
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: whileheavenwept.com | myspace.com/whileheavenwept
Release Dates: EU: 2011.04.22 | US: 05.03.2011

2011 got off to a rollicking start for metal and it seemed that we in the reviewer game were going to have our hands full trying to select a top ten come December. However, as March wound into April and we got to hear some very highly anticipated releases, things started to look a little less stellar. Angry Metal Guy was less than blown away by the new Amon Amarth and Septic Flesh among several others not yet reviewed. Now it’s my turn to feel less than floored by a much beloved band’s new material. As a huge fan of While Heaven Wept and their epic, beautiful doom style, I must admit to being slightly let down by Fear of Infinity, their fourth album. Now, before people get the wrong idea, this remains a very solid, well done doom metal album and maintains the style and sound of past While Heaven Wept material. However, it just doesn’t achieve the towering heights of excellence heard on their Of Empires Forlorn and Vast Oceans Lachrymose albums. Something seems amiss on some of the material here and I can’t quite place my finger on it.

If you never heard While Heaven Wept before, they specialize in highly emotional and grandiose doom metal with a heavy emphasis on melody and melancholy. Never attempting to be crushingly heavy and always included boat loads of melody, they’ve crafted some truly breathtaking and beautiful metal moments during their career. Fear of Infinity keeps the style intact and kicks the album off in grand style with “Hour of Reprisal,” which is an instant classic to add to their collection. Once again they regal us with a winning combination of trilling, melodic leads and riffs, mood drenched keys and the soaring, emotional vocals of Rain Irving. This song reminds me why I love these guys. The song is structured to allow Rain’s sorrowful vox run all over the place against a ceaseless backdrop of amazing backing riffs. It ends up sounding powerful, majestic and classy. Follow up “Destroyer of Solace” keeps the quality train moving and delivers another winner with Rain again carrying the day with his vocals (especially moving at 2:00). “Obsessions Now Effigies” opens with a brilliantly mournful doom riff that instantly sucks you into the song and holds you captive and Rain again reigns supreme at 1:38 with his soul worn and bleak delivery (when he asks “were you every really here?” you can feel the sadness ooze from the speakers). While some (like AMG) find fault with Rain’s vocal choices and consistency [He's good, but loses me sometimes because of inartful phrasing - AMG], I heartily appreciate and enjoy his style and the way he emotes. He’s a huge reason why this and the last album worked as well as they did. Likewise, While Heaven Wept wouldn’t be so great if not for the guitars of Tom Phillips and Scott Loose. Together they weave a tapestry of power and beauty and create a myriad top notch doom riffs here.

While Heaven Wept by Bob PendletonThe problems I have with Fear of Infinity, and they’re relatively minor, revolves around the back half of the album. While tracks like “Unplenitude” and “To Grieve Forever” are both achingly beautiful in their own way, they lack some of the trademark power and impact I expect from these guys and “To Grieve” drags a little over its six plus minutes. Although things get back to the more standard While Heaven Wept style for “Saturn and Sacrifice” and the big closer “Finality,” neither are quite up to the exceedingly high standards set by the band on past albums. Again, both are solid, enjoyable and classy doom songs but something feels a little off as far as staying power and connection to the listener. I just don’t feel the urge to rewind and listen to these songs again and again as I have with most of their material.

After releasing back to back albums that were near perfect examples of melody drenched doom, it’s naturally a challenge to continue at that high level. Fear of Infinity is a slight drop off, but when you start out at such a level, even a drop off is still great. Despite this feeling like a slight let down, I strongly recommend it to all fans of doom metal and heavy metal generally. It’s some high quality stuff.

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  • Andrew

    This actually looks right up my street, will have to check this band out! Good review.

  • http://www.whileheavenwept.com Tom WHW

    Thanks for the honest review, it’s appreciated. I just wanted to articulate that “Fear Of Infinity” is meant to be heard as a whole, in order; unintentionally it is a conceptual work in that it is the completion of a process that began on “Vast Oceans Lachrymose”. This is the sound of a very real and personal grief and “Fear Of Infinity” begins with the stage of anger, evolves into a deep sadness, and only at the very end reaches acceptance. Even I did not recognize this as it was being recorded because I was LIVING it. It took me several listens and the insight of Rain Irving to understand what this really was. Perhaps with all of the above in mind it will reveal more on subsequent listens. Either way, it is the album I needed to do to live again. Thanks again for your honest review!

