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.
The 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.