Much like the Olympics, every four years Apostle of Solitude reawaken to deliver us another tasty treat of traditional doom. This isn’t hipster doom, performed by men in suits with perfectly coiffed beards lamenting in coffee shops. This is doom of the Sabbathian brand, with big guitars, bigger riffs, sometimes lumbering and ponderous and sometimes not, and (happy times!) short album lengths — and unruly beards. Chuck Brown, former Gates of Slumber drummer, formed Apostle of Solitude back in 2004, and since then we’ve had gradually improving releases leading up to this fourth album, From Gold to Ash. Can Brown and company, with their unique lineup, continue their upward mobility in doom circles, or should they consider the coffee house circuit?
My mention above of a unique lineup may have grabbed your attention. What could be unique about a doom band? I will tell you: Apostle of Solitude feature two singers, and they sing most of the album together, at times in harmony, others in unison. Both Brown, who plays guitar instead of drums, and secondary singer/guitarist Steve Janiak (also of Devil to Pay), bring it on the mic, and do an admirable job, nailing the emotional and technically imperfect style of bands like Spirit Adrift and Pallbearer. What’s ironic about this is the fact that two of the first three songs on From Gold to Ash are instrumentals. Odd, when the album features two singers and only seven songs. “Overlord” is a blast of The Obsessed-style proto-doom, and kicks ass in all the right ways before leading into “Ruination be Thy Name,” which has a riff well-suited to any of the first four Black Sabbath albums.
It’s a good song, but the best on display here is the monstrous “Keeping the Lighthouse.” After a brief blast of feedback, a majestic riff anchors the rest of the six minutes. It’s glacially-paced, but not in a funeral doom style — that comes from the longest track, the ten minute “My Heart is Leaving Here,” which still manages to come off more melodic than other funereal songs due to the harmony vocals. It’s also the only song where Janiak takes the vocal lead. “Grey Farewell” also centers around an outstanding riff, although the incessant and loud hi-hat work detracts from it. While the riffs are thick and wholesome, and the guitar solos perfectly arranged, the standout instrument is Chuck Brown’s voice, which is full of emotion and perfectly bolstered by Janiak’s harmonies.
This is the first time in recent memory that I wish an album was longer. The seven songs here clock in around 44 minutes, which is perfect vinyl length, but maybe the fact that two of these songs are instrumentals makes it seem shorter than it is. We’re left with five cuts with vocals, and while the instrumentals are effective and engaging (the second is a short clean dual-guitar interlude) the other songs are more so. Dual vocals might seem like a gimmick but the strategy pays off throughout, and it’s a feature I find myself drawn to, in fact often singing along with “I’m keeping the lighthouse, to guide you back home” and more.
What it all boils down to is that yes, Apostle of Solitude continue their upward trend in crafting quality traditional doom. From Gold to Ash doesn’t ascend to the heights we saw from Hamferð last month, but it’s a totally different ball of yarn, and well-executed in its own right. Despite my comparisons to Black Sabbath and The Obsessed, make no mistake: Apostle of Solitude take their influences and make them their own, delivering an album full of riffs, melancholy, and a complete lack of pretension.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur
Websites: apostleofsolitude.bandcamp.com | apostleofsolitude.com | facebook.com/apostleofsolitude
Releases Worldwide: February 23rd, 2018