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      I didn’t write the review, but we do strive to be honest around here. Also, I think that given everything you make it sound like the review was a tad more negative than it actually was (I mean, we try to stick to our ratings around here and 4.0/5.0 is a great record!).

      Also, while I didn’t write the review, I agree with Mr. the Druhm on this one. But it’s really a great album, despite minor dislikes. Congrats on it and congrats on getting signed to Nuclear Blast. I hope the band continues to get more successful, ’cause you guys definitely deserve it. :)

      Oh, and thanks for the personal response. That was cool of you.

  • http://www.whileheavenwept.com Tom WHW

    Oh I didn’t find the review to be negative at all actually, I just wanted to provide some additional insight as I’ve been told numerous times that it takes 5-20 listens to “digest” – and this was even the case for me…like “what the hell did we just do” haha. But understanding what the album actually is does make a difference I should think. I knew it would be polarizing ultimately and that we might as well have been delivering “Caress Of Steel” as our Nuclear Blast debut, but it is exactly the album that I needed to do, and it is absolutely from the heart. Not that those prior weren’t, but this is more “fresh” for me. Cheers!

  • Steel Druhm

    Tom,

    Thanks for the enlightenment on the album backstory. I hope the album does very well for you and that it came out as you needed it to.

  • Ernesto

    I did like the album, eventhough I think WHW musically can no longer be considered as doom. Their lyrics are painful as ever, but musically thewir more heavy/power than ever before.

  • Alex

    It is a great album, but after “Vast Oceans Lachrymose” it was a little hard not to feel a little disappointed. That is of course because of such high expectations. I did think it was cool though how there was a fusion of melodies from Vast Oceans Lachrymose into this album and reading Toms comment above now things do become clearer.

  • steel Druhm

    Ernest,
    I still think these guys are very much a doom band. Just listen to this album.

    • Kevin

      The music really strays a lot from doom, honestly. Not that it isn’t doom, it’s just not terribly accurate to only call them doom metal.

      • Steel Druhm

        Well, they may be more progressive than many doom bands but the core of their sound is still very much doom. If you think it would be more accurate to call them epic doom or progressive doom, both fit.

        • dheim

          could “doomy progressive metal” be a definition? :) anyway the real “problem” i have with WHW is the vocalist. he can sing, and damn well, of course, but i just don’t like power metal vocals. they’re a major turndown, for me, in every imaginable kind of music…

  • T.C.

    Good honest review, and 4/5 is indeed pretty high for this site. “Something seems amiss on some of the material here and I can’t quite place my finger on it.” — Well the previous albums compared to Fear of Infinity is like going from Bach to Wagner, from easily grokked melodies and harmonies to more complex and unconventional ones that take longer to unwrap and enjoy. Wagner is polarizing for that reason.

    And I still consider WHW a doom band. Not traditional doom, but progressive doom. Doom is not fundamentally about the tempo, but the mood. If the lyrics and melodies invoke that mood, it’s doom regardless. Power metal isn’t known for plumbing those depths.

  • Steel Druhm

    T.C.,

    The Bach to Wagner is an interesting analogy with some merit. I also agree this is more progressive doom than conventional doom. Thanks for reading!

  • Paris

    I would just like to thank you for putting me onto this band. After reading this review i went straight to youtube and listened to the first song I found (Vessel from the album Vast Oceans Lachrymose) and was hooked. I ordered Vast Oceans Lachrymose off the internet and after listening to it a few times through I am seriously considering buying the rest of their albums Thanks AMG!

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      Don’t thank me! Thank Mr. Steel Druhm!

      • Paris

        Oh yeah my mistake. Well thank you AMG for making this awesome website that ive now found at least loads of good bands from! and just to the both of you for awesome reviews in general.

        • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

          No problem! We do it out of love. <3 Haha.

  • Steel Druhm

    Thanks for your readership Paris